Last night saw the launch of Kunywa Jasho Langu: Coffee Kenya, the second in the “Drink My Sweat” series from London-based photographer, Jake Green. We interviewed Green earlier in the year soon after he had the first few copies, now for sale through publisher Leyton of London. Streaming from The Yards in Leyton where the photographs have been hung, Green used the presentation to speak with half a dozen collaborators. In the age of Virtual, it served as an impressive orchestration of perspectives from Norway, Kenya, Japan and Gateshead, UK.
Green starts the launch by welcoming attendees an inviting them to enjoy their Workshop Coffee, bags of Kiang-ombe AA from Kirinyaga County that has been sent to early bird attendees before the launch. The at-home coffee experience is enhanced, especially for those who pre-ordered the 96-page photography book.
From the work, Green first introduces Helena at her desk (above), a favourite image that has been included as an A2 pullout poster in the book. The photo conveys the upper-mid point of the supply chain and the administration of of bagging and shipping green beans for export. This is one example of the book’s “hero” images, portraits arranged alongside landscape, architecture and active motion shots.
An interview with Notes Coffee co-founder Fabio Ferreira follows and a discussion of the price of coffee is raised. Large chains are buying coffee at below $1 per pound a price dictated by the New York C Market, the lowest in 30 years and often less than the cost of production. Ferreira indicates that Notes will pay $1.90 for the same pound of coffee, and up to $20 per pound for other high quality, rare coffees.
Sitting in Norway, sourcing and procurement agent Joanne Berry is also interviewed, Green’s companion during the tour of Kenya in 2016. She has been buying green coffee for the past eight years, previously at Mercanta currently at Nordic Approach who made introductions to Green.
The virtual event also allowed conversations to be opened with Kenya itself. Stephen Maina a factory manager of 23 years. Maina was calling in from Muthua-ini, a facility in the central region of Kenya. He’s happy with the portrait Green shot of him, and also recognised a colleague in another photo from the book. The social connections in the industry exist at source too.
Green goes back to the page, speaking with two collaborators involved in the publication. James Cartwright was editor, a former print editor at It’s Nice That, where Green and he originally met. Cartwright is a fan of the cover image for the shot - Bonface in Hopper. The pair applaud Bonface’s white boots and flat cap, captured in motion while passing coffee down a concrete flume for washing. Melanie Mues acted as art director for the project, leaning into an image of a Kenya Planters Co-op Union Coffee Mill - “brutalist”, “monumental”, “imposing”. Mues commends Green for managing the project while leaving space for collaborators.
Japan is pulled into the launch for a second time, this time Kenji Kojima from Fuglen Coffee, Tokyo. Kojima travelled with Green in Honduras, a trip which exposed the journeymen to high altitude sleeping conditions with discreet blanket offerings from their hosts.
To close, musician Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno, the same artists who entertained attendees of Drink My Sweat exhibition in Walthamstow in 2019. Otieno is now in Gateshead on a residency, giving him a recording studio setup to perform three songs to close the event.
A project in Ethiopia was meant to start in November, and Brazil is on the cards too - watch this space.