Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gorillas In The Mist

My favorite Beausejour painting of Gorillas.

Kigali 8kB/s

After over a week of non-stop postings to the blog, someone just e-mailed me: "What happened?"

Sorry to say that nothing nefarious has happened to me (at least for my detractors) but I have arrived in Kigali, Rwanda where I have been training baristas for the past couple of days.

The problem here is the internet connection. Currently, we're running 8kB/s download speeds and who knows what on the upload. Which means that, for now, the regular updates to the blog are on hiatus until I can reach a place with faster speeds. This means Europe.

I'll be there on Friday.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bourbon Coffee

Bourbon Coffee in Nyarutarama - impressive and massive.

We've come over to the posh neighborhood of Nyarutarama to visit the site of our training this week: Bourbon Coffee. A local coffee chain that's very stylish, taking operational cues from Starbucks while keeping a solid African identity. This is their largest location of three in Kigali and foreign outposts in Washington DC, New York and London.

This location is huge. It's so large for a coffee shop that it's shocking. I start to wonder if the Rwandan economics of coffee shops is that different than ours. You could fit twelve Spros in this one Bourbon!

Eric, Aida and Benjamin.

We're here to meet Head Barista Benjamin who's coordinating the training here for us. He's arranging for a machine and will make sure we're taken care of while in Bourbon. We chat, we laugh and we sample their drinks. After a week of non-stop coffee, I'm in the mood for something I don't normally order and cannot get at my own shops: fruit smoothies. Mine is an orange and strawberry concoction that's crisp and refreshing - that is, until I hit the top layer of whipped cream which coats my mouth in that dairy thing.

White Chocolate Mocha.

Tango Mango

Orange Strawberry

Aida and her iced chocolate mocha

Kigali, Rwanda

Bienvenue a Kigali!

The flight from Entebbe was nice and comfortable, even though we were in the small CRJ-200. Upon arrival Eric Rukwaya was waiting for me with his driver Emmanuelle. I was a bit tired and worn from a week of training and judging and luckily, the hotel was only a couple of kilometers away. They dropped me off and said we would go check out the training facility later but for now to rest.

I was hungry so I dropped down to the restaurant for a late lunch.

Squatters plague coffee shops even in Africa.

Beausejour Hotel, Room 439

On the back patio at Beausejour.

Some peanuts and a Coke.

The Bistro Steak with rice and veggies.

Rwanda Air 206 EBB-KIG

My reservation was missing so they called me up to the office to straighten things out.

The CRJ-200. Eat your heart out, Ralph!

Soaring high over Lake Victoria.

Fanta with the old-school pop top caps and peanuts. More than United.

Running from a front.

Clouds, clouds everywhere!

Chief Judge: Departing

On the road in Kampala City.

Needless to say, I have been a well-kept man at the Kampala Serena Hotel. Thanks to food and beverage director Mike Wabulo and the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, I have been living a charmed life this week of plush beds, room service, on-demand ice buckets and just about anything else I desired. It's been a nice week.

Last night, while drinking with Mike at The Mist bar, I lamented that it was my last night and tomorrow I would be off for Kigali. In his normal tone of enthusiasm, he insisted that I must allow him to arrange for travel to Entebbe airport and that on the way, I must stop by and tour the Victoria Serena Resort - their sister property between Kampala and Entebbe. Be ready bright and early.

Bikes and Boda Bodas.

The wonderful thing about hospitable service is that it's to the leisure of the guest and in the morning, I was feeling a bit more leisurely than usual. Not having to get up to train or judge a barista competition means that I don't want to get up at 6:30am.

By the time I arrived in the lobby, it was a half hour past the scheduled time but the concierge was waiting patiently nonetheless. Mike came down to greet me and send me on my way, my luggage was whisked away by the staff and then I was massaged into the supple leather of the German made BMW X3.

A supply shop.

Ask my brother, I'm not much of a BMW person, but sitting in the back of this plush leather X3 with sunroofs and a sharply dressed driver, who called himself a "chauffeur" and I felt like a newly minted Julia Roberts leaving the Hotel Beverly Wilshire.

Pundits may cry out that I'm encouraging the class disparity while riding around in this leather wrapped, air conditioned chariot and that I should be ashamed of myself. Maybe. Certainly I feel for the disparity here in Africa but do I feel bad for having this short moment of luxury in life? Does that chap riding in the back of Maybach feel bad when he sees me trudging down Park Avenue in the cold and rain? I think not.

I think to myself that I need to buy that man a bottle of scotch.

The pool at the Victoria Serena Resort.

Soon we're at the Victoria Serena Resort and it's quite lovely. True opulence in Italian renaissance fashion. An attendant greets me and welcomes me warmly. He's expecting me and takes me on a grand tour of the facility: the rooms, the pool, the conference center, the restaurants and the spa. After seeing the spa here, I regret missing the spa at the hotel this week. I really missed out.

Our stop here is quick because my tardiness this morning means that I am running a bit behind and it's still another 35 minute drive to the airport. We're off in a rush but we make it with no problems.

Need bananas for Motoke?

Driving Mister Daisy.

Uh-Oh, running out of room.

Welcome to Entebbe International Airport.

My ride: BMW X3

Saturday, November 27, 2010

4th UNBC 2010 - Barista Party

The Venue. At Night.

Edmund Kanunura speaks.

Edmund introduces the UNBCC Board: Michael, Clare, Brenda and Peter.

The buffet opens.

Hungry attendees make their way.

My plate of chicken, goat, chapati, rice, cucumber salad, matoke, nut sauce, potatoes & fried tilapia.

Our Chief Guest discusses coffee and cuisine from the Makarere University.

Clare, Rachel, Louis, Edmund and the Chief Guest announce winners and hand out prizes.

Juliana Mandha wins as the Best Student Barista and a one million shilling prize.

Salim wins for Best Espresso and a "coffee plunger".

The Six Finalists await the announcement.

The 2010 Uganda Barista Champion: Mark Okuta.

With The Champion, Judge Sokia and the boys from Volcano Coffee.

Very Lucky in Kampala: with baristas Monica and Barbara.

I want a photo with everyone.

As well as with Juliana and the winning baristas.

And with Milly and the rest too.



Clare's cute sister: The Chicken Lady.

The Chicken Lady and the 80 Million Escalade.

Alice, The Chicken Lady and her sister, Clare with the Escalade.