What's all the fuss about that new coffee varietal you've seen in mass media?!

Thursday, 29 April, 2021

When the Press Release attached below came across my inbox, I didn't pay it much attention to be honest. And then it hit the mass media! Imagine my surprise that people were interested in a rare, rediscovered varietal of coffee! Good surprise!

Introducing Stenophylla coffee, the coffee tree with black cherries and the capabilities of few other coffee varietals!

Some of you may have asked initially, there's a problem with my supply of coffee?!?! Well yes, this issue has increased year on year. Dr Alessandro Craparo outlined some of the environmental issues coffee faces for us in Issue 30 of the Coffee Magazine. Read it here

So the fact that there is a coffee that has proved resistant to these factors is very good news for the long term future.

"There are 124 species of coffee, but we rely on just two for 99% of our coffee consumption: Arabica and robusta, making up 56% and 43% of global production respectively. Arabica, originating from the highlands of Ethiopia and South Sudan, is a cool-tropical plant with a mean annual temperature requirement of around 19°C. It is vulnerable to increasing global temperatures and coffee leaf rust, a fungal disease that has severely impacted coffee plantations in Central and South America."  - CIRAD

Which brings up another question, is coffee a tricky plant to grow? Yes indeed! I'm sure at some point on your coffee journey and certainly on this website, you will have heard the phrase, The Coffee Belt. These are countries between the tropics and close to the equator that meet the temperature criteria of successful coffee plants. Not too hot and not too cold, as explained by Dr Craparo.

With the new varietal Stenophylla coffee (Coffea stenophylla), there is a new development on the temperature discussion.

"A rare wild species from Upper West Africa, has been found to tolerate much warmer temperatures than Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica), the world’s most popular coffee, whilst boasting a superior flavour. These unique qualities mean that stenophylla could soon be grown commercially, but in much warmer places than Arabica. It also has the potential to be used as a breeding resource, to produce new, climate-resilient coffee crops for global consumption. This discovery comes at a crucial time, as up until this point, experts had not identified any robust means of protecting coffee farming from the climate crisis."

Well, isn't that amazing! 

Next question! So if it was rediscovered growing wild in Sierra Leone in 2018, why is it only being spoken about on a broad scale now? Well, because the coffee professionals have actually had a chance to taste it! And it has passed the test!

Even from coffee Youtube celeb James Hoffman, which is always entertaining! See video below.

Now begins the mission to protect the species and find avenues to grow it commercially. 

Full Press Release from CIRAD, Agricultural Research for Development

Scientists reveal that Coffea stenophylla – a rare and threatened species from West Africa – has the potential to ensure the future of great-tasting coffee under climate change. The coffee, rediscovered in the wild in 2018 after years of searching, has the unique combination of tolerance to high temperatures and a superior flavour – throwing a lifeline to the multibillion dollar coffee industry, which is vulnerable to climate change. Results from an independent, professional tasting with panellists from Nespresso & Jacobs Douwe Egbert (JDE), show that the flavour of stenophylla is like high-end Arabica (Arabica is the world’s most popular coffee).

In a new paper published today in Nature Plants, scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the University of Greenwich, CIRAD (the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development) and Sierra Leone reveal the results of an in-depth study of a ‘rediscovered’ coffee species that has the potential to help futureproof the coffee industry against climate change.

Stenophylla coffee (Coffea stenophylla), a rare wild species from Upper West Africa, has been found to tolerate much warmer temperatures than Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica), the world’s most popular coffee, whilst boasting a superior flavour. These unique qualities mean that stenophylla could soon be grown commercially, but in much warmer places than Arabica. It also has the potential to be used as a breeding resource, to produce new, climate-resilient coffee crops for global consumption. This discovery comes at a crucial time, as up until this point, experts had not identified any robust means of protecting coffee farming from the climate crisis.

Dr Aaron Davis, Head of Coffee Research at RBG Kew, and lead author of the paper, says: “Future-proofing the coffee supply chain to deal with climate change is vital – coffee drives a multibillion dollar global industry, supports the economy of several tropical countries, and provides livelihoods for more than 100 million coffee farmers. To find a coffee species that flourishes at higher temperatures and has an excellent flavour is a once in a lifetime scientific discovery – this species could be essential for the future of high-quality coffee.”


What about the coffee we drink now?

There are 124 species of coffee, but we rely on just two for 99% of our coffee consumption: Arabica and robusta, making up 56% and 43% of global production respectively. Arabica, originating from the highlands of Ethiopia and South Sudan, is a cool-tropical plant with a mean annual temperature requirement of around 19⁰C. It is vulnerable to increasing global temperatures and coffee leaf rust, a fungal disease that has severely impacted coffee plantations in Central and South America. Robusta fares slightly better – the species grows at low elevations across much of wet-tropical Africa, requires a mean annual temperature of around 23⁰C, and is resistant to certain strains of coffee leaf rust. However, robusta falls short in its flavour and is widely regarded as inferior to Arabica, with the majority of its production used for instant coffee.


Lost then found: the ‘forgotten’ coffee species

Until recently (late 2018) stenophylla had not been seen in the wild since 1954. The term ‘forgotten’ is applied to this species because it was once widely farmed in Upper West Africa. Today, its use as a crop species is non-existent, and only a few examples exist in coffee research collections. So, in December 2018, two of the paper’s authors (Dr Davis and Professor Haggar) travelled to Sierra Leone to work with development specialist Daniel Sarmu, to try and locate the species in the wild. They used historical specimens from RBG Kew to provide details of the last known locality of stenophylla coffee. With support of NGO Welthungerhilfe and the Sierra Leone Forestry Department, they visited the main target location, where they found only a single plant of stenophylla coffee. Moving east, they visited another forest area, and after several hours of trekking through dense forest, they finally located a healthy population.

A coffee that can handle rising temperatures

Endemic to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, stenophylla grows wild in hot-tropical areas at low elevation, only 400 m above sea level. After collecting data for Arabica, robusta, and stenophylla, the paper’s authors set to work to understand their fundamental environmental requirements. They found that stenophylla grows and crops under similar climatic conditions to robusta, but with a higher mean annual temperature requirement of 24.9⁰C (1.9⁰C higher than that of robusta), and a substantial 6.2–6.8⁰C higher than Arabica. Stenophylla coffee is also reported to be drought tolerant, although this attribute requires further research.

Stenophylla: The taste test

There had been no recorded sensory information for stenophylla for 100 years, due to its scarcity in cultivation and rarity in the wild so it was essential for this species to be properly evaluated. Obtaining a small sample from partners in Sierra Leone, stenophylla was assessed by an expert tasting panel at Union Hand-Roasted Coffee in London in the summer of 2020. The panel awarded the coffee a speciality score of 80.25 (based on the protocol of the Specialty Coffee Association) and identified Arabica-like qualities. To reach ‘speciality’ status, a coffee needs a score of 80 points or higher. Jeremy Torz from Union Coffee said, “Arabica is currently our only speciality coffee species, and so this score, particularly from such a small sample, was surprising and remarkable.”

After this initial tasting in London, an additional and much more substantial sample of stenophylla, this time from Ivory Coast, was obtained from the Coffea Biological Resources Center on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The sample was evaluated at CIRAD’s sensorial analysis laboratory in Montpellier by a panel of judges, and then soon afterwards by coffee experts from companies including JDE, Nespresso and Belco. The 15-strong panel blind tested two Arabica samples (one high quality and one low grade), one high-quality robusta sample, and the Ivory Coast stenophylla.

The blind tasting session in CIRAD's sensory analysis laboratory followed a strict protocol. The red light was to mask the different colours of the coffee, to ensure that the tasters focused on their sense of smell and taste © C. Cornu, CIRAD

The evaluation revealed that stenophylla has a complex flavour profile, with judges noting its natural sweetness, medium-high acidity, fruitiness, and good body (i.e. its texture; the way it feels in the mouth). Desirable tasting notes included peach, blackcurrant, mandarin, honey, light black tea, jasmine, spice, floral, chocolate, caramel, nuts, and elderflower syrup, as one might find in high-quality Arabica. When asked if the stenophylla sample was an Arabica, 81% of the judges said yes (compared to 98% and 44% for the two Arabica samples, and 7% for the robusta sample). Despite the high ‘Arabica-like’ score for stenophylla, 47% of the judges identified the sample as something new, suggesting a market niche for the rediscovered coffee.

Dr Delphine Mieulet, scientist at CIRAD, who led the tasting says: “These results provide the first credible sensory evaluation for stenophylla coffee, from which we are able to corroborate historical reports of a superior taste. The sensory analysis of stenophylla reveals a complex and unusual flavour profile that the judges unanimously found worthy of interest. For me, as a breeder, this new species is full of hope and allows us to imagine a bright future for quality coffee, despite climate change.”


What’s next?

Coffea stenophylla is classified on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as ‘Vulnerable’, so efforts are urgently required to safeguard the future of the species in the wild. Further work is required to fully evaluate its potential as a climate resilient, high-value crop species and breeding resource, including claims of drought tolerance and resistance to coffee leaf rust. This year, the four institutes involved in the paper plan to plant stenophylla seedlings in Sierra Leone and Reunion Island (CIRAD), in order to start assessing its agronomic potential under a range of environmental conditions.

Read more on the RBG Kew's website.


Aaron P. Davis, Delphine Mieulet, Justin Moat, Daniel Sarmu, and Jeremy Haggar. Arabica-like flavour in a heat tolerant wild coffee speciesNature Plants -19 avril 2021

About the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world-famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant and fungal diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew Gardens’ 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, attract over 2.5 million visits every year. Kew Gardens was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 260th anniversary in 2019. Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world, as well as over 500 acres of designed landscapes, wild woodlands, ornamental gardens and a nature reserve. The Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre is Kew’s third research centre and only overseas office. RBG Kew receives approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support RBG Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.



CIRAD is the French agricultural research and international cooperation organization working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions. It works with its partners to build knowledge and solutions and invent resilient farming systems for a more sustainable, inclusive world. It mobilizes science, innovation and training in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Its expertise supports the entire range of stakeholders, from producers to public policymakers, to foster biodiversity protection, agroecological transitions, food system sustainability, health (of plants, animals and ecosystems), sustainable development of rural territories, and their resilience to climate change. CIRAD works in some fifty countries on every continent, thanks to the expertise of its 1650 staff members, including 1140 scientists, backed by a global network of some 200 partners. As such, it supports French scientific diplomacy operations.

About the University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI)

The Natural Resources Institute (NRI), is a specialist research, development and education organisation of the University of Greenwich, UK, with a focus on food, agriculture, environment and sustainable livelihoods. Using an interdisciplinary approach, we undertake research, teaching, training and consultancy to address interrelated global challenges affecting everyone from local farmers and consumers to the UK food industry, to smallholder communities in the developing world. Together with our international partners, we tackle issues including poverty, food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture, climate change, gender and social equality, responsible production and consumption, exploitation of natural resources and environmental management. NRI’s work addresses the UN Sustainable Development Goals – the globally agreed plan of action to achieve sustainable development for all by 2030 – and is organised through our Research Groups and Development Programmes. NRI’s team is made up of over 100 members of staff including natural and social scientists, technicians, and specialists in project management, administration, communication, finance, IT and other fields.

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Fiks, The Coffee Queen!

Thursday, 22 April, 2021

Fikile Khuzwayo has always inspired us with her tenacity and her positivity. She must be one of the hardest working women in coffee and she does it all with immense grace and a smile through it all.

Fiks has steady employment through the Mr Price Foundation and has been making amazing coffees for the Mr Price Head Office team for many years. She loves her Mr P family! She has always had a dream to start her own business and through the uncertainty of last year, where the offices were empty, Fiks made a decision to take the first steps in that dream. Enter Fiks: The Coffee Queen!

Fiks takes making perfect coffee completely in her stride and she makes a four-tiered tulip and smooth and delicious coffee look so easy! She is using coffee expertly roasted at Lineage Coffee.

The thing is, in the life of the hustler and the entrepreneur, support is always needed. And Fiks with the help of her husband and son, is now working 7 days a week to keep her dream alive, so that one day she will find a space she can call home. The mobile set up in front of the wonderful crew at Hair Inc, who have given Fiks a lot of help, is such an awesome start. You can give her support too, by going to buy an amazing cup of coffee on the weekends. She is currently at this location 9am-2pm Saturday's and Sunday's. She is also available for hire for events!

You won't regret it!

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New Kid on the Block: The Breakfast Room

Friday, 16 April, 2021

The Breakfast Room is a place of calm, happiness and delicious Kenyan coffee, against all the odds on the Durban Point construction site.

You know, in my experiences of the hospitality world, in which I have spent much time, the attitude of the team is integral to my overall impression of the place. And at The Breakfast Room, the positivity positively smacks you in the face when you walk in the door. Honestly, I couldn't stop smiling the whole time I was there. 

And when I had the opportunity to chat with owner, Wanjiru Kinyua, it all made sense.

"The main goal here was to create a place where people feel looked after, something that I feel is largely missing from the hospitality industry these days, and the industry needs to get back to doing that. I feel the only way we can make that change is by first making sure that the Team is looked after, as you can only look after people if you feel looked after yourself."

Ah man! That resonates with me so much. And The Breakfast Room team must be well looked after as they sure know how to look after their customers.

We were eager beavers, there as the doors opened at 8 and we were made to feel right at home. The corner shop was once known to Durbanites as the location of Ciao Bella, but Wanjiru has certainly made the space her own with a beautiful mural and her infectious personality.

"There's something about a corner building! I had a long term plan to open a restaurant having studied at Silwood in Cape Town, but I was down here with a friend for a market and when I saw this building, I felt a real connection to the space and I just decided to throw myself off the cliff, pandemic and all!"

Well, we are so happy she did!

The coffee is from a farm in Kenya, Karunguru Coffee, that belongs to her family friends and that has been producing coffee for close to 100 years! The espresso was sweet and smooth and the flat white was very tasty indeed. Sthabile was our delightful waitress and was very patient with us as we took our time deciding what to order from the mouth-watering All-Day Breakfast menu.

Everything was delicious and we highly recommend you visit and support this team! 

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Roaster Focus: The packaging your coffee comes in, is a specialised product!

Thursday, 15 April, 2021

In Neil Maree’s monthly column, he explores the importance and detail of the packaging your freshly roasted coffee beans come in.

Specialty coffee packaging: more than meets the eye

Don’t you just love opening a new pack of speciality coffee? 

It almost becomes a ritual, a crucial part of your coffee drinking experience. 

The way the packaging feels; the sneak whiff through the valve (we all do it); the specific way you have to open the pack; and then, of course the explosive aroma that fills the room…bliss!

While coffee packaging was once viewed as mainly useful to store and transport a product, packaging design has developed into an important marketing tool. It is often the first contact a customer will have with your brand. It carries your brand identity and emotionally connects with consumers.

If you are a roaster, I suggest you take a closer look at your own packaging and make sure it ticks all the boxes when it comes to the holistic customer experience.

Deconstructing specialty coffee packaging

Speciality coffee packaging has a dual value. On the one hand, it preserves the freshness of your coffee and on the other it has the potential to tell your brand-story in the most appealing way: through the use of shape and material, fonts, images, colour combinations, textures and patterns.

Package design and its sensory aspects impact the customer journey at different stages. For the purpose of this discussion, I will look at speciality coffee packaging from a sensory experience (outer and inner layers) and from a functional dimension (freshness and quality mechanisms).

Sensory Experience

It is said that customers buy packaging based on their first impression of the bag.

Use your packaging to tell your brand story, because people identify with stories. Share yours on your pack and it will be read. Be descriptive. People enjoy information when they are really interested in their subject; as speciality coffee drinkers are. Tell your customer about your brand values, your contribution to transparency and sustainability in the coffee industry. Also use the opportunity to explain flavours and roast profiles. Coffee packaging has an informative, and often an educational role to fulfil.

Try and be original in your design and capture the spirit of our brand. Pay attention to colour as people are psychologically drawn to colour. Colour plays a major role in the success of any marketing campaign. Colours tend to stir certain emotions, creating brand relevance and motivating purchases: red is the colour of power and gets people’s attention and holds it, and green is associated with health, environment and goodwill.

The finishing of your packaging material can add to your customers’ tactile experience of your brand, be it a matte or gloss, or textured and rustic. Keep in mind that finishes such as foil and spot-varnished elements can be very interesting but should be in line with your brand and the message you want to communicate. 

With the aim to engage and tell their brand story, speciality coffee roasters often use a five-sided flat bottom pouch which will give them more space. Printing on the interior of the coffee pouch is another way to optimise space. Coffee packaging can therefore be totally customised to attract customers. The challenge is to create visual aesthetics that will translate into perceptions of flavour at an almost subconscious level.

Custom printed packaging has become popular all over the world, and this does not only refer to the exterior of the packaging. The customer experience lingers on throughout the after-purchase stage which can greatly influence the customer’s likelihood to re-purchase or recommend your coffee to others. The customer journey should be considered and maximised. Interior packaging design is an innovative way to extend the brand message and convey the desired perception of the taste of your coffee. Opening a coffee bag is an explosive multisensory experience that can now be amplified even further by your customised interior design.

Own your unique style

Packaging allows you to distinguish yourself from your competitors. Your uniqueness can set you apart from the rest as packaging possibilities are endless. Consider your own distinctive measurements of a shaped pouch, a zipper and valve integrated in your pack, an attractive design, different varnishes, and different colours from neon to metallic. Finally, a label on your pack can communicate different origins and batches, giving you all-year-round flexibility. Be sure that you understand your customer when you design the look and feel of your brand - this includes colours, font styles and sizes. Remember, there is no right type of packaging. Your packaging will be determined by your customer preference, the nature and size of your business, and how your coffee bags are filled. There are various coffee packaging experts that will be able to guide you along.

The ultimate aim for roasters is to set their products apart. A visually appealing package can go a long way in creating positive perceptions about the characteristics of the coffee you are representing.

Functional dimension

The best coffee packaging cannot only be visually appealing, but it also has to be functional. The number one requirement for any coffee packaging is that it should protect your coffee from the moment it leaves your roastery or warehouse.

As consumers are increasingly becoming more discerning coffee drinkers, there has been a growing need to provide fresher, higher quality roasted coffee beans.

The most important aspect of speciality coffee is its aroma and taste, which can be impacted by the packaging. Should the coffee be contaminated by foreign odours, the aroma and taste will be compromised, making it not desirable to drink. It is therefore crucial to choose an effective and high barrier coffee bag to maintain the freshness, flavour and aroma for a longer period of time.

Various types of coffee packaging are manufactured and supplied to specialty coffee roasters. Coffee packaging offers different functional features, including metallic layers, re-sealable zippers, clear oval windows, and one-way degassing valves. 

Packaging should protect your coffee and keep out odours

Once your beans have been roasted, they undergo chemical and physical changes that must be taken into account when packaging them. The pore structure of coffee beans is affected by roasting conditions. The bean becomes more porous, the higher the roasting temperature. It then becomes more susceptible to absorbing moisture and unpleasant odours. To prevent this, your packaging should include a barrier that keeps out moisture, odours, direct sunlight, and oxygen, while enabling carbon dioxide (CO2) to escape. While the material you use for the outer layer of your coffee packaging is often determined by your marketing needs, it is the inner layer that needs special attention as it comes into direct contact with the roasted beans.

Barrier properties and the filling process

It is very important that coffee beans stay fresh for as long as possible, and this means that the packaging has to be airtight. 

Packaging needs a barrier as coffee is very sensitive to external factors that can affect the profile, through moist and other bacteria. These barriers can range from metalised or pure aluminium to high-barrier polyester. Specialised advice to protect the roasted coffee beans can be provided by packaging manufacturers.

To ensure freshness and for coffee not to become stale faster than it needs to when on its way to your customer or sitting in their coffee shop, one can add a nitrogen flush vacuum sealer to the filling process. This vacuum sealer uses nitrogen gas to replace the oxygen in the bag and then creates a vacuum before sealing your bag of coffee. The absence of oxygen within the packaging helps to extend your coffee’s shelf life as long as the bag remains unopened. 

Degassing valve

One of the most important chemical changes in the roasting process is the breakdown of sugars to form various compounds, including carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide, trapped inside the coffee beans, gradually leaks out after roasting, through a process called degassing. 

Sealed coffee bags without a valve usually inflate and can even explode. The function of a degassing valve is to allow the carbon dioxide, released by roasted coffee beans, to escape from the sealed bag. It is designed to be a one-way value. Carbon dioxide will flow out of the bag, but oxygen will not flow into the bag. This mechanism will only work when the bag is thoroughly sealed.

It is of utmost importance that the one-way degassing valve releases carbon dioxide from the coffee bag but do not allow outside moisture or air to penetrate the bag. 


The convenience of your coffee bag can be enhanced with zippers or other easy open mechanisms.

A re-closing feature such as a zipper will make a big difference in the lives of consumers who use and store their coffee beans in the original package – also more opportunity for them to enjoy and appreciated the design of the interior of your coffee package!

Trends that can influence specialty coffee packaging

Sustainable packaging has become very important. These forms of packaging are recyclable and biodegradable. Eco-friendly packaging is normally communicated on the pack, giving a guide on how it should be recycled and the benefits thereof to nature.

If there is one thing millennials around the world have in common, it is a taste for coffee. It is a generation worth taking note of as they make up a large percentage of the world’s coffee drinkers. Looking after our planet is important to them. They demand transparency and good ethics and this is something you should consider throughout the customer journey.

The subscription model is booming and various coffee brands are complimenting their business with a monthly subscription from their customers. Receiving a crafted subscription box will gain massive appeal for your brand. More so now that people are home-bound as a result of the pandemic and have become more comfortable with virtual shopping. You will however, have to do proper research into your potential market, to determine whether there is a gap in the market, and indeed a market in the gap – but surely, it can be very exciting.

Your packaging supplier is there to support you through conceptualising, designing, manufacturing, printing, and delivery your packaging material. This can be a very rewarding relationship as they should keep you abreast of new developments in the packaging industry. It is important to choose an experienced packaging partner you feel comfortable with and whom you can trust with your brand for consistent and superior-quality packaging.

The Specialty Coffee Association, in 2016, launched  the annual  Coffee Design Awards to honour and showcase the great packaging designs in the speciality coffee industry around the globe. This is a great platform to find new inspiration and keep up with the latest trends and technologies. Onyx Coffee, pictured below, won the 2021 Award for Packaging.

In closing, there are many aspects to consider when it comes to specialty coffee packaging: both in terms of aesthetics and functionality. If you can explore these, you have made good progress in setting up a successful specialty coffee brand. 

All of the best in coffee.


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Want to braai this weekend? Try these SA made firelighters made from coffee! (And win a box for yourself!)

Friday, 16 April, 2021

Way back in 2018, we introduced you to Kai and Mariska of Firefly biofuel - the firelighters made locally from used coffee grounds. (Read that article here! ) and for this issue of the Coffee Magazine (the new Autumn issue #35 - out now!) they have very generously supplied us with a whole box of the new Firespark JNR firelighters for you, our readers!

So what's the first thing we did? Well, we had a braai of course! 

This is our honest review of the new JNR firespark, along with some new insights from Mariska and Kai about how to use them, why they are different from the original and how best to braai!  Then, we have a competition for you all  - it's at the bottom - no skipping ahead now!

Here we go - It's braaitime!

The first thing I noticed is how different they are to regular paraffin based firelighters. They are round, thin, have a hole in the middle and have wicks, like candles do... and they burn much like candles do, melting the firespark material that then burns like a candle. 

A unique shape for a unique braaiing experience.

It was a bit of a windy day, so I battled to get them going at first, but once they took...shew!! They burned hot and long!  I also didn't know how many to use, so I used two. I also didn't know if I should stand them up or lie them down...who knew there were so many variables!

Look at her burn!

Anyway, after I had had a very enjoyable braai, I was curious and had so many questions for the Team! So I mailed Mariska back with my experience and this is what she had to say...

The Firefly Biofuel was a pleasure to use… tell us again the story behind this product?

Really simple to be honest.  When a friend of ours, that owns a furniture company, complained about the sawdust waste that she had to pay someone to remove from their workshop, Kai offered to build them a basic press to make some firewood for their fireplace.  Suffice to say she said she didn’t have time for that and Kai can have at it. 

He started playing with the idea of making home made firelighters for us as well at the same time.  As it happened he spent 18 months changing out ingredients to meet my absolute high standards when it comes to being “safe around food”, “safe around the kids and pets” and of course, no tolerance for the petroleum stink and black smoke it makes when lighting. 

He incredibly started experimenting with coffee waste from the house as it not just eliminates odours, but he found it to be an incredible high heat burning fuel along with the fact that burning coffee is a natural insect repellant.  Many shapes later and the FireSpark original was born. 

The FireSpark original was a bit too much we found (minimum of 20 minute burn and boil 600 mil of water over a firelighter itself) so we started with the FireSpark Jnr.  

It must be a trade secret, but what else is in the Firefly FireSpark other than coffee?

No secrets! The FireSpark Jnr consists of used coffee, virgin sawdust, sugar and a vegetable based wax.  The vegetable wax we use is of food grade and therefore does not contain ANY petroleum.  Not a lot of people know this but even standard candle wax contains petroleum.

Where do you get your coffee grounds from?

We collect if from local coffee shops.  :-)

It burns like a candle initially, tell us about the science behind it!

Very true.  Due to the lack of petroleum to the product it does not flare up and burn out quick like petroleum firelighters.  But we opted for the slow start…one helluva finish.  Coffee burns 100 degrees hotter than petroleum which in effect makes it a hotter firelighter.  Petroleum does have the quick light but if you give the FireSpark Jnr a chance to get to temperature it has a longer, cleaner and hotter burn.  The FireSpark Jnr does have a bit of an educational aspect to it for sure and packing your fire fuel (wood / charcoal) in such a way that creates an oven effect for the FireSpark Jnr you will find that not only does it light faster with the radiated heat but protects it from wind as well for the humble beginning of its start up.

The hole in the middle also plays a significant role into creating a concentrated flame “like a Swedish rocket fire”  This concentrated flame has a greater success in the burning process than petroleum fire that “is all over the place”

You will find that people most of the time use half or up to a whole box of petroleum firelighters to get their fires started.

How many should a person use for an ordinary braai. I used two, but does it depend on how big your fire is going to be or how much of a rush you’re in to get the braai going?

We always recommend first time users to use 2 FireSpark Jnr’s.  We do find however that people start to get to know the product and realise that 1 is enough.  We also love how our clients sends us images of “their” way they use the FireSpark Jnr.  It really is up to the users that they find the “Best way for them” to use.

For us personally, 1 is enough for dry wood, and Kai would through in 2 or 3 if the wood is really wet.  But other than that it’s also just on how you pack your wood and the ambient temperature.  In hotter days….again the burn startup is quick and in colder days, well, the wax coating around the FireSpark Jnr that’s that second or two longer to melt.

The whole idea of the wicks are to assist you in lighting the FireSpark Jnr.

The fire spark was a bit tricky to get going in windy conditions, but the upside is there’s no paraffin like other brands…which must be a good thing? 

Yes you are completely right.  The FireSpark Jnr does take longer to light but with this one “negative” side of it, the positives that you get over the petroleum firelighters far outweigh this one point. :-)

Give us your tips on how to get the best…do you lie them up, like a wheel, or on their side like a disc?

 This is so tricky!  We add a business card on how to light the FireSpark Jnr in the box itself for first time users, but as mentioned…there are a million different ways our clients all believe they have found the best way.  We love it and fully encourage first  time users to give it just that little bit of patience the first couple of times and they will find that not only are they far better than petroleum firelighters, but better on their budgets also.  Instead of buying 10 to 12 boxes of R10 firelighters a month, now they only have to buy 1 box of FireSpark Jnr’s.

Win a box of Firespark JNR firelighters from Firefly Biofuel.

To win a box of Firespark JNR, all you need to do is send us a photo of the Firespark BioFuel advert in the new issue of the Coffee Magazine!  Whatsapp your photo and your name to Iain on 082 397 2792! 

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What do Simba Chips and coffee have in common?

Thursday, 8 April, 2021

This rather large and strange box appeared in the Coffee Magazine offices last week….

Choose me or Lose me?

We were intrigued!  Obviously we chose to open it and in doing so we entered into a fun and wonderful experience all about flavour, through one of SA’s most iconic and most loved products - Simba Chips!

As coffee drinkers, baristas, roasters and green coffee hunters, we are obsessed with flavour. It is the essence of so many things related to coffee, to food, to our emotions, our childhood memories and ultimately to our decision making.  And as the TV campaigns from the 80’s drummed into us…”SIMBA Roaaaaars with Flavour!”

Why all this? Simba are on a massive national campaign to create more space in their product lineup, but this means eliminating a few of the old Simba Flavours. To our horror, Salt & vinegar , Tomato Sauce and Cheese & Onion are on the chopping block!  We’ll talk more about the marketing objectives later where you have to vote to save your favourite flavour, but the part we found really interesting from a coffee point of view, is how the team at Simba went about educating the many journalists about flavour.

Each of those little droppers had 1 of the 5 flavour components. It was fun to try and identify them!

First up was “Taste Basics” - this was a pretty cool way to introduce everyone to the 5 components of flavour and where you find them on your tongue:

Sour and

Did you know the 5 components of flavour?

We then moved onto the Jelly Bean test  - this was really interesting! Try and block your nose while you chew a jelly bean. Then unblock your nose! It’s a rush of flavour!! This differentiated how we experience flavour on our tongue and through our olfaction system. Anyone who has ever cupped coffee, or competed in a cup tasters event will testify how significant this is when slurping the coffee to spread it all across your tongue and right up the back of your throat, taking a deep breath to wash the flavour through your olfaction system. Try it. It’s amazing :)

Finally, we did a texture test. This was basic, but drove the point home. One bag of chips we had to spray water on and seal in a bag. Them after 20 minutes, we took a chip from an airtight bag and a soggy chip from the wet bag and compared them side by side. Yuck! Soggy chips and stale chips will ruin the entire experience, even though the flavour was identical!

The physiology of flavour!

So the next time you sip a cup of coffee at your local cafe, or in your home - think about the flavour. Use the 5 tools above to try and identify what you are experiencing. Next, take a sip and then a deep breath in. Finally, think about the body (texture) of your coffee - is it thick and luxurious, is it thin and weak?  Have fun talking to your roaster, your barista or your coffee friends about flavour and why  they love the coffee they choose.

Tomato Sauce!!!

P.S  Mel and I are both voting for Tomato Sauce, because, we agreed that it is one of those nostalgic flavours that takes us straight back to break-time at primary school! Who are you going to vote for?

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Issue 35: Coffee is a Lifestyle

Thursday, 8 April, 2021

Once you go down the path of flavour exploration, it's difficult not to let it spill over into the other parts of your life. And you know what? It is SO. MUCH. FUN. 

Coffee is a lifestyle and has made our appreciation of other delicious endeavours so much better, so in this Autumn Edition 2021 as the light changes and the temperature chills, we are celebrating Chocolate, Cuisine, Wine, Honey and of course, more Coffee.

So what's in this edition?

Travel: A World of Flavour

Do you miss travelling as much as we do? Food and coffee can take you where you wish to go! Kamini Pather takes us on a culinary journey and develops a recipe exclusively for us!

Roast: Melt in your Mouth

An education on some of the finer points of chocolate-making and starting a new brand by one the trailblazers of the coffee world, David Donde. Delve deeper with us into a world we very much take for granted, picking our favourites excitedly from the sweet aisle and never wondering how they got there.

Culture: Coffee vs Wine

How similar are these beverage cultures and what can they learn from each other?  Jono Le Feuvre explores the crossovers between these cherished liquids.

Brew: The Tale of Two Coffee Cities

Shinsaku ‘Samurai’ Fukuyama, a world-renowned latte artist and coffee professional earned his stripes in coffee capital, Melbourne and is pushing specialty coffee forward in Osaka. Try his Pourover Recipe!

Discover: The Sweet Life of Bees

Exploring the wonderful world of honey with local bee-keeper, Mokgadi Mabela, founder of Native Nosi. 

Human Interest: Empowering Women in Coffee 

Nicole Battefeld-Montgomery, German Barista Champion and World Coffee in Good Spirits Top 6 Finalist, explores how her gender has and continues to affect her journey and how we can all make choices to change the coffee landscape for the better.

Community: The State of the Coffee Nation

A year on, still in the grips of a global pandemic, we explore how coffee culture has adapted to survive.

Kick: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

We first came across the talented Glen Biderman-Pam when he released a certain parody about a certain eight-tentacled sea creature that premiered on Netflix during lockdown. He has turned his comedic gaze towards coffee and targeted some our favourite growing South African coffee brands. We chatted to Glen about a little of this, a little of that, mostly coffee, of course.

Where can you get your copy?

- You can order a subscription delivered direct to your door, either just the mag, or a VIP subscription.

- You can get it from one of our incredible Cafe Distributors

- You can get it from our growing list of Retail Outlets, Spars, Exclusive Books, around the country.

Got something to say? Then leave a comment!

Celebrating Rwanda: Explore the amazing people and coffee that have emerged since the devastation of genocide

Thursday, 8 April, 2021

Quality over Quantity: The Rise of Specialty Coffee in Rwanda

Since the tragedy of the genocide in 1994, Rwanda has slowly but surely established itself as one of the prominent players in Africa when it comes to specialty coffee. One of the local entrepreneurs who has been part of this journey from the beginning is Emmanuel Rusatira of Baho Coffee. He shared his insights into this growing power in the speciality coffee scene.

“Do you know what Baho means? Simply it means ‘have life’, ‘be strong’ ‘don’t give up’, It’s an emotional word we use to give each other strength. When you meet a man and he is hopeless, this is what you say to encourage him to carry on, “Baho my friend, baho!” It’s an expression that means a lot to me in my own background. As you know in Rwanda, we have a bad, bad history about genocide. I was seriously affected by this. My parents were taken by the genocide and in a family of five children I had to provide for my younger siblings. I was still only a small boy, but I was second eldest and responsibility fell to me. So life…it was hard.”

Emmanuel Rusatira, affectionately known as Emma, is an exceptional human. He has faced adversity many of us will never be able to understand. In the midst of complete devastation, he had to drop out of school to provide food for his family when they were orphaned, but fought his way back to education, determined to reach his full potential. He now holds multiple degrees and owns seven coffee washing stations.

“Listening to our coffees and sharing their conversation, is our main goal.”

“But look, now we are on the phone talking on Skype! Someone from a remote area like me! Someone from a poor family like me! Someone who was usually fetching water, cleaning floors of restaurants, washing the dishes to make sure that we had food and now I am talking to coffee professionals around the world. People don’t believe the life that I have had. Personally, I feel like I share this story with coffee. Why did I choose this ‘Baho' name? Coffee also goes through a difficult life, to survive it has to survive so much, it has wind, it has poor soil, it has leaf rust, it has disease, it has insects, after that it goes through machines, pah pah pah, then the roasters you hit it with serious heat and then at the end of all this, the result, it’s a delicious coffee. Everybody, all over the world just wakes up and says, oh I feel like a cup of coffee, but they would not believe the life that coffee had before, how difficult it was to get there. We believe coffee talks. Cleanliness, mouthfeel, aroma, sweetness, acidity, tasting notes all come to the surface in the cup. Listening to our coffees and sharing their conversation, is our main goal.”

Rwanda, and its coffee industry, has come very far from the horrific genocide against the Tutsi that took place in 1994 to the thriving country it is today. This unbelievable turnaround is a huge credit to the Rwandese people and is a great example rebuilding out of tragedy. In 2005 there was a move from the Rwandan government to revive the coffee industry, pushing a change from semi washed to fully washed coffee to improve quality. One international company already invested in coffee at the time, needed someone to help set up washing stations, someone they could train and grow from within their company to adapt their processes. Emma was recommended for the job by his lecturers. 

“I remember the exact day I joined. 26 April 2005. That was a day that made me feel like, wow, I was crying. You know as a teacher I was paid 3900 Francs a month. This new position started at 100 000 Francs per month. That was like the dream life for me.”

Rwanda is a small country, 26,338 sq kilometres, but there was big potential. It was already the top cash crop of the country in 2005, but there was no way to improve on this because they didn’t have the land to increase volume, the only option was to increase quality using the natural resources available and improving processing. 

“Coffee likes a high altitude area, it loves volcanic soil, it needs good rainfall all round the year, we have all those! We started the journey to move from low grade commercial coffee to try put it on the map in international coffee. Not in volume but quality wise. The government put in place grants to help people set up washing stations to accelerate the process. They managed to change in a very short time, the culture of processing. Coupled with private investment, education was possible, we started to be able to help farmers to improve the quality of the coffee through agronomy. I’m from a coffee farming family, I have seen the change. People know that good, reasonably priced coffee comes from Rwanda now.”

While he was learning and building these agricultural systems for big companies, he couldn’t shake a feeling that more could be done.

“I’m not a guy who gets satisfied easily. While I was on this journey I started to think about implementing my dreams and start working my philosophy. Whenever you work for someone else, and I’m not blaming any of the businesses I worked at, but when you work for someone, you want to speak your mind, but you can’t, because you are part of a team moving in a particular direction So being a coffee farmer, seeing the potential we could create, I started dreaming of working with coffee farmers hand in hand, advocating for them, allow them to speak their mind to promote the poor farmers who own the coffee trees, the same ones that make other people to be billionaires, but they remain poor, I dream to give back more to them. I knew this can only happen if I start my own approach. Three values, Culture, People and Coffee. Through coffee people from different culture, become one community. No matter the size of your business, no matter your origin, no matter your level of education, no matter if you’re mzungu (white) or if you’re black, though we are different culture we speak the same language, become the same community.”

With many years of experience in the Rwandan speciality coffee industry the Rusatira family, found the opportunity to set up their own washing stations and start to make the changes they wanted to see.

“But it has been one way for so long. We have to show the farmers to be proud of what they do, not ashamed, not silent, because in fact the coffee farmers are the boss, it is they who keep people like me up. Any wealth I have, comes from the farmers. We have to become wealthy together. There must be mutual respect, fair sharing of benefits of coffee. We are still a small business, we are trying to build to a place where all our farmers are smiling instead of crying. My father was a coffee farmer. What change can I bring, so that farmers are valuable and they’re able to grow too like the rest of the industry has. All year round, we work together with coffee producers to support them on the field, and financially, so as to produce the best coffee cherries of the region, and boost quality, year after year. All our attention goes to selection, depulping, fermentation, washing, drying, storage, and continuous quality control.”

Emmanuel supports farmers with access to fertilisers, helps them to check the condition of their trees and shares valuable knowledge about best farmer practices. Furthermore, he supports the farmers by covering their social insurance and giving them second payments at the end of the crop.

“We work with many coffee buyers that believe in this philosophy, that believe that paying more for the coffee makes sense for the future of coffee itself and helps farmers create better lives for themselves.”

The standard coffee price is set by government, but the distributors are not limited to this. The ‘Father of Natural and Honey’ in Rwanda, Emma helped government to set reference points and processing steps required to produce honey coffee after a training trip to Costa Rica, so that people can apply for a license. To sell naturals in Rwanda, first you need a license, and to get a license you need a guaranteed buyer. Otherwise it is illegal to produce naturals. With a commitment to buy the coffees you can go to the Rwandan National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) to get approval.

“Directly after that trip to Costa Rica, together with Muraho Trading Company, because I didn’t have washing stations, we set about developing the honey process for Rwanda. I can say, I am very proud of what we achieved there, because it opens a lot of doors for Rwanda in the specialty coffee world.”

He started experimenting with different methods and now works with an anaerobic fermentation technique that uses traditional clay brewing pots called "Intango". The cherries are placed in the pots and mixed with water. The added water comes from the depulper and contains a high sugar content due to the mucilage of the cherries. The cherries stay in this pot for 100 hours. The fermentation process is slower and more controllable as the clay material of the pots does not absorb heat. The cup profile differs depending on the conditions. Wet processing creates a livelier cup profile, while dry processing is more intense. After the coffee is fermented for 100 hours, the beans are spread on drying beds and turned every two hours. The beans are dried slowly by being protected from direct sunlight during the first five days.

“What value am I adding by using a natural/honey processing. To create more flavour, jasmine, dates, banana, berries, but also to take our coffees to the next level, get higher points than we have ever been able to achieve.”

Winston Thomas used one such coffee in the SA National Barista Championship and with it, successfully achieved his third title. 

Apart from award winning coffees, Baho is also known for the opportunities afforded to women in the communities that they work with. Emma chuckles softly when asked about this. “You know mostly we come from culture, that sees men as stronger, my father was one of those men, but even though I was a small boy, I was watching and I saw that really my mother was the one who was doing most of the work, providing us food and love. I grew up believing women are most valuable and if they can’t make money it is hard for them to overcome this idea of the patriarchy. I learnt from my mother, the strength and power of women. If women are given capacity, if women are given the chance, they will always take the opportunity. And you know, I know it’s a generalisation, but women have this good quality of being able to listen and in the same way they listen to the coffee, remember I told you coffee talks and coffee needs caution, and women listen, they listen to the coffee.”

Emma is an emotional man and you can tell in a very short space of time that the passion he has for people and for coffee is rooted deep.

“Fugi Washing Station in the south was my first investment, it has a special place in my heart. Now we own seven washing stations, four of them are producing at specialty level. They are all like my children!”

Fugi is equipped with two drying shelters, which provide shade to rest and sort the coffee beans, immediately after washing. The following day, the coffee moves to the drying beds where sorting continues by hand, every day of the drying process, to ensure all defects are removed. To get the coffee to a stable 12,8% moisture content, the coffee is dried with direct sunlight. If the sun is too hot, the beans are covered with penetrable sheets, although Fugi knows a very stable temperature curve throughout the year. 

“At this station, we experiment with different processing methods so as to push boundaries and improve our understanding and skills. This station is known to produce very clean, and vibrant coffees. It is like my first child!” he laughs fondly.

Although Muzo is the smallest of the seven washing stations run by Emmanuel and his family, some of the finest qualities are produced here. He leased the station for 10 years and eventually bought it in 2018. In close cooperation with the Muzo Cooperative, they are processing washed, honeys and naturals. Muzo Washing Station is located on a mountain slope in the hilly Gakenke District, where cold air is blown up at night - ideal for the coffee on the African beds. The rich volcanic soils, high rainfall and cool temperatures in the area create fruity, sweet and round cup profiles. It was badly affected by the rains of April 2020, but the potential remains.

“In my 17 year career, I’ve not seen anything like the damage the rainfall this year has done. Around 1,3 tonnes of coffee at just Bugoyi, but that is not the real tragedy. At Muzo my smallest station, lives were lost. Coffee trees completely washed away across the country, that will take years to rebuild those farms. And just think, the roads have been washed away, even those farmers whose trees survived, how do they get their coffee to a washing station, normally on their heads, on a bicycle, but how do they do that with no roads? The effects are catastrophic.”

 "Support is easy. Just pay a fair price for coffee, we will show you the change.”

Bugoyi Washing Station is located in Rutsiro District. With full dedication and love for his coffee, he has been processing fully washed, naturals and honeys since 2017. The location on the shore of Lake Kivu brings a light breeze and soft sunlight, ideal for cooling and drying the beans evenly. Damascen is the station manager of Bugoyi Washing Station. He is an expert in mobilisation and makes Bugoyi attractive to many farmers. Delphine is the Quality Manager and has been working in coffee for seven years. She oversees the drying of the coffees and is an important part of Baho Coffee. In close collaboration with 1,500 local smallholder farmers who bring their cherries to the washing station on foot or by bicycle, some outstanding and full-bodied washed, honeys and naturals are produced here. 80% of the workers at Bugoyi Washing Station are women.

The Humure Washing Station is named after the highest hill in the region. What is particularly impressive about this station is that it is entirely managed by women. After washing the coffee, the water is captured and pumped back up on the hill for reusage. Along with the practice of partial washing, the women try to use as little water as possible.

The future of Rwandan coffee despite the setback of the heavy rain damage this year, looks very bright. There are coffee professionals invested whole-heartedly in its success and with strong advocates like Emmanuel keeping the coffees front of mind, it will go from strength to strength. What can coffee consumers do to help?

“You know what I say to people who want to drink our coffee and want to support us. Support is easy. Just pay a fair price for coffee, we will show you the change.”

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