The Story behind Café Kogi
The German Startup „Urwaldkaffee“ (which means Coffee from the jungle/forest) has been founded in 2014 after the owner Oliver Driver met by accident Máma José Gabriel, a leader of the Kogi. His name in Kaggaba, the Kogi language is Bunkuamaku. The Kogi tribe from Northern Colombia is the only population on earth which is living like 500 years ago with its own culture, language, mythology and – very important to survive – their own land.
That time the Kogi have been looking for somebody to help them with their big project to heal nature. And Oliver Driver wanted to meet their shamans called Mámos. Most Mamos are chosen at birth or shortly there after and spend between 9-18 years in darkness and isolation developing the gift of insight and learning to connect to Aluna. Aluna refers to a cosmic consciousness that is like the mind of nature, the source of all life and collective intelligence. It is where all living beings are first dreamed of before they exist in the physical realm.
The Kogi consider themselves as the guardians of the earth. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the 5,700 m high mountains where they live are the heart of the world. And if you look at it with Google Earth it really looks like a heart. The breath taking mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast of Colombia are the sacred ancestral lands of four Indigenous Peoples: the Kogi, Arhuaco, Wiwa and Kankuamo. The direct decedents of an ancient civilization known as the Tayrona speak distinct languages but share the common belief that they are the guardians of the heart of the World.
Their pyramid shaped mountain range of Santa Marta is the world's tallest coastal mountains and rises from the Caribbean coast to snowy peaks of 18,000 feet in just 25 miles and extending roughly 100 miles on each of its three sides. Geographically, the range is not connected to the Andes range; it is actually a miniature version of the Earth where nearly every ecosystem on the planet is found: glaciers, tundra, alpine lakes, deserts, tropical rainforests, wetlands, and coral reefs. More than 600 streams are born in this highly biodiverse zone forming 36 important rivers that meet the perimeter of the mountain in a network of estuaries, lagoons and river deltas.
At the core of the spirituality and cosmology of all the people of the Sierra Nevada is the belief that their entire mountain range is a living entity and before being created by the great mother Sezhankwa existed in the spiritual universe. The great mother then birthed the people of the Sierra Nevada and gave the mandate to uphold her Original Law: that all her creation must be protected and nurtured.
They say they can communicate with nature, with the water and Aluna, the not describable principle behind life. They do this by deep meditations, ritual offerings, songs and prayers at special places along a network of connected sacred sites that link the snowy peaks to the river deltas and estuaries to the Sea. By doing so they believe they maintain the equilibrium of life not only for their sacred mountains but for the entire world. They communicate with the spirits of all living things and incorporate their spiritual practices in their practical daily acts from cultivating their crops, to walking on trails and building traditional houses - and growing coffee. As much of these holy sites have been stolen since Columbus landed, they intend to buy them back with the money they earn with green coffee. The Kogi were one of only a handful of tribes in Colombia that defied the Spanish conquistadores by moving high up into the mountains to their traditional spiritual centers, where they continued to live for centuries in relative isolation. Over the 500 years since colonization, the Kogi and other peoples of Sierra Nevada lost most of the mid to lower elevation reaches of their ancestral lands.
2014 they invited Oliver Driver to a big meeting to an area where foreigners normally are not allowed to go. Almost 100 Mámos asked the oracles whether this German would be the right person. They used small tubes of cristal falling into bowls from calabash filled with water and listen to the bubbles which come up. The oracles agreed – and Oliver stopped his career as a coach and advisor to help the Kogi. His function is like an ambassador for the message of the Kogi.
Café Kogi is growing in the forest in between a lot of other plants. The Kogi do not intervene, they trust in the intelligence of nature. What they do are rituals to harmonize energies. If you take fruits from the jungle you have to give back something like good thoughts, prayers eg. They got back a big valley in the mountains and succeeded very quickly in reforesting it.
The Kogi see coffee as their messenger. While cultivating their coffee plots, the Mamos sing and bless their plants producing what they consider to be a spiritually cultivated coffee. An estimated 1,600 Kogi families currently cultivate and trade coffee. Without a community cooperative or association, growers have been vulnerable to be taken advantage of by middlemen until now. Five hundred families are now participating in a program who offers technical assistance, processing, marketing and quality control. With funding from the UNDP, they are acquiring coffee processing equipment so their growers can control the entire coffee process. They plan to use any income from coffee production to purchase sacred sites, strengthen cultural practices, and provide funding for autonomous governance, including their ongoing community assemblies.
Every coffee bean travelling around the world to the German coffee drinkers shall tell them, that there are Indians far away worrying about our future which the younger brother (we) is destroying.
The Kogi refer to themselves as elder brothers and express concern that non-indigenous outsiders, the younger brothers, are plundering and dismembering the Earth. Their message to the world is timely and poignant: that our ways of exploiting and destroying nature is bringing rapid ecological collapse that will harm the entire world and which they can see evidenced in form of prolonged droughts and disappearing glaciers in their own mountains. They say that they can help us if we help them to save their sacred sites. We can learn from them how to treat nature.
As a result of that ecological and spiritual background CAFÉ KOGI turned out to be a specialty coffee of outstanding quality. By drinking CAFÉ KOGI everybody can be a part of that help. The coffee is organic and comes from old plants and not any genetically modified hybrids. Urwaldkaffee pays much more than fairtrade and additional 20 % of the company´s profit. To finance the harvest Urwaldkaffee pays 60 – 80 % of the contract in advance.