On a warm Kenyan afternoon in April, around 40 people packed into the Juniper Kitchen, a hip bar and restaurant in Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood known for its outdoor garden and popular DJ sets. They were gathered for a unique opportunity: a public cupping of coffees from around the world, roasted by some of America’s best coffee roasters. The event was hosted by green coffee buyer Stephen Vick, with support from Ashleigh Miller of Conc Cold Brew, a new Kenyan cold brew company that will launch in 2016.
Vick—an American expat and Sprudgie Award winner based in Nairobi—led a group of mostly first-time cuppers, sampling what he described as a “smattering of interesting coffees from around the world.” It’s rare to find coffees from Central and South America in Africa, and rarer still to see them exhibited in this way—this may well have been the first-ever public cupping in Nairobi, according to Vick, and was most assuredly the first to be held in a bar.
Here’s a list of all the delicious roasters & coffees on offer, many of them being served in Kenya for the very first time:
Colectivo Coffee — Brazil Fazenda Sao Domingos
Verve Coffee — Honduras Leonicio Castello, Kenya Karinga
Ruby Coffee — Colombia Antonio Canas
Blue Bottle Coffee — Rwanda Nyamasheke Mwasa
Parlor Coffee — Burundi Ninga Peaberry
Carrboro Coffee — Ethiopia Ardi
Joe — Papua New Guinea Baroida Estate
Coffee Mob — Panama Los Lajones White Honey
I asked Vick how the cupping went, and his response could be adapted to pretty much every public coffee cupping ever: “People were confused at first, but it was dope.” In a quirk passed down through its British colonial history, Kenya—home to some of the most beautiful coffees in the world—is actually a tea-drinking country, with new wave coffee just beginning to gain a foothold in Nairobi, a city of 3 million people. The cafe scene here is still in its early days.
So could this be the start of something new in Nairobi? “The scene here is growing but people don’t know much beyond the basic Starbucks menu,” Vick tells me. He recommends Pete’s Cafe (run by a Kenyan barista champion Peter Owiti), Wasp and Sprout, any of the Dormans or ArtCaffe locations, as well as Kahawa Corner. “There’s definitely an interest,” Vick tells me, “and coffee in Nairobi is growing and getting better. The demand is certainly there.”