Growing up on an organic fruit farm in northern Wisconsin, my mother exposed me to a wealth of natural remedies and organic food products. For example, we would use the gel of an aloe vera plant to heal burns, and we would grow or buy most of our food from the local co-op, whose organic cereals inevitably tasted like cardboard–man, I used to dream of having Cocoa Puffs!
Cardboard cereal aside, I developed an appreciation for sustainability, agriculture, and health and wellness. This later grew into a regular practice of cultivating strength and resilience of body and mind through long days working in the fruit fields, fitness and meditation, and through the use of superfoods like maca, moringa, and other extracts.
So where does Kogo come in? After college and receiving a business degree, I joined the US Peace Corps in Panama as a Business Development and Sustainable Agriculture Advisor.
We began service with a 10-week training period, hot, 10-hour days filled with agricultural training, mosquitos and the occasional mango.
By the end of the day, my mind would be frazzled by the effort of communicating across languages and cultures, the hot sun and humidity, and the constant battle with scorpions and mold that seemed to grow on everything, including my underwear!
One evening, I was lying under my mosquito net, fan on full blast, using my phone to do research on nootropics. I was trying to find a nootropic that actually did what it claimed to do, something that could help me get through these 10 weeks. Eventually, I came upon a Youtube video of a CEO being interviewed about the variety of stimulants he takes to improve his performance in the workplace. He said the words “coffee” and “cherry,” and immediately my ears perked up, for I had just been working with a group of farmers on their coffee production.
Intrigued, I searched for more information, and the research papers I came across described an amazing variety of benefits that coffee cherries offer to both the body and mind.
This was all so surprising, because none of my Peace Corps trainers nor any of the farmers I met talked about the benefits of coffee cherries. After some inquiring, I discovered that most coffee farmers view coffee cherries as waste or compost. Often, the cherries are left to rot and ferment in vast quantities, leading to water pollution and releasing methane gases that harm the environment.
I thought about how the majority of small-scale coffee farmers around the world are actually paid pennies on the dollar for the product of their labor, while a few select large coffee companies hold an oligopoly over most of the market, raking in profits.
An idea started to take hold within me. I realized that if I could put together a product to sell to consumers, it could help supplement farmers’ incomes, reduce the environmental pollution from fermented cherry waste, and also offer consumers in the U.S. an extremely valuable product at an affordable price. And so it was that Kogo came to be! We upcycle dried ground coffee cherries into a delicious, mildly sweet powder that can be brewed into tea, added to smoothies, and used in baked goods in place of flour. Its uses are endless, and better yet, it tastes good and nothing like cardboard!
As a company, Kogofoods LLC is looking to become a certified B-Corporation and will be donating 10% of revenue to development projects in communities where coffee cherries have been sourced.
Without the help of countless individuals, Kogo wouldn’t be in the position to begin positively affecting the lives of consumers, farmers, and the environment by upcycling coffee cherries.
“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean” – Ryunosuke Satoro