From bean to brew, Angama visited Nairobi for a behind-the-scenes journey with their coffee supplier, Spring Valley to learn about this proudly Kenyan roastery.
I first met Ritesh Doshi at Angama Mara in October of last year when we were both at the lodge on holiday. My partner, Matt, and I would run into Ritesh and his wife after game drives or before meals as you so often do on safari. We spoke about his return to Kenya after studying and working abroad and his sale of a successful pizza delivery business which allowed him to start a new business that he was most passionate about – coffee.
Fast forward a few months and I found myself on my way to Nairobi to meet Ritesh at his company, Spring Valley Coffee, as it had recently become the coffee bean supplier to the lodge and I had joined Angama’s marketing team. Part of the agenda was to “road test” some experiences in Nairobi that we were launching for Angama Safaris travellers who want to venture a bit further in exploring the bustling city. So, when I saw Spring Valley on the contact sheet, I had to smile as life always has a way of connecting the dots.
When I pulled up to Spring Valley’s roastery and café (its first location and today its flagship) I was sure I had the wrong address. Located at the end of a strip mall kitty-corner to a gas station, it’s a testament to what Ritesh has created here. Founded in 2009 to celebrate Kenyan coffee, Spring Valley Coffee uses only 100% Kenyan beans grown using artisanal techniques. Originally just a neighborhood coffee shop small-batch roasting beans by hand every day, it has grown into a small collection of cafés around Nairobi, a roastery for other brands, and supplier to leading hotels, restaurants and even grocery stores for fans to enjoy at home.
After offering me a cup of coffee right away (naturally), Ritesh asked if we could jump in the car and take a 10-minute drive. “The story really starts here,” he said as we pulled up to an unassuming mass of coffee trees along the side of the road. Jumping out to walk the rows looking for the fruit that will eventually produce beans, Ritesh explained Spring Valley was once a collection of coffee farms on the outskirts of Nairobi and one of the reasons he chose to open his first café there. After a brief history of coffee production in Kenya and the massive coffee auctions that take place in town, we headed back to the roastery for a full demo of the life cycle of a bean.
We witnessed both the ancient ritual and modern industrial aspects of coffee production; the washing, sorting, and grading, and the roasting, cooling and packaging. Watching Mohammed the head roaster (along with his team of Godwin and Fred) work his magic with the beans felt hypnotic, the result of decades-old technique mixed with years of daily trial-and-error. Of course, no visit would be complete without a proper tasting. We sampled the same beans brewed through different methods, looking for the differences. I know my way around plunger coffee and have dabbled with a Bialetti and a Chemex, but had never tried the V60 Dripper before (the newest advancement in pour-over – it’s smooth). For those curious, Ritesh’s preferred brewing method is French Press, “I’m old school!” he says.
Spring Valley recently hosted a coffee training for the butler team at Angama Mara. Led by one of the trainers, Dalmas Mugailwa, it begins with knowing the right bean for the right style of coffee. Then, more technical questions: how long to steep plunger coffee? How much hot water to use for an Americano? When I asked some of the team how it went, they were excited to demonstrate their sharpened skills. James Sadera was confident he had perfected his French Press while Boniface Wesonga noted his espresso : milk : foam ratios in a cortado vs. a cappuccino vs. a flat white were on point.
Next time you wake up at the lodge you’re in for a treat.
BY RYAN BROWN