NAEB moves to fix skills gap among baristas, coffee roasters

The number of coffeehouses and coffee roasters has been growing over the past few years. Coffee industry observers say the development calls for skills enhancement to ensure Rwanda’s coffee lovers get the best coffees.
International coffee cuppers taste Rwandan coffee at Naeb offices in Kigali in 2013. (John Mbanda)
International coffee cuppers taste Rwandan coffee at Naeb offices in Kigali in 2013. (John Mbanda)

The number of coffeehouses and coffee roasters has been growing over the past few years. Coffee industry observers say the development calls for skills enhancement to ensure Rwanda’s coffee lovers get the best coffees. 

“That’s why we have been conducting countrywide training and contests for baristas and other sector stakeholders as one of the ways to sharpen their skills to become more professional,” George William Kayonga, the National Agriculture Export Board (NAEB) chief, said.

“The idea is to enhance their skills to make great-tasting coffee to increase consumption of locally-made coffee, ensure quality and hence growth of the sector,” Kayonga told The New Times.

Presently, over 20 baristas from selected coffee shops, restaurants and hotels are undergoing training in roasting and blending, tasting, espresso brewing principals, protocols, standards and procedures, as well as other processing techniques.

Kayonga noted that often, well roasted coffee can produce poor quality drinks if the production method has flaws, especially if the coffee is ground too fine or left in a press pot for too long, among other errors.

“This training targets baristas and other people who are involved in the daily activities of coffee brewing in hotels, restaurants, coffeehouses and offices so that they are able to make a ‘perfect cup of coffee’ for clients,” he explained.

The three-day training that ends today is being held at NAEB offices in Kigali.

Kayonga added that they also want to promote excellence in the industry by increasing baristas’ knowledge and expertise, especially in the preparation and serving of specialty and espresso coffees through competitions and training.

“For instance, if coffeehouses maintained their espresso machine and grinder well or used quality fresh roasted coffee, there is no reason for them not to serve great coffee and attract more clients,” Kayonga noted.

He added that training and barista competition will help promote the barista profession, besides creating a strong pool of baristas. He said this is important as the coffee beverage business is growing for the local market.

Paul Maganda, the Bourbon Coffee chief operations officer, said the training and competitions help increase awareness and, ultimately, market the county’s coffee as a brand on the international market, as well as educate people on the importance of consuming coffee.

“The importance of barista training is often underestimated, but in any environment where espresso coffee is served, it is imperative that the espresso machine operator understands all the factors that contribute to preparing and serving consistent quality espresso and other coffees,” Maganda said.

He added that a trained barista understands the importance of consistency will enhance coffee brewing business and increase coffee sales. “When coffee sales increase, then it is most likely that sales of other coffeehouse’s products will grow, hence improving turnover and the value of the business.”

According to figures from the National Bank of Rwanda, coffee remains the biggest contributor to Rwanda’s total export revenue, with the crop contributing 8.7 per cent or $59.7 million (Rwf43.2 billion) in 2014. However, coffee consumption by Rwandans is still very low.

business@newtimes.co.rw

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