Report from Africa

Today I received an email from our friend Shane Devereaux, owner of habit coffee + culture in Victoria, B.C., about how his extended trip to Africa for various coffee trainings is going, and thought I’d share it with all of you…

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“At the moment I’m in between two semi final matches of the African World Cup. Good times indeed…

Yeah, so I’ve just come off an 8 day stretch of 12 hour days and get a day off tomorrow before heading to Uganda. I’m not bitching, but it’s been pretty full on since I got here….but in saying that it’s been totally fantastic at
the same time. Internet and texting has been pretty non-exsistant. Adis is a pretty wild place, the people are amazing and the history beyond imagination. With Sanders having to go back to Vancouver, I’ve been thrown in
to a bit more responsibility and work load. I actually kinda missed him for a few days but then realized I was back on my own and not riding his coat tails which is how I usually roll.

So what have I been doing? Well it’s kinda like a merry go round of projects/hotels/co-workers/countries/etc… We started in Kenya where we hosted a two-day Farmers Training. The deal is here that most farmers/coffee people don’t realize the potential of their QUALITY product in the West. So we are trying to show them that by doing a
better job and understanding their product more they can start to control their futures… not just hand over their product and hope for the best. It was pretty cool as we ended the days with the farmers by doing a cupping preceded by some palate training. All these dudes suckin on cloves / chocolate / etc trying to understand what they were sensing. We cupped some Central American coffees plus one Kenyan that was really clean and one that had defects and it blew their minds.
Next up was the Taste Of Harvest Kenya, which is kinda like a world cup of quality coffee. We had to sample roast , sort and cup 65 different coffees and score them. It was pretty cool, but that’s around 650 cups in two days … ouch. In Nairobi we hung with some local coffee people that Sanders knew and had a nice time checkin out the
city. It’s pretty on edge at the moment but life seems to be going on.

Once we hit Ethiopia I had a day to go get a sunburn walking the city while Sanders stayed close to a bathroom. I won’t bother rambling about tourist tales but this country is know as the birthplace of civilization and it very well could be. My last 8 days here have been at the Central Liquoring Unit. This is the main place that coffee arrives from the farms to be tested/milled/sold. It’s fucked up—they process 40 containers a day. ( around 2 million pounds a day ) As I mentioned above, we are trying to push knowledge further down the line to the
farmers about the potential of producing quality coffee. It is the only sustainable model, end of question. But it is not only the farmer, its these dudes at the liquoring plant where they basically give a coffee a pass or a fail. They look for defects, they don’t really understand what tastes great. So, along with Ted Lingle ( the
Specialty Coffee Assosiation of America founder ) and Kelly Peltier (a Coffee quality trainer from Denver ) we held an intensive 5 day ‘Quality Cupper Training’ program. The idea is that the more ‘Q Graders’ that we can train in these countries, the more we can work at buying quality. The graders can work with exporters to understand what
they have and what its worth. Right now an importer in the US often just hits the jackpot buying a coffee for 1.50 when its worth $3 because nobody here knew better. So the trainings were great and very important to the local industry.

On graduation day we had politicians/TV crews etc… on hand to celebrate…it was a big deal. It was
pretty rad to see the motivation of the students to do well. 15 of 17 made it !!! It was fun being a teacher too, not to mention hanging with Ted. He is probably the most educated person in the Specialty Industry. Over the last 2 days we did the Ethiopian Taste of Harvest and another farmer training. The coffees were amazing… I may sneak some home…maybe.

Today has been a day off thankfully as I’ve had my first bout of African Belly. The local food here is killer by the way… Tomorrow I head to Uganda where there will be the 4th annual East African Coffee Conference. I will be Jill from Australia and Torkel from Sweden to train and conduct the 1st ever Ugandan Barista
Competition. Should be pretty cool and I’m ready for a new place and some heat.

All up this trip so far has been fantastic. Learning more than I could have imagined while hanging with some really experienced folk. Sometimes when I’m sitting in on a meeting with major East African Coffee Ministers I wonder what the fuck am I doing here. Its pretty cool…”

Thanks for sharing, Shane! Have a blast in Uganda!

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