Our roots are in central Kenya. In our village, the tradition of coffee growing goes back to 1893. At that time, Catholic missionaries from the congregation of White Fathers introduced coffee crops with two goals in mind: to bring the local community into the modern economy, and to support their local charitable works.
Now, let’s jump ahead to the story of my grandfather, Daniel Thiong’o Kamûu (see photo at right). From 1946–1959, he grew tobacco, which he processed as snuff and wrapped in banana leaves. His small business was successful, and he and my grandmother Julia were able to educate all of their children. Even more unusual for that time, my grandfather insisted on educating his daughters, my aunts: Belinda, Gladys, Naomi, and Lucy, as well as his son, my father Alexander Peter Karîithi (see photo below).
Despite his success, my grandfather was never entirely happy growing tobacco, as he did not believe it was honorable to grow something addictive and harmful. He had little choice in the matter, however, because the British colonial government did not allow Africans to grow other cash crops such as coffee or tea; moreover British companies wouldn’t even buy tobacco from Africans. So, the tobacco he grew was sold as snuff to fellow Africans. He walked all the way to Kisumu to sell his product — as far as could be walked in a single season.
Our family history changed dramatically in 1959, when those unjust laws changed in the wake of the Kenyan war for independence (also known as the Mau Mau War). For the first time, Africans were free to plant cash crops. With joy, my grandfather planted his first crop of coffee on a three-acre plot next to the Njoga river. Soon, we had 50 trees and five acres. By 1963, our little family business had grown to 500 trees, and we started growing tea. My father became a lawyer in 1972, and with his successful career was able to expand to 100 acres.
He was also able to send me to university. My education led me to a new life in the United States. I now live in San Diego with my beautiful wife and three children. Today, I am realizing my dream to bring my family’s coffee to my new friends here.
Njoga, Inc. was registered as a corporation in the United States in the year 2007. Since then we have been working through the process of bringing coffee directly to the buyers from the farm, bypassing corporations, fair trade syndicates and all the barriers that legal and trade frameworks that stand between a small farmer and the coffee lover in the United States.
It’s not been easy, but in 2012 we finally found a way. We hope our efforts improve your perception of authentic coffee from authentic farmers.