My coffee world

To Wesley Yeahman, a cup of coffee isn’t just that. It must be brewed to perfection. The CEO of Kenya Barista Organisation brews us his love for coffee

Walk us through your childhood.

I grew up as any other ordinary child in the village. Swimming in the water streams, playing and discussing football matches. I went to Hombala Primary School, Vihiga and later joined Kakamega Boys High School. After my O levels, I joined Nairobi Bar School where I trained as a mixologist.

Did you always want to be a barista?

Not really. In fact, I studied Cyber security and digital forensics at Vitech Training Institute between 2014 and 2016. But I got interested in cofee the very first day I was recruited by Sasini in 2009 (back then when it was running a chain of restaurants by the name Savanna). I got a chance to disperse a cappuccino. I had no idea how to do it at first, but followed the guidelines of baristas I met at Savanna. The positive response made me become passionate about coffee brewing to date. Now I’m a barista at Safari Lounge.

What is the most profound moment you’ve had as a barista

I found out that we could solve most of our coffee problems by encouraging more Kenyans to drink coffee. This would not only create employment, but also support our farmers, some of whom have resorted to uprooting coffee trees. I thought of solving problems affecting coffee consumption in the country while being able to work with everyone on coffee production by creating Kenya Barista Organisation. My other great moment was when I volunteered in judging the Kenya National Barista Championship in 2017 Dormans Training School Nairobi.

What was it like starting Kenya Barista Organisation (KBO)? Walk us through that journey.

At one point, my former employer came to my working station and scolded me alleging that I wasn’t doing my job right. She said, “Why don’t you do or start something better if you are a barista?” I was pissed off, listened to my conscience, and digested what she had said before I finished my shift for the day. I created a WhatsApp group and added some baristas I knew at that moment and surprisingly, they left the group in less than three hours of being added. Out of 20, we remained five and they were my seniors in the coffee industry.

So, I was somehow limited on what to share or discuss since they knew better. However, after a couple of online discussions we decided to have our first physical meeting session and it was a success, but one of the team members almost lost his job for attending the meeting. I went ahead and created social media platforms for KBO to showcase to Kenyans and the world that we are the best at coffee brewing and not only have we got good quality coffee, but also, we can brew it properly. I managed the pages alone getting video and images about Kenyan coffee and posting them online. For close to two years, there was little response, but then things started turning around and currently we are over 600 baristas working all together to achieve what’s in our hearts and minds to bring back coffee culture in our country.

How would you describe Kenyans coffee drinking habits?

It’s quite different compared to other coffee-producing countries. Kenyan’s are more of tea lovers, but they have been embracing coffee gradually. As KBO, we intend to see the rise in coffee consumption in the country. Current local coffee consumption is about three per cent of Kenya’s total production and we have a plan on driving it to more than 80 per cent in the next five years.

Have you seen any major changes in coffee in general over this past year?

Yes, there has been some change in the local consumption scene. Some of the things I would like to see change include the need for more and different training institution for baristas, rise of roasting facilities, increase in the number of young people working as baristas and more restaurants and hotels investing in coffee production.

At home, tea or coffee?

At home, my wife brews coffee for breakfast. But for our princess, Michelle Dessler, aged two years and four months, she is still young to be introduced to coffee. As a family, we love coffee. Our firstborn brother who works with Sameer Group used to bring us coffee, and we loved it. 

What’s the ideal hobby you do with your family?

I love reading, but with my family, I love playing with our little princess.

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