Since 2016, I have followed and personally coached the Kenyan barista champions at the World Barista Championship (WBC), the preeminent international coffee competition held by World Coffee Events. The WBC is held on an annual basis and offers a platform where more than 50 champions, all from different nationalities, compete on stage to prepare signature coffee drinks of the highest industry standards in a 15-minute set. Each participating country appoints a barista to represent the state during the championship. However, while working closely together with Kenyan barista champions over the last couple of years, it came to my attention that the championship largely produces winners from Western countries. The performances of baristas from non-Western countries, and particularly those on the African continent, hereby often tend to get overshadowed.
The differences in barista performances between Western states and African states can mostly be explained by inequalities in training resources and experiences. The barista champions I have closely worked with had little to no experience with the type of espresso machinery and grinders used on the WBC stage, most notoriously the Black Eagle espresso machine. Their first introduction to the Black Eagle had been a one hour testing phase before the competition start. In contrast, most champions from Western states had either worked with these machines before or had a very good understanding and feel for operating these machines. In order to repair this disadvantages position for Kenyan barista champions I was inspired to contact the WBC staff in 2017 to see if we could increase accessibility to the Black Eagle in Kenya and other African states. As part of sponsoring the WBC and overall barista profession, we wanted to see if we could find a way for every competing country and their representing baristas to have access to at least one machine as used on the competing stage. However, without the funds there would be nothing we could do about this inequality in resources, leaving baristas in countries not able to afford the Black Eagle at a major disadvantage in the competition.
Last week however, the East African School of Coffee opened in Nairobi, a major accomplishment for the formalization of the barista profession in Kenya. I worked together with the school by supplying their newly purchased Black Eagle espresso machine and made arranged for them the purchase of the machine in Amsterdam and shipping to East Africa. On my trip to Nairobi last week, I had the honour of being personally present at the unpacking the Black Eagle. I am so proud the first Black Eagle has landed in Nairobi after 3 years of working closely together with Kenyan barista champions and I am looking forward to day when the first Kenyan barista wins the WBC.
Stean’s Beans offers high quality roasted coffee, espresso machines, machine maintenance and barista trainings in Kenya. We hope to uplift the coffee scene worldwide and make specialty coffee and knowledge accessible to all. At the same time we prioritize a comfortable, living wage for our producers.