We spoke to Edward Njoroge, from The Nairobi School of Coffee (formerly Dormans Training School) about his journey and role in training baristas and the importance of professionalism in making the perfect cup of coffee.
Do you drink coffee? If so, at what age did you start?
I drink a lot of coffee; up to ten cups a day sometimes, due to the nature of my work. I started drinking coffee at the age of 23.
What started your interest in coffee and coffee brewing?
I was employed as a steward at Dormans and one day I passed next to the barista station while the barista was making a Cappuccino. I saw him making the latte art and was amazed at how well he did it and this piqued my interest in not only wanting to learn how to do it, but also to know everything about coffee.
Each day after that, I went to the barista station after my shift to watch and learn and after 6 months I was hired as a barista. I later joined the Nairobi School of Coffee for formal training as a barista.
What is your favourite blend of coffee?
I love the Dormans Suprema Blend which epitomizes the fine characteristics of Kenyan coffee. It is complex yet simple with lively acidity and a well-rounded body. I use it mainly at home for my morning brew. Of course in the office I take lots of espressos.
What’s your favourite coffee drink to make?
I love making Cappuccinos. I find latte art fun! For a perfect, cappuccino you have to balance all the detail; temperature and amount of froth.
How do you take your coffee?
I can take up to ten espressos in the span of three hours! Of course with no sugar needed.
What is your coffee pet peeve?
I wish we had more Kenyans who appreciate our coffee the way it is appreciated in other countries where Kenya exports to. If we promoted our own products more, there would be more income for coffee farmers and this would then lead to appreciation of baristas and professionally prepared coffee.
I also don’t like it when I order an espresso at a restaurant or coffee shop and I get a poorly made espresso. Although I don’t blame the baristas when this happens, I try to help them where I can, giving them a quick training on how to make the perfect espresso.
Tell us a bit about the Nairobi School of Coffee
We groom student baristas into skilled artisans of coffee brewing and enlightened ambassadors of the coffee drinking culture. The school is known worldwide because of the quality of baristas we produce as we follow a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum that covers the full cycle of coffee processing from bean to cup.
Our trainers are certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) and trainings are conducted in a relaxed atmosphere that helps keep the students engaged.
I have been a trainer since 2014 and I am proud of the role we play to nurture baristas, create coffee awareness and foster a coffee drinking culture in Kenya.
We provide professional barista training and after the students have graduated, we also try to place them in coffee shops and restaurants to enhance their skills and make a living. Some of the people I have trained include the current Kenya National Barista Competition Winner and African Champion Martin Shabaya.
What do you think of the coffee drinking culture in Kenya?
I think we are gradually getting there. The number of coffee shops have increased over the years, which means there is demand for quality coffee, not just in Nairobi, but in other areas such as Nyeri and Nanyuki.
What’s one thing about coffee you wish Kenyans knew about?
Kenya is traditionally a tea drinking nation and most non-coffee drinkers presume coffee to be bitter or a preserve of the rich. This could either be because they have never tasted coffee made by a professional barista or they have never experienced the different variations of coffee or flavours added to coffee to make it tastier. There are various ways to take espresso and espresso based drinks. (see sidebar). My work, is to change this mentality one espresso at a time.