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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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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.
“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.”
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.”
This tasty little morsel might give you a new perspective on espresso as the chocolate melts gently against rich espresso! Delicious!
But where can we find them you ask?! Don't worry you don't need to hunt too hard!
These caffeine slingers are ready to make your long weekend super sweet with your favourite white eggs and their freshly roasted beans.
Flamme Rouge Cycle Cafe - Nottingham Road, KZN
What is a long weekend for if not meandering and indulging and this gorgeous spot in the KZN Midlands provides both, pouring yummy espresso from Bluebird Coffee Roastery.
Do it yourself!
If the white candy-coated eggs aren't sold out everywhere yet, steal a couple from the Easter Egg hunt you have planned for the kids, grab your coffee weapon of choice and get busy!
Fire up your Breville Barista Express with your favourite local beans and go get some easter eggs!!!
We catch up with Stevo Kühn on the opening of his world class new coffee bar in Bloemfontein. There's even a coffee freezer!
Congratulations on your new coffee bar inside Jack&Jill Food Co! It is spectacular! Tell us about the inspiration behind it?
Thank you. Traveling around the country running barista courses are really my passion, as you know, but I have felt the need to bring the education back to the consumer too. The bar really is built on this premise. Educating the consumer with some really exceptional specialty coffee from roasteries around the country (hopefully some international ones too).
There’s a lot of great equipment on that bar, tell us about all the gadgets?
Yeah, we’re really fortunate to have some solid tools that make life and workflow a dream.
We’re making use of the Nuova Simonelli Mythos 1 for our blend (roasted by the legends, Bluebird Coffee Roastery). We also serve single origin specialty that we rotate often. Currently we are serving Father Coffee on bar through the EK43 and some filter goodness with a Comandante C40.
At the moment we’re using the Nuova Simonelli Appia II to extract goodness from these amazing coffees.
For consistency and workflow we use the PUQ press with 58.3mm base. Our view is that technology doesn’t take away from our responsibility as baristas, but actually help us with efficiency and free us up to serve customers with excellence. We’re also using multiple scales on bar...dosing, yields, filters etc, all to keep that consistency while providing an amazing customer experience!
What coffee are you serving on bar this weekend?
We have the Friendly Blend from Bluebird Coffee Roastery in the Mythos, Alko Kerinci Natural from Father Coffee on EK and then on our frozen coffees menu we have the likes of Norma Iris, Kamwangi AB, Diego’s Hyperprocessed Geisha & Pink Bourbon...to name a few.
Were there any hiccups along the way? All good spaces need good origin stories ;)
Mid way we realised that our water filtration needs a serious revamp...we had to upgrade and ended up switching to a Reverse Osmosis system thanks to the legends at Ultimate Water. Our freezer with “experience side bar” also gave us headaches. Getting a front facing freezer turned out to be more challenging than anticipated, but all turned out well.
The benefit of freezing already roasted coffee means that you retain the freshness and lower coffee wastage. You can read more about that, here.
We met the wonderful women behind Green Bean Coffee Roastery what seems like eons ago at the Coffee&Chocolate Expo 2013. Iris McCallum and Lee Anderson started the business in 2007 and it has been going strong ever since! But this past weekend was the first opportunity I had to actually visit their space!
I found myself in this particular neck of the woods, because I was being a tourist in Joburg with my friend who has just moved up there. We went to the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, a beautiful piece of biodiversity in Muldersdrift. It plays host to a famous family of Verreaux's Eagles who have called the Witpoortjie Falls home for the last 60-70 years! After an enlightening stroll around the gardens we were hungry and decaffeinated.
We had heard of Casalinga Organic Farm and my ears perked up, because my only reference to that place was Green Bean Coffee! So we decided to give it a try. A short drive later and we arrived at the truly lovely Casalinga plot.
It's an idyllic location below beautiful big trees, with tables set up in the garden for you to eat and drink and be merry. There were kids and dogs frolicking all over.
The Green Bean team have recently expanded beyond their roasting space and into a new retail and cafe space as well. They have a wide range of blends and single origins on offer and the team will whip you up a satisfying coffee, we had a single origin Uganda Sipi Falls that was in the hopper that day. You can get your bag of beans freshly ground on your way should you need to.
So happy that we finally got the opportunity to visit this spot! It may be a bit out of the way, but it is well worth a day trip to this peaceful farm outside the bustle of Joburg.
Recently, my godson got me hooked on a car restoration show on Netflix and honestly, I would never have picked it, but gosh, those cars are beautiful and I got completely sucked in to the rag tag group of mechanics making their vintage car dreams come true! And not a week later Dewet Beukes, of Red Truck Coffee Roastery, approached us with a mission to restore their iconic 1946 Chevy Pickup. Ah the fates! We chatted to Dewet about the project and about how you can get involved! We are hoping they will be able to drive it to our next Creative Coffee Week!
"Red Truck Coffee Roastery's name actually came from the iconic 1946 Chevy Pickup truck that has been part of Red Truck Coffee Roastery since the beginning.
We decided that after 5 years that it is time to make a plan to get this truck in working condition and start to become a regular sight in the streets of Gauteng.
We have started a donation program where anybody can Donate to this project, and to the companies or people who donate more than R1000, we will add their logo or signature into the truck as a remembrance of everyone who has participated in this project. The project has started an instagram page and an Facebook page where progress reports will be posted regularly to see how the project is going.
This is a community project to save a beautiful vintage truck and the response has blown our minds.
Account Name: Red Truck Coffee
Acc Number: 62809435119
Branch code: 250655
Reference: Truck Donation
In the first 24 hours, the project already received R3000! Join the project and get you name/company logo on the truck."
What the truck looks like now:
What the finished product will look like:
Words By Anastasia Prikhodko
Anastasia Prikhodko investigates why you should make your next cup of coffee using beans from one of the many origin countries in Africa. Rich, complex and rewarding like the land they were grown on, every cup holds a story and international interest in this incredible crop is steadily on the rise.
Consumption of African coffees is changing. The rise in consumer income has helped to increase coffee drinking habits while the demand for speciality and origin-specific coffees is surging. These industry changes present an opportunity for the African coffee market to further expand and export its coffee production.
“Everyone at ONA Coffee has always loved African coffee,” says Sasa Sestic, Barista and Founder of Australian-based coffee institution. “Most of us had our first ‘Wow’ coffee experience with an African coffee.” For Sestic it was a natural processed heirloom coffee from Beloya, Ethiopia. The narrative of coffee coming from Africa is known across the world. Still, it is only in recent years that it started to gain the recognition it deserves. “There’s a certain reverence of coffee from Africa,” he says.
But ONA isn’t just about coffee. “We want to ensure that we are engaging with the right people and the right communities,” says Sestic. “We are adding value to their lives and business by engaging and seeing what their needs are. It’s always a collaboration and a conversation.”
ONA, which started in Australia’s capital city, works closely with regions including Guji, Kochere and Haru Suke in Ethiopia. Through its green bean partner Project Origin, the company is also doing experiments and improving infrastructure in Kenya.
“We’ve helped to build the first well and purchase and construct drying beds through the proceeds generated from the sale of my book,” says Sestic. “We have also funded the building of a bridge in Ethiopia.”
In the past few years, demand to understand and learn African coffee has risen, confirms Sestic. “There are a lot of great practices that African producers and experts have, such as screen grading. I have noticed there are more direct relationships happening, and they are having a positive effect on both ends of the coffee supply chain.”
To continue serving high-quality African coffees in the future, investments and relationships in Africa need to ensure that everyone is benefiting. Or that nothing is being done at the expense of anyone else.
“Our philosophy is that everyone has to win, or come out happier and better off than when you started,” he says. “There’s no point entering a relationship and trying to build infrastructure, then walking away within one to two years. It needs to be a long-term and meaningful relationship - otherwise, you risk taking advantage of people.”
The former barista champion has also picked up on a few trends as investment and collaboration with African countries grows. “The processing experiments we have done with partners in Ethiopia are influencing the way we approach processing and fermentation with other coffees across the globe,” he says.
“When we worked with Agnieszka Rojewska in 2018, the coffee we sourced and roasted for her was an experimental lot from Guji, Ethiopia,” he says. “It was the first time an African coffee has been used to win the World Barista Championships. Straight afterwards the demand from our customers for more of this coffee and others like it was insane.”
All of the coffee that ONA Coffee uses is sourced through Project Origin. Originally founded as a division of ONA Coffee, it has since become an independent business that works in 12 coffee-producing countries around the world, three of which are in Africa.
“Ethiopia is the second biggest country we work with. It is most certainly the favourite of many customers of ONA Coffee,” he says.
But Africa’s coffee industry growth isn’t only about exporting. Locals are also interested in coffee. And the more that locals buy African coffee, the more the region is safe from changes in the global market.
“Africa is where my heart is,” says Jonathan Robinson. Robinson is the founder of South Africa’s first roaster of certified fair trade coffee. “I love this continent. I wanted to make sure that African coffee got the exposure it deserves in South Africa.”
East Africa’s coffee industry expects to go through 7.5% market growth from 2019 to 2024. Being the birthplace of Arabica coffee and the largest coffee producer in Africa, Ethiopia has a significant hold on the sector. The country supplied 6,943 60-kg bags of Arabica coffee production in 2016-2017.
Passion influenced Robinson to start Bean There Coffee Company in 2005 in his garage. “We were the first to bring in coffee from the DRC,” he says. “We were [also] the first to bring in coffee from Rwanda.” His vision proved successful as the company grew to three sites: two roasteries in Johannesburg and a cafe in Cape Town. “When I started, most of the coffee in South Africa was either South American or Italian blends,” he says.
Robinson took it upon himself to introduce South Africans to the joy of African coffee. “We live on a continent which is the birthplace of coffee,” he says. “We have the finest coffee on the planet. But we were bringing in coffee from South America, as well as imported coffees from Italy.”
In 2005, African coffee was hard to come by. The widespread of it is often attributed to changing coffee trends. And according to Robinson, it’s also because consumers realised that “African coffee is the finest on the planet.” This rise in consumption of African coffee influenced a surge in the price of African coffee, he says.
Keeping close relationships with farmers is a primary focus for Bean There. The company works to build long-term partnerships with farmers through “thick and thin.” Robinson adds that the prices to the farmer have not come down when the coffee price comes down.
“Funding, work with agronomists, and trying to get farmers to increase their yields is how we’re helping grow communities,” he says.
Investing in African coffee also poses several challenges. One of those is the government. Robinson explains that changes have had to be made in Tanzania because of government intervention. Dealing with cooperatives is another obstacle because of varying levels of financial literacy.
He says there have been incidents where cooperative leaders overpaid for the coffee cherry to the co-ops. “They put their own cooperatives under financial pressure,” says Robinson. Adding, “In any business, you can encounter dishonesty and some fraud.”
Another challenge is price. African coffee is expensive. So when things are tough customers start buying cheaper. “You can buy a Brazil coffee for a third of the price of a good Ethiopian,” he says.
Despite investment in African coffee on a healthy trajectory, Robinson says there is still a long way to go. “As roasters worldwide, we need to be asking the hard questions. We need to ask importers, ‘What are farmers earning?’ He also believes roasters need to ask: ‘What do the farmers get paid out of the FOB price?’
“Sometimes the answer would frighten you,” he says.
Sander Reuderink is the Commercial Director at Trabocca, a Dutch green coffee importer. The company is an Ethiopia specialist. Its founder Menno Simons in 2000 invited the first organic certifiers to the region. “Most coffee in Ethiopia is grown organic by default. But until we certified the coffee the producers never received the premiums for its organic status,” says Reuderink.
“The climate [in Ethiopia] is perfect for producing the highest quality coffee – if the infrastructure is there,” he says.
To build this infrastructure, Trabocca invested in seven eco-pulpers. These were installed at coffee farms with the most potential. The machines are also 10% of the water-footprint of conventional disk pulpers.
“We invested in quality control, fermentation trials and waste-water treatments. Anything that makes coffee better and improves our environmental footprint,” explains Reuderink.
Coffee generates around 60% of foreign income in the region in Ethiopia. Approximately 15 million Ethiopians rely on coffee production for their livelihood. Trabocca, recognising the social impact of coffee, is at the forefront of pushing for an increase in pay. This year, the company says it finally saw sustainability experts agreeing on the need for a living income for farmers. “If we pay farmers the right price and help them with productivity improvements, then we can end poverty from the coffee sector,” says Reuderink.
For the upcoming Ethiopian harvest, Trabocca is launching a trial, where the farmer’s income will not be a result of price and cost of production, but the starting point. “We’re collecting payment details all the way up to the small scale farmer,” he says. “This is to prove that our producers have generated a living income from their coffee sales.”
In support of better pay, the company has a new initiative, which has “broken open the Kenyan coffee market” and “almost doubled farmer’s incomes.” The enterprise is between the people of Ndaroini Coffee Ltd in Kenya and Trabocca. The two communities have come together to set up a new supply chain and reward the smallholders.
According to the Trabocca website, instead of paying 55 Kenyan shillings per kilo cherries (which is the industry standard), it paid Ksh 100 per kg cherries. And an extra Ksh 21 to the factory for quality improvements.
Coffee is and will continue to be one of the major global exports. It is the primary source of income for Burundi, Rwanda and Ethiopia. And for years, coffee has been a significant earner of foreign exchange and pivotal to the growth of the economy for African countries.
Thus, investing in African coffee, strengthening the quality, yields, and increasing appreciation of African coffee worldwide will only continue to add value to the region.
“The future looks bright for African coffees,” says Sasa Sestic. “We just need to make sure we’re taking care of everyone along the way and creating a sustainable future.”