Daye Bensa Coffee - Stories From The Farm To The Cup

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Everyone loves coffee. Okay, maybe that’s a bit presumptuous. But, no one can deny the euphoria that washes over almost every coffee lover after taking the day’s sip. The strong and bitter blend, the sweet aftertaste, and that chocolaty-aroma permeating the air are what most people need to get their day started. But have you ever dared to look beyond the cup?

Loline Mag sat down with Kenean Dukamo, Head of Coffees at Daye Bensa Coffee Export. We learned the inspiring story of a coffee company that started with nothing more than ambition and a single room.

The background story

As most great stories do, this too started with a vision. Ato Assefa Dukamo, whose younger brother, Mulugeta Dukamo, later joined, had far-reaching aspirations for the coffee industry. Daye Bensa, named after their hometown, was founded in 2006 as a step in realizing the dream of establishing a coffee company. Fast forward to 2022, Daye Bensa has become one of Ethiopia's major coffee exporting companies partnering with Starbucks and other multinational chains.

Joined by Asefa’s son, Kenean, Daye Bensa is growing like never before. Loline asked Kenean what inspired him to take part in a family business that doesn’t quite fit with his study of computer science. “I used to learn about coffee during my summertime. I learned from people who sell or roast coffee. During that time, I met a person named David at an exhibition. He showed me many aspects of coffee roasting I hadn’t known before. After about four months, I had the chance to go to Guatemala with him. My trip to Guatemala and other coffee-producing countries planted a sense of responsibility in me. I felt like I had to implement what I saw in those countries as they had a coffee industry that was far ahead of ours.” Kenean recalled.

The double-edged sword: Running a 2nd generation business

Co-running a company of this size is not a walk in the park or a coffee farm in this case. Most second-generation businesses struggle to align the experience-driven system with the need to modernize. Kenean seems to have found a good balance. The company has scaled up four times after his involvement. He attributes the boom to the two-generation overlap of expertise and up-to-date skills that most businesses lack. 

Inadequate training on Ethiopian coffee, the absence of written procedures, and several other issues were barriers Kenean had to break in this journey. “I overcame the challenges because I was consistent in my willingness to learn and improve.” He also stated that he had taken different courses about coffee and educated himself before taking on the role. "I looked for family, farmers, coffee sellers, and all who could teach me." Kenean shared.

The Daye Bensa Coffee

At Daye Bensa, they take special care of every stage, from harvesting the cherry to packaging the green bean. With an annual export of 7500 tons, it has 110 permanent employees and creates seasonal job opportunities for around 7-10,000 employees. All this would not have been possible without the determination to provide the best quality. They are also about to launch a coffee roasting brand for the local market with global standards.

What makes Ethiopian coffee special?

“The flavor. The strong flavor that comes with its unique climate conditions and geographical location makes Ethiopian coffee irreplaceable.” Kenean also told us that different regions have distinct coffee types increasing the demand for Ethiopian coffee. “This, of course, leads many to set their expectations high,” he added.

“We set standards for our coffee. Furthermore, we are trying to do more than export coffee beans. We tell stories and make authentic content to showcase the heritage every package carries. There are QR codes on our bags that people can scan to learn about our coffee, anywhere at any time. Promoting our company in an organized way is a strategy we effectively use. “Kenean explained. He also stressed the need for youth involvement in the sector to increase creativity and boost Ethiopia’s market share in the global coffee economy.

“We have an almost negligible share in the global market while being the origin. The irony needs to change. We feature upcoming and best photographers to take pictures of our facilities and document our story. People are more willing to invest if they see a strong scene recorded,” Kenean said. He indicated that Daye Bensa is persisting in changing the paradigm.

The Challenges

Challenges are part of the equation; it’s no different for Daye Bensa. The lack of containers due to COVID-19 and the numerous problems it brought forth is one. The second biggest obstacle, Kenean said, is the issue of outsourcing or the lack thereof. “We transport the coffee to our warehouse and worry about logistics and storage. We are inadvertently becoming a transport and a warehousing company when our main focus should have been the coffee business alone. This issue poses a problem when we want to increase our coffee production because we will also have to increase our transporting and warehousing capacity,” Kenean revealed.

Further challenges arise from the current situation in our country. “In some regions, we wait for specific times to transport our coffees, especially in Shakisho. We have also received more than 100 requests from people around the globe to visit our coffee farm, but they have grown reluctant during these times. Instability also affects the local demand as it fluctuates accordingly.“

Policy changes for a better business environment

“I wish to see a plan formulated to increase coffee production as a country. Building coffee industry parks around train stations would improve the process by decreasing the hustle and transportation costs.“ Kenean also added that, currently, exporting roasted coffee is discouraging. It needs special consideration as it triples the value of green beans, which would, in turn, help the country’s foreign exchange.

Coffee tourism

Coffee tourism is an immersive experience coffee-growing areas offer. Common in most foreign countries, it allows tourists to taste: the culture, the process, and everything they may not see in their daily cups. Daye Bensa plans to introduce this concept to Ethiopia and create a uniquely Ethiopian coffee experience at their farm, located at a 6hr drive from Addis Ababa and a 2hr one from Hawassa.

Coffee is much more than a “simple” beverage; it has had a cultural, political, and social significance since its discovery. The uniquity of coffee takes a whole new meaning in Ethiopia. An immersive coffee experience would mean a fantasy fulfilled for the enthusiasts. It will not only nurture the tourism sector but also play a significant role in Daye Bensa’s aim of being more than just a coffee-selling company.

The plan

The best coffee business grows from having better knowledge about coffee. “One of Daye Bensa’s main projects is coffee education that traces each step from the farm to the cup,” Kenean stated. He also shared their plan to create a high-end brand, premium-priced coffee. They have also propositioned to involve more in the high-quality coffee shop and cafe scene. He did not finish without declaring their effort to scale their now $40 million annual coffee sales to $100 million in the next five years.

“We want to leave a legacy and create a foundation in not only the coffee industry but in social work as well. We work on assisting farmers in maximizing the benefit of the resources they have and help them build schools, hospitals, and other infrastructures by themselves.”

The last word- Advice to those joining the sector

Kenean’s concise words were, “The first step is to learn the whole process; the second is understanding the market both globally and locally; followed by networking and building relationships. Selling comes after these three crucial steps. There is no shortcut to building an authentic and globally competitive coffee brand.”

Building a business means perseverance during tough times and consistency during the better ones. Daye Bensa, with over twenty years of coffee experience, is an epitome of a purpose-driven business.

Next time you sip your coffee, visit Daye Bensa’s social pages and look at the stories they have to share; it will taste much better.

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