In Swahili, the word “kamili” conveys the notion of precision. The literal translation (“exactly,” or “absolutely”) fits perfectly with the high-quality, fine-flavor beans produced by Kokoa Kamili.
Located in the beautiful Kilombero Valley, they are nestled between the Udzungwa mountains to the north and the Mbarika Mountains and Mahenge Highlands in the south. Their base of operations is in the small village of Mbingu, which means “heaven.”
Cocoa has a long history in Tanzania, with the first introduction of cocoa trees likely happening in the 1880s. But, prior to Kokoa Kamili, the area was dominated by one cocoa buyer, the local arm of a large commodity trading house. This resulted in the region’s farmers receiving low prices for their cocoa.
Founders Brian LoBue and Simran Bindra spent most of their professional careers in international development. From that experience, they concluded the most direct way to benefit a community is to pay farmers high prices for their produce, and let them decide the best use of that extra income. Since beginning operations in 2012, Kokoa Kamili has consistently paid farmers the highest prices for cocoa in Tanzania.
Today, they work with nearly 3000 smallholder farmers, most of whom farm between one-half to two acres of cocoa. Kokoa Kamili buys “wet” cocoa—straight from the farmers’ cocoa pods—and pay much more than the farmers would receive by fermenting and drying the cocoa themselves. This means the farmers get paid more, sooner, and for less work, and gives them the incentive to grow excellent cocoa beans. Kokoa Kamili also provides their farmers with training cocoa agronomy and troubleshoot problems, helping them to increase both the yields and quality of the cocoa they produce. Since 2015, they have grown and distributed over 350,000 cocoa seedlings to farmers.
They ferment the cocoa beans in a three-tier cascade box system over six days. After fermentation, the beans are sun-dried for five to seven days on custom-made tables, and regularly raked to ensure uniformity. After drying, they are hand graded so that only the best are bagged for export. Kokoa Kamili prides themselves on the level of sophistication and science that goes into their operations and collect a whole host of data on each fermentation to ensure a uniform, high quality process!
Mbingu is nearby the protected Udzungwa Mountain National Park, which is famous for its bird, primate and elephant species. In fact, the park has a unique group of savannah elephants living in a mountainous setting. There are only have handful of such populations anywhere else in the world. Kokoa Kamili supports the Southern Tanzania Elephant Project to help protect these unique and beautiful animals. This is why they are one of the few cocoa bean suppliers we can trust in making our small batch chocolate bars.
Read more about Kokoa Kamili on their webpage at www.kokoakamili.com.
Find our products made from Kokoa Kamili’s beans here.