Tag Archives: African coffee

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.

 


I was @ Kaldi Coffee, Lagos (Nigeria)

I first heard of Kaldi Coffee early in 2018, when they liked one of my coffee photos on Instagram and was so intrigued by their concept that I told everyone I knew in Nigeria to look out for their coffees, which can be bought at the duty free, supermarkets and of course at their shops. In any case, I promised to visit them when I visited Nigeria again, which happened in December 2018. So, on my last few hours in Lagos and with the mad traffic in Lagos, it was beginning to look extremely slim that I would make it, but due to the kindness of one of my cousins, who resonated with my coffee passion, she loaned me her car and driver and I headed off to Ilupeju – near Ikeja – the part of Lagos that the airport is located in.

As I finally arrived, I was met by a very enthusiastic Dr Nasra Ali – the main owner of Kaldi coffee. I presume she was excited to meet a fellow coffee geek. We headed over to have a coffee first – I was really looking forward to my first good cup of coffee in Nigeria after 10 days (most of it was spent in Abuja and the remaining 2 days in Lagos only). Prepared on a La Marzocco GB5, using of course Kaldi’s coffee beans.

So, what is the story behind Kaldi Africa. First of all, I presume everyone knows the story about Kaldi and if you don’t, click on my page – a Brew beginning (the story about how coffee started) at the top. In any case, Dr Nasra Ali is actually a doctor, formerly of the World Health Organisation (WHO) – the United Nations organisation in charge of health, where she was working until she met her husband to be, a businessman of Greek origin, who resided in Nigeria – you see the connection. In any case, coffee runs in Nasra’s family bloodline, as they were behind Kenya and perhaps Africa’s biggest coffee chain, Java House (see my post here). So, when presented with an idea of setting up a business in Nigeria, it was obvious. In her own right, she’s a trained barista and roaster and has the Nigerian license for distributing my favourite espresso coffee machine maker, La Marzocco and have SCAE recognition.

So, Nasra, doesn’t compromise on quality. Kaldi’s focus is on sourcing good coffee from Africa and they have started trying to resuscitate the Nigerian coffee industry – yes, there is one. This is very commendable, because she could easily just buy Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees from Eastern Africa and ignore West Africa, but she didn’t and also sources coffee from nearby Cameroon too. So, now for the tour;

Nasra showed me her coffee factory. First the tasting and barista room, where she has a few espresso machines (La Marzocco of course), grinders, brewing equipment and the Ikawa mini-roaster.

Then we went to the heart – the roasting room, which houses two Probat Coffee Roasters – wow!

If you view her Instagram Feed, you will see what she went through to get this factory from an empty dusty room to this gleaming roast factory – truly amazing and I was very impressed.

On the business side, Nasra has started roasting for hotels and restaurants – I visited Krispy Kreme Lagos, who are one of her customers –

Met with Edouard Sassine, who offered me the opportunity to start a coffee roasting company with him – extremely tempting, I must say. In any case, Nasra is so generous, that she is willing to develop a roast blend for each of her customers beyond her own trusted espresso blend. If you cannot visit, you can also buy their coffees on line – 250g starting for the equivalent of $7.8 and there’s even more – something I’ve never seen. You can order your coffee as greens or roasted in three different profiles of light, medium and dark. As a coffee geek, you could order the same coffee in three different roast profiles, even though I’d omit the “darker” version. They also sell chocolate and tea, gadgets, coffee cups, brewing equipment, grinders and espresso machines. Nasra offered me two coffee bags and hot chocolate and I grabbed the Nigerian and Cameroonian coffees, which I brewed as espresso.

On services, they have three different types of barista courses, so ideally, any serious retail outlet or business that wants to start a coffee business in Lagos – a city soon to be the largest in Africa with over 20 million people, there’s no real reason to serve substandard coffee. They can also be contacted to serve great coffee at events if needed. Read more about Kaldi on http://kaldiafrica.com

Nasra was so conscious of me missing my flight back to Abuja that my very intriguing visit was all over in less than an hour and as my wife knows, I can literally chat about coffee for hours. So, I reluctantly left, but guess what ? What should have been a 15 minutes ride to the airport, took a whopping 90 minutes and if my flight left on time, I would definitely have missed it – things I do for coffee.

I was really intrigued by my visit and seeing the passion in my eyes, Nasra, ever so giving, offered to help me start a coffee roasting business in Nigeria – I can’t even imagine anyone offering to train a competitor, but I think she’s so giving and I was really tempted – perhaps I’ll add that to my wish list or should I say dream list, plus I would really like to explore the possibility of helping Nigerian and other African coffee farmers get more recognised and up the quality of their coffee – anyone interested, please feel free to contact me.

Until then, if you ever visit Lagos, please stop by but not on your way to the airport and it’s probably best on the weekend or in the morning, when there’s less traffic.

Well done Nasra and here’s to working with you to help Nigerian and African coffee producers.


I was @ Java House, Kenya: Perhaps, Africa’s best coffee chain?

Actually, I’m a bit embarrassed by the lateness of this post, because last year I had one of my most surprising coffee experiences in the eclectic city of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city and main hub. As per usual, I had to attend a five day meeting in the city and of course I was on the hunt for coffee. Prior to my departure, I visited lonely planet’s helpful guide to cafes and restaurants to visit in Nairobi – also a major tourist destination and springboard to visit the vast wildlife and safaris across the country; and found 2-3 interesting ones. You may wish to know too that Nairobi is the only capital city in the World where there’s actually a natural safari park, near the airport, which we visited on our penultimate day – pics at the end.

So how about the coffee ? After all I was visiting one of the premier coffee countries in the World – not just a coffee growing country but a country that reputably has one of the best arabica varieties in the World (SL28 and SL32 but let’s not go there with deep coffee neurosis), sought after by coffee connoisseurs all over. Due to the location of our meeting and hence hotel, we were placed right bang in the middle of the city. I had initially wanted to check out another brand, the Artcaffe Coffee & Bakery, which looked very “European/American” in design, but all their locations were too far to get to during my busy week, so Java House it was – located on Mama Ngina Street, Transnational Plaza, about 5 minutes walk from the Hilton Hotel.

Upon entering their cafe, you won’t notice anything special in terms of decor; no exposed bricks, Scandinavian clean white washed floors and serving bar, because this is no frills per say – you could easily be in a typical local restaurant, apart from the smell of coffee and for geeks like me – the La Marzocco GB5 espresso machine. I looked around, the clientele was mainly Kenyan but there were a few what looked like backpackers as they had free wifi for customers too. I checked their menu – typical espresso menu, even with an offer for double as well as triple shots. I enquired about their coffee – roasted in small batches every day, primarily from Kenya but also from the region, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda. I checked out the barista and his skills as he prepared other drinks and not to seem to geeky in front of my colleague, recommend that we both try a double espresso each. I must confess I wasn’t expecting much – I could hear my wife echoing her usual verdict of “coffee snob” into my ear from 1,000 of kilometres away in Vienna.

Hmm! Espresso served with a biscuit

So impressed with the extraction and of course the taste, my colleague immediately went over to ask about buying their coffees. Initially I was reluctant, but bought a Kenyan AA filter blend 500g of arabica coffee beans. The bill, for 2 double espressos and a 375g of Kenyan AA bag of coffee – wait for it US$10 – now that’s a great all round experience.

Of course I went back but must confess that on one occasion I was the victim of the plague of inconsistency that sometimes hampers African businesses, as on my second visit, the espresso lacked vigour – no crema and bitter. Needless to say, the other 1/2 visits did not disappoint. In a way I got the impression that their roasting skills would not disappoint and bought another bag of coffee, but this time from their speciality offering of a Rwandan arabica to take home with me and try on my French press. My colleague bought about 3-4 bags – I lost count.

Java House, I came to find out have about 40 branches in Nairobi alone. They seem quite popular and were always busy when I visited, perhaps because they also have an extensive food menu, including red velvet cake closing late, around 10pm everyday.

They also have a branch at the airport and saw their beans being sold in a duty free shop, but be warned, the coffee was not as freshly roasted as the ones in the city and were more expensive – I smiled to myself as I left the bags of months old roasted coffee at the airport duty free, informing the shop keeper that the coffee costs more at duty free but in town.

In summary I was quite happy to see that Java House, Kenyan created and currently still owned is an African coffee chain that is built on using locally produced coffee, roasted in small batches and successful in terms of its wide range and number of outlets in the city and beyond – It was also gratifying to see that Kenyans were enjoying one of their most prized exports in their own country and that the best stuff hadn’t been siphoned off to the European US and beyond – proud to be African is what comes to mind.