Women are the backbone of any economy, especially if it is an agriculture-driven. When they understand their role and potential and feel included and fairly treated, the results are tangible.
I am a coffee enthusiast, educator and social entrepreneur based out of Nairobi-Kenya but serving the wider African region for the last 11 years.
I am a certified Q grader instructor with the CQI for Arabica and AI for Robusta, AST for Sensory Skills module of the SCA Coffee Skills Program, Coffee Corps volunteer with the CQI for 11 years, trained WCE judge and working with farmers through coffee quality improvement programs to help sustain specialty coffee production in Africa for the world.
This is through national and international cupping competitions and marketing programs with partners from the world over. I am passionate about gender equity in the sector and actively involved in the formation and growth of 7 International Women in Coffee Alliance chapters in Africa, where I serve as chapter Facilitator.
As a result, I represent the entire value chain, youth, and women in coffee, governments, the private sector, community-based organizations and individual coffee professionals eager to hone their skills in the industry. I am also a member of the SCA inclusivity and diversity committee 2018.
I set up Utake Coffee Limited, an innovative company specializing in coffee quality and Marketing Consultancy and Development Management. The company works to promote a better understanding of these practices through training, mentoring and consultancy.
Utake Coffee also has a state of the art coffee quality teaching Laboratory, in the outskirts of Nairobi. This laboratory is the first certified Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Premier Training Campus (“PTC”) in Africa with an in-house CQI Q instructor and Authorised SCA Trainer, AST.
I also hold a Coffee Dealership Licence which allows me to the source, roast, import, and export coffee to facilitate and participate in its trade.
By the third sip, I was hooked!
While vending some items at a neighborhood (cheap toolboxes to be precise), I decided to approach a building under construction, and while trying to sell them my toolkits they informed me that they were constructing the first specialty coffee chain in Kenya.
I asked them if I could drop them my (1-page) CV and the General Manager said they were looking for enterprising ambitious personnel and no experience was required as it was the first of its kind.
I was delighted, went home and typed my CV and delivered it the next day. A few weeks later they called me and took me through all the interviews, I landed a job with the negotiated option to work on weekends and holidays once my college semester began.
I went through all the company’s departments but was most interested in the coffee division; I was fascinated by all the equipment I had never seen, the espresso machines, the roaster, the grinder… Then when I drank the first cup of specialty coffee, I was taken aback by how nice and strong it was, because all I knew was tea. By the third sip, I was hooked.
I worked through University and got hired to head the wholesale coffee division that we had set up when I completed my first degree.
Coffee and I bumped into each other, and I was amazed at all the opportunities it had given me to figure it all out, based purely on my potential.
So when I completed my studies, I decided I would apply my skills to the same sector and have never regretted this decision.
What's the "a-ha" moment you encountered when you feel like giving up from the industry?
While studying at Nairobi University, I was tempted to take the offers for an internship with all the big international banks and audit firms that would come and recruit talent from the college.
My friends were all applying and getting selected and making more money than I was when we were studying, but I still had the best coffee in my campus room than anyone in the entire university and I could brew it in ways many were fascinated about.
I kept them alert and energized, and had something cool to talk about, and got to hang out in the mushrooming cool coffee houses.
The success of the chain was another a-ha moment. Kenya was in need of a specialty coffee scene. Our coffee was renowned worldwide, but we never had the opportunity to drink it locally or even enjoy the ambiance of “any-wave” coffee shops.
I knew we were pioneers and was determined to learn as much as I could and ride the wave before I could contemplate letting it go.
After working in the chain of specialty coffee shops, Eastern African Fine Coffees Association idea came around, and they were going across the continent collecting signatures to enable its registration, and I happened to sign it on behalf of my company.
Once EAFCA was established, it grew phenomenally as well and received funding for international training which I signed up for.
Eventually, I got hired into the association and grew from dealing with just Kenyan coffee to 10 different African producing countries, the differences in coffees, the learnings and experiences were other A-Ha moments, at which point I realized this is what I was meant to do.
The industry that lacks conviviality
The plight of coffee farmers in terms of revenues received for their coffees. It should not be left to price discovery. Their costs are not.
I also think it is one industry that lacks conviviality, compared to Wine industry for example where growers and partakers are at almost the same levels of enjoyment and benefit from the beverage. I wish this were different.
What would you be if everyone were to stop drinking coffee? And why?
I would probably be a Marketing Executive for a Brand, or in the Development field, as I studied a Masters in Development Management and living in Africa, I believe it is applicable in more ways than coffee.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Running, Dancing, Reading and Traveling to new welcoming sites.
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