Twelve twenty-something aspiring Ethiopian baristas crowd around a small coffee station toward the back of the African Fine Coffee Association (AFCA) Conference exhibition hall. A tall American man with dreadlocks is confidently grinding and pressing coffee beans to pull the perfect espresso shot. A Kenyan coffee seller gushes that he is her favorite “all-star” barista. She has seen him perform at another world coffee event.
The all-star baristas are expert coffee-drink makers from the U.S. who have won accolades for their craft. In the specialty coffee industry, they are celebrities. The Hub supported three all-star baristas to make the journey to the AFCA Conference in Ethiopia. The goal: train, inspire, and build the connections between coffee buyers and sellers that drive industry growth.
“It makes such a huge difference for local baristas. They see what they can aspire to and it helps create a coffee culture,” said Teija Lubinkhof, Managing Director of Marika’s Zambian Gourmet Coffee and AFCA board member.
Sarah Jean Anderson, one of the all-star baristas, also conducts training sessions at her local Los Angeles coffee shop in the U.S. Her company, Intelligentsia, relies on the feedback that she and her baristas provide regarding customer satisfaction. Intelligentsia shares this data with its producers to help drive adjustments that lead to greater customer satisfaction. It’s a crucial feedback loop that helps coffee producers evolve and ensures customers keep buying.
Intelligentsia’s highest performing coffee last year hails from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee and the location of AFCA 2017. “From Metad we got containers worth of coffee and it is consistently out performing all of our smaller, more special lots of coffee. Their attention to detail and processing and harvesting has really made their coffee standout,” said Ms. Jean Anderson. “It’s an outstanding coffee and one of my favorites to recommend.”
Metad got its start with the help of USAID. It now has a Specialty Coffee Association of America certified lab and a community-focused program that the Government of Ethiopia has recognized two years in a row for improving the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers with whom Metad works.
Next week (February 21 – 23), Metad will join the Hub in Las Vegas, Nevada at the MAGIC trade show to brew its outstanding coffee for visitors of the Hub-sponsored African Pavilion. Aman Adinew (below), Chief Executive Officer of Metad, is thrilled for the opportunity.
“The marketing and PR aspect of it is huge…so, I’m excited about that,” said Mr. Adinew. “We are hoping to meet with buyers.”
The Hub’s mandate is to boost trade and investment in East Africa. Coffee is one of the core sectors within which it works. In addition to inspiring local East African baristas to improve their skills, the Hub hopes to utilize the baristas’ expertise and network to influence roasters and coffee buyers’ to source more specialty coffees from eastern Africa.