NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 5 – Africa’s best barista doesn’t drink coffee, nor even really like it, yet two-time Kenyan champ Martin Shabaya won the Africa round and next month competes at the World Barista Championships.
Shabaya, 26, has only been pouring coffee for five years but his success is indicative of a country that – unlike him – is learning to love coffee.
“I had not even tasted coffee. I had only taken this Nescafé,” said Shabaya of his first day at Kenya’s Artcaffe restaurant chain. “It was my first time to see an espresso machine.”
They are everywhere now. Java House is Kenya’s answer to Starbucks with 36 branches in shopping malls and petrol stations across the country. Artcaffe Coffee and Bakery has grown rapidly since 2009 with 11 branches and four more managed under Dormans brand, the country’s oldest coffee roaster.
“Roasting is an art and a science,” said Rozy Rana, managing director of Dormans Coffee, dressed – like everyone else at the Nairobi factory – in a white lab coat.
“East African coffees have unique flavours and that’s why they are revered worldwide,” she said. “Roasting brings out the nuances and flavours. Even a few seconds can make the difference to a roast’s success.”