I was at the Lagos Coffee Festival: 5 October 2019

Sometimes you think about something and you talk about your ideas with someone and then it happens. All I can say is praise God. In short, I was introduced to Princess Adeyinka Tekenah, CEO of Nigerian based coffee solutions company, Happy Coffee and wow! her passion for coffee was incredible. I think our first conversation was close to an hour as we exchanged lots of ideas on coffee and how Nigeria can benefit from the World’s most popular beverage. She shared with me a video of when she met H.E. President Macron of France in late 2018, offering him a bag of Nigerian grown and roasted coffee beans. I subsequently shared the video on WhatsApp with all my relevant contacts. One of the ideas we mentioned was for Nigeria’s first coffee festival, similar to the ones across the World, especially the London Coffee Festival. Et voila, on 5 October 2019, it happened – now who says things take time in Africa. Well, not in this case and with coffee charged Yinka, who rounded up a team of planners, visited all potential sites, set up a company for the festival and a website, met with lots of potential sponsors around the country and just went for it with her “full of beans” determination.

So, here we were, after countless WhatsApp messages – the Lagos coffee festival, the first of its kind in Lagos. The main objective was not only to inform people about coffee in Nigeria but to also showcase small and medium enterprises involved one way or another with Nigerian coffee. We had products on offer that showcased coffee as a beauty product such as Damini (owned by NYC trained beautician that developed her products for herself and decided to sell them) and Coffeeskinpert 

In addition, there was the infamous, Asah Bara Designs by Zoza Icha, who brings art alive in her cup designs –

I say this, because I think her cups are too beautifully designed to drink from. You need to display them somewhere so that they can be appreciated. Needless to say, her stand was one of the most popular at the festival.

Also on show were coffee stalls, with ever popular My Coffee Lagos who had coffee and snacks on offer, which I couldn’t resist. In addition, there were artisanal bakers – I bought a peanut butter and banana cake – you know me and dessert; and also Merlyn Nutri, who offer healthy drinks and spices (I must confess their customer service was great, as they hand delivered some products that were not available together with some things for me to try, like their delicious zobo (hibiscus) and Tiger nut with ginger and dates drinks, thanks  Melody).

So, how about the coffee festival itself.

There were three panel sessions; the first focused on “opportunities in the coffee business: creating wealth through coffee”, which featured entrepreneurs who are already in the coffee business, like Yinka of Happy Coffee, Ms Adesola Gbadamosi – Coffeeskinpert founder and My Coffee Lagos owner, Ms Tatyana Buchak. The second focused on “Starting a Coffee based business” with the panel consisting mostly of people who have started non-coffee related businesses but giving tips on how to start a business and find a niche – the main exception was Ibrahim Samande of Mai Shayi Coffee. The third was on “Stakeholders in the Nigerian Coffee Economy: Defining the Coffee Value chain”, which I moderated – filmed entirely by my wife (who accompanied her crazed coffee husband to Lagos), with the panel consisting of Ms Bisola Olusanya, Special Adviser on Agriculture for Lagos State Government, Alhaji Olomide, President of the Nigerian National Association of Coffee and Tea Farmers (NAFCOTAN) and Mr Ejide Oladuoye, a coffee farmer.

This was probably the most apt session for me as I have written a bit about this lately, having attend the International Coffee Organisation SDG Session on this in June 2019 – read here. The main focus was to hear from the coffee farmers as to what their main challenges have been, including their problems with accessing domestic markets, let alone international markets. It was interesting to note;

  • 22 States in Nigeria already grow coffee (Nigeria was 36 states) and there could be more depending on the ecosystem.
  • According to the recent ICO Executive Director, Jose Sette, Nigeria is the 7th largest coffee growing country in the World and with a population of approximately 200m people, the focus should be on growing domestic consumption.
  • The government has put in place initiatives to promote the agricultural sector, including coffee.
  • Nigeria grows both robusta (mainly in the south) and arabica (spanning from the central to the north east).

However some gaps remain, like data on the value and output of coffee. Needless to say, some work needs to be done to determine the quality of Nigerian coffee, essential to tap international markets. All this will be really valuable information needed to entice the private sector to get more involved too. In fact that was one of the things I committed (coffee geek) – to develop a public private partnership (PPP) proposal involving both the Federal and Lagos State governments to facilitate the process for developing the Nigerian coffee industry, which may include exporting coffee, possibly through a coffee processing plant near the harbour – just thinking.

All in all, I really enjoyed myself and I was really encouraged by the energy of the panellist, the participants – we had over 70 in the last session and by the atmosphere. Driven by all this energy, I was hungry but more important, I was craving coffee – naturally I headed over to the Happy Coffee stand of course, where I had a double espresso – I had to, after all Yinka was their CEO.

In addition, I tried some coffee from the Mai Shayi stand, where the Syphon was on display. Later on, their CEO, Ibrahim Samande held the coffee appreciation session.

So, here’s looking forward to the Lagos Coffee Festival in 2020 and developing a PPP proposal to resuscitate the Nigerian coffee industry, which will now become one of my main personal projects. If anyone reading this, is really interested to join this ride, please contact me.

 


Please Sign The Coffee Pledge – 1 October 2019

I’ve written recently about the fact that the price of coffee is the lowest it’s been for over 15 years, meaning that coffee farmers are finding it so difficult to make a living from selling coffee that some of them have eve abandoned their farms to look for a job in order to feed their families and educate their children.

So 1 October is International Coffee Day – yes, there’s is as such a thing – and the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) together with some like minded partners have launched the Coffee Pledge, so please sign the #coffeepledge that calls for a living wage for coffee farmers.

Some the World’s top coffee roasts have already signed something similar – see below and congratulations to them too.

 

In addition, just also week on 23 September 2019 at the first ever Global CEO and Leaders of the Coffee Forum, the “London Declaration” was signed, committing;

“to taking action focusing on four themes: promoting competitive and sustainable production; fostering responsible and equitable growth; promoting responsible consumption; and promoting public-private dialogue regarding policy development.”

see link here to read more.

In any case this is historic and as we say in the project management world, all we need to do now is ‘implement, implement and implement” so that everyone in the coffee value chain gets a fairer treatment.

Here’s looking to a fairer world for commodities especially for the second most tradeable one, coffee, as we need everyone involved in getting this most popular of beverages on to our table to benefit as much as possible.

 

 


Is this My Favourite Coffee Shop in the World? Prufrock Coffee, London

I often get asked, “So, Lameen what is your favourite coffee shop in the World?”. It’s a bit of a tricky question, because the modern age consumer doesn’t get easily satisfied with just the product – they want an experience. Sure, I’ve had great coffee in cafes, where I wished they had been a bit friendlier and the opposite holds sway too – good customer service but mediocre coffee. I often try and process that very quickly but I see that the questioner starts to get impatient – expecting me as a coffee lover to just pop out the answer. Furthermore, they get even more impatient when I start saying for espresso, it was…. and for filter, it has to be….. and I just really loved the concept and the staff at…… So, not to burden them with my complicated musings, I will default to Prufrock Coffee in London. And, you guessed it, “but why?”. Then I think to myself, if I have to start explaining the experience, that it was started by a former WBC Champion, that companies approach them to test new technology, that they started using reverse osmosis water, that they have a great barista academy, that they gave me a free barista tasting session, that I learnt a lot from chatting with them for hours, etc. Then they tune off.

So, I thought to myself, actually, when was the last time I visited Prufrock coffee and I realised shamefully that I hadn’t been back to Prufrock Coffee for about 6 years. After all, my post on my first visit in 2011 (read here) was so popular that the tweet advertising it, was retweeted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters and got me my most hits back then in one day – over 300. In addition, one of my pictures, when I used to use a Nikon Camera for all my coffee and food photos – was liked by Prufrock so much, they gave me a free tasting class – read here. So, I was well overdue a visit.

Located on 23-25 Leather Lane, Prufrock is on a busy week day market street. It is unusually big for a classic London specialty coffee shop and on their website, they even highlight that. I won’t go into the aesthetics, as you can read that in my original posts from 2011, however somethings have changed – more retail space to sell coffee, t-shirts and more and a stronger focus on food, without compromising on coffee of course. Prufrock are still very closely associated with Square Mile, so you can buy their coffees here too.

As you can see from above, they are very much still into the provision of both barista and specialised “coffee ” related training. Their website offers more options and if you recall from one of my earlier posts in 2019, I mentioned that they new coffee roasters in Vienna, Jonas Reindl, were trained by Prufrock. So a Coffee Lover’s Dream – Prufrock it still is. and I know that if I want to take my aspiring coffee career to the next level, it will start from Prufrock. In fact, even though I know it was lunchtime, it was quite busy and I just about got a space to sit. I noticed also, that a few tourist were visiting, buying souvenirs.

Now to the the coffee and my visit.

Visiting at lunchtime was probably not the best idea, but I needed great coffee as early as possible in the day. As you can guess, their fame has blossomed and not only was the cafe busy with what looked like regulars, but a few touristy looking customers were also paying homage. In fact I was lucky to get a sit, which was pleasantly opposite the brew bar, decked with the Victoria Arduino VA388 Black Eagle and accompanying Victoria Arduino coffee grinders.

 

For the coffee, they had two choices and if you have time and are serious, you can enquire which blend would be good for the type of coffee you desire – I was so excited to be “back” that I ordered two; the fruitier version as an espresso and the not so fruitier one as a piccolo.

 

Great of course. I started with the espresso and finished off with dessert – the piccolo.

After my coffees I wandered over for a chat to meet the baristi, Jake, who took my order and Aga, who prepared them. As Aga was busy making more great coffees, I had a chat with Jake, asking him about how long he had been working there and sharing with him my passion for coffee, etc. Very friendly, adding the experience of course. Before I left to rejoin the family, I noticed a delicious looking cake – I can’t remember now, but it had a rosemary and strawberry – very unique and the size of the slice was enough for two, so I bought that together with Square Mile’s Palestina Coffee for filter brewing.

Ah! so happy I went back and I pray it won’t be another 6 years before I visit. Still a great place for coffee and I think when I visit again, I’ll be doing more than just drinking coffee as I plan to start investigating adding the word “coffee” into my next career path, God willing.

So, is Prufrock my favourite coffee shop in the World? If I wanted to ask anyone or start a serious coffee career, they will top my list no doubt because I know that they are completely dedicated to coffee.

For more on offer at Prufrock, I defiantly recommend visiting their website; https://www.prufrockcoffee.com


I was @ OR Coffee Roastery, Brussels

This is like part two of my previous post, when I visited Brussels to attend the ICO SDG Coffee Symposium. Prior to visiting for the day, I obviously checked out the speciality coffee scene in Brussels and although few came up, the one called OR Roastery stood out. In any case from what I could deduce from the map, there was one centrally located but I wasn’t sure if it would be near the symposium. As I had not been to Brussels in like ages (my memory puts me visiting there around 1987 and that was a long time ago) I was looking forward to visiting again, albeit for a day.

Although there was coffee during the coffee break, my fussy palate was not satisfied with what was on offer. Having arrived late and after spending my lunch break networking with the coffee aristocrats, I decided that during the next coffee break, I would wander not too far to look for OR Coffee and wow! It was like God wanted me to visit, because would you believe it, right outside the Sofitel Hotel where the afternoon sessions were taking place, was the OR Coffee shop I was looking for – located on the corner of Place Jourdan and Rue de Cornet.

As I walked in, it had that air of Anglo-Saxon and by that I mean you could be in London,  New York or perhaps Australia, with green tiles, wood and exposed brick and copper pipes overhead – a relaxed atmosphere, with displays of their coffees, gadgets, etc. to the right hand side – see pic at the top. It was quietish but not empty. In fact it was a bit too relaxed for me as I was eager not to miss any of the sessions and waiting about 10 minutes for my coffee, made me a bit impatient even though I was second in the queue but I didn’t know that people sitting down were still waiting for their coffee. In short, don’t come here rushing for coffee, at least not at 3pm in the afternoon, but I’m sure that they can handle crowds during rush hour. In any case, it gave me the opportunity to walk around to stretch my legs and soak up the atmosphere, browsing their menu, which reminded me more of a London cafe especially when I saw their cakes, cheesecake, red velvet, etc – oh! how I wished I had come here for lunch instead. Walking over to their coffees, I was pleasantly surprised , after having just mentioned to someone that I haven’t seen Tanzanian coffee for years, to see a Tanzanian espresso blend, which I grabbed very quickly with a smile.

 

Eventually I got my coffee, brewed on a  La Marzocco GB5, served by amiable staff a flat white, with two shots, using their house blend – just what I needed.

 

I did some more research on OR Roastery, which you can view here

In short, they are the first specialty coffee power house of Belgium – they roast, they teach you how to roast, set up a coffee business, provide coffee to your office, have a few locations and more.

Upon my return home I was happy to have purchase their Tanzanian Espresso Blend.

The bag says rhubarb and high acidity, but for me it was the aftertaste even with milk, coating the outside of your tongue with a berry like acidity – delicious and something I haven’t had in a while – tempting for me to order for delivery to Vienna in the not so distant future.

So, in summary, if you visit Brussels, try and visit OR coffee along with the other speciality coffee shops you may find on your list.

 

 

 


I was at the SDG Coffee Symposium on 6 June 2019

 

Organised by the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) on 6 June to discuss the challenges of the coffee value chain during historically low coffee prices. I was invited by Gerardo Patacconi, Director of Operations. I know some of my readers are wondering is there such an organisation, yes there is and….

The ICO is the main intergovernmental organization for coffee, bringing together exporting and importing Governments to tackle the challenges facing the world coffee sector through international cooperation. Its Member Governments represent 98% of world coffee production and 67% of world consumption.

The ICO sounds like the kind of place that for me, as a development economist who loves coffee would like to work in and yes I confess that it is one of the places I would love to work in, especially located in my fave coffee capital in the World, London. Anyway I digress.

More on the jargon – the SDG stands for “sustainable development goals” and are sometimes known as the Global Goals. In any case they were initiated through the United Nation (UN) and are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

So, this Symposium was organised together with the European Coffee Federation and hosted by the European Commission (EC) bringing together coffee sector stakeholders (buyers, farmers, academia, civil society, partners) and is part of ICOs sector wide consultation that will lead hopefully to a roadmap with concrete actions to address the coffee price crisis and volatility, which has resulted in affecting coffee farmers livelihoods and which will eventually, if left unchecked, affect the sustainability of the coffee industry.

In summary, coffee prices are very low at the moment, whereby you can buy a pound (.453kg) bag of coffee greens for about US$1 at the world commodity price. Price varies with quality and with type (robusta/arabica), but a few years back it was double that (in 2010 it was three times this around US$3 per pound), which means that coffee farmers have seen a 50% drop in their income depending on other factors. Initially, you may be thinking like I did, hold on; “my specialty coffee roaster sells a kilo for about US$30 but only pays US$1 or up to US$3, so the roaster is king”. In fact, in a recent Financial Times article it was calculated that for each US$3 (UKGBP2.50) for a cappuccino, the roaster got 10p and the roaster 1p – yikes.

 

This seems very unfair and unsustainable, but there are other factors and as I mentioned on my linkedIn article on “coffee and economics”;

Perhaps the big players should consider diverting some of the profits to;

  • coffee research into new varieties to address climate change
  • investment for the local communities such as centralised washing stations and hence clean water, like Stumptown did – see “A Film about Coffee”
  • investment in transport access,
  • promotion of the crop in the local communities especially with the youth, which are running away from coffee farming. Use social media,etc.
  • educating the communities in life skills, even entrepreneurial skills.

On point (i) and (ii), Starbucks highlighted that they work with 450,000 coffee farmers and have supported research to create 400 varietals of which 5 have been released on farm trials.

On the point (v) and in general, I really believe, that the more you give the more you will get back. It runs through some of the points I have raised under my #honestmanagement series, if you show respect to your employees (and in this case we can say coffee farmers), you will foster loyalty and they will go the extra mile to grow the best coffee.  Whoever in the coffee chain has the most and in any industry they will know who they are, should really think about how the coffee industry can be sustainable for future generations – after all there is no doubt that the demand for coffee is constantly growing, so there will always be a market for it.

In summary, for coffee lovers we want everyone to get a fair deal for the best of our planet. We know that low coffee prices “never” translate to lower prices for our daily cappuccinos or flat whites, pour overs, etc, but at least those at the source, the farmers should benefit somehow, if not we will all loose out.

In short it was a very interring symposium for me, looking at the other side – away from my traditional view (cafes and quality) to the upstream side, where it all starts from the farm. That’s my take for now, but I’m working on this as a side project, so I’m welcome to any more ideas.

Sources

FT Article

http://www.ico.org

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/coffee-economics-lameen-abdul-malik/?published=t


A Beautiful Coffee Shop: Alchemy Coffee, Dubai

Sometimes you just drop into a coffee shop and think Wow! what a space, and that’s what happened when I visited Alchemy Coffee in Dubai last month. I had heard about this coffee shop since last summer when we visited but we ran out of time and I missed the opportunity. As they say, good things or should I say, good coffee, comes to those who wait. As you enter, you know, as they articulated on their website that they wanted you to enter a space that feels like home. Alchemy have progressed from the so called Starbucks “home away from home” space, as you feel like you are home. It helps that this coffee shop is definitely a converted Miami style house with very clean lines, including a plunge swimming pool outside (not for coffee drinkers), but it adds to the ambience.

As you enter the front door, on the right is this beautiful info graphic;

which is actually their drinks menu – the only thing missing is the price for each drink.

To the left is the brew bar, with all the filter options (hario V60, aeropress, chemex, kalita, etc) and of course a Synesso Espresso machine with Anfim grinder and Victoria Arduino Mythos grinder. Interesting enough, two baristi hailed from Uganda.

On the day we arrived, it was their first year anniversary – 6 April and they had a camera crew taking pictures and videos of their space plus a giveaway competition with first price a trip to an Ethiopian coffee farm for two (that would be ideal for me). It was also a bit busy so we had to wait for about 5 minutes before placing our order. My cousin went for something with milk – a beautifully poured cappuccino;

Latte art!

As it was later in the day, I wanted to try a filter coffee and wow! was I in for a real treat. Yes, almost like the elusive red sulphur – I had to do a double take – Did I see Yemeni coffee (the first country after Ethiopia to grow coffee and for which the coffee variety arabica comes from) on the menu, in front of me in a  very apt golden coffee bag. I was so stunned to see Yemeni coffee that I quizzed them as to where they got it from – their coffee comes from a local roaster, Cypher. In fact I wanted to buy a bag but as it was a special edition to coincide with their 1 year anniversary, it wasn’t for sale. In any case I chose for it to be brewed on a kalita, which I don’t usually have.

 

The flavour profile was typical Yemeni; spicy, with hints of dark chocolate and medium acidity. After a while I managed to persuade my cousin – not a coffee drinker – to try.

To accompany our coffees, we ordered scrumptious looking tarts and cakes – mine was Swiss almond (yes, typical me, I told the barista, chuckling that Switzerland don’t have almonds) and my cousin an orange polenta cake – but very yummy.

Their space is very clean – perhaps too clean for a normal house, unless you have guest coming over – which Alchemy have all the time, obviously.

In summary, a very nice space, with attention paid to detail in presentation , preparation and hospitality. Looking forward to my next visit insha’Allah.

visit their website on Alchemy


Brunch and Coffee @ Brew Cafe, Clapham, London

As many of you might know by now, if you sift through my Instagram page, you will know that I am not only passionate about coffee, but food and fashion too. In fact before coffee, it was food. When kids at school would be asked about their hobbies, I would always say art and food. So, in 2019, I’m going to be talking a bit more about food, especially my favourite meal of the day, BREAKFAST. For me, the ideal meal always involves good coffee and breakfast is so exciting because you start your day off with it.

Located on 45 Northcote Street, about 7 minutes walk away from Clapham Junction Railway Station, Brew Cafe is a very busy cafe, as there are not many cafes like it in this area. We arrived there around 1030am on a Sunday morning and luckily we didn’t have to queue for long – about 15 minutes. Typical of a London morning in March, it was a bit cold and cloudy, but as there were 4 of us and we didn’t want to wait an additional 15 minutes, we sat outside with blankets. Within a few minutes the queue started and it was obvious that it is very popular with young couples.

First up, I knew I wanted coffee and found out that they get their coffee from Allpress Espresso – one of New Zealand  premier coffee roasters, who opened up in London about 9 years ago in East London. Already familiar with their name, I could safely order coffee. So, I went for a cappuccino, brewed on their La Marzocco Linea machine;

As you approach their cafe, they have a placard outside, saying “best coffee in London”. I’m not sure about that but I may give them my “best coffee in Battersea” award. The coffee was well prepared and worth the wait. Now, whenever I stay with my brother, who lives about 7 minutes away, I know where to come and get a good cup of coffee before delving into London.

Now, to the food. This was confusing because they have so many nice things to order; Turkish eggs, which my daughter and brother went for; Sweetcorn fitters with tomato jam – tempting; folded eggs, which my son ordered; blueberry pancakes… and more. In the end, I went for Hake and Crab Fishcakes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise with spinach under their “big plates” section;

Yum! See the full order below, with my side of smashed avocado. My son’s folded eggs must be the largest egg dish I have seen served at a cafe or restaurant and if you are really hungry, I would definitely recommend that – it must have been at least 4 eggs.

But there’s more. Based on their focus to order fresh and use very high quality producers, there are a lot more tempting things on their menu, which I would love to sample another day, especially their desserts and cakes – I ordered a take away New York blueberry cheesecake for my wife, but they have carrot cake, red velvet cake and even better you can order the whole cake to take home and you know I love desserts.

In summary, a great place to have brunch, breakfast, lunch and dinner – for the latter, their branch in Chiswick (pronounced Chissik) have specials in conjunction with La Luna cinema and offer wood fired pizzas too. I’m really looking forward to visiting again and you know how much I love a place that is passionate about preparing coffee as well as food. Definitely, one of the type of places I would like to own in the future God willing, well done Brew Cafe.

Check them out on http://brew-cafe.com