Coffee Culture Lesson #2: Kyle Fraser

Firstly: Happy Women’s Day ladies! Ok, that’s out the way..

So the backend behind this story is that I dropped the ball, and now it sounds like I’m just trying to give the blog more credit than I should.. I am but I am also not.

Kyle Fraser, one of the epically strong cogs in the wheel of Durban’s rising coffee culture, sent me this piece he wrote for us a few days before it was scheduled to be released in our local Sunday paper. He looked into my eyes, took me by the hand, and whispered: “It was you, it was always you. Take this and post it before the rest of the world sees it.” It was dramatic.

Needless to say, that was a few weeks ago and I missed my chance to beat the papers to it. Hoping you’ve all now forgotten what you read, here is our second guest-lecturer presenting at the Zero31 University of Coffee Culture. I say “University”… “Technical College” is probably more apt.

When you finished join me at The Corner Café for a cuppa. It’s where I’m currently writing this, they’re open till 3 today… you know, for the ladies!

Lady love,



Kyle Fraser working hard at the Colombo coffee roastery.

There he is, Kyle Fraser.. with hair as golden as the crema on the espressos he drinks.

Coffee is a fruit. I’ve tasted it in Africa.

“Do you have any idea where Wanjohi coffee farm is? How about Githitu Mahinda, do you know him?” I ran around Nairobi airport for three hours, trying to pry information from anyone who would listen. Kenyan Taxi drivers bombarded me with an onslaught of suggestions. I had made to Nairobi in one piece, but I was completely lost before I had even left the airport! I met Mahinda a few years ago while building the bar (yes that’s correct, I helped lay the bricks) for our barista training centre at Colombo. I had planned my trip to Africa with a fair amount of care; I would land in Nairobi, visit as many Kenyan coffee farms as I could, leave again for Burundi, visit as many Burundi coffee farms as I could and then go back to Durban with great respect for both countries. The only thing I neglected before travelling 3000 kilometers was to remind Mahinda to pick me up at the airport. I didn’t have his Kenyan cell number and I didn’t have a clue where he lived either. In fact, scratch my previous statement, I didn’t plan at all! I was feeling a bit out of my depth at this stage, so I asked around and found the friendliest cab driver amongst the crowd. I politely asked him to take me straight into the heart of the capital for the best espresso in Kenya…he failed at this task. Instead, he booked me into a hotel downtown. I remember feeling confused, partly due to the massive altitude change, but mostly due to the lack of caffeine.

‘I’m obsessed with coffee’. Spend more than 15 minutes with me and you’ll know the full extent of that sentence. I have been roasting and blending coffee at Colombo Tea & Coffee Co. for almost 4 years now, and in that time I have managed to put together a team of “coffee people” who feel equally as intense about the awesomeness of coffee. We have learnt so much together. Advice from industry professionals, experimentation, playing with fire, trial and error, frustration and plenty of hard work…all of this has made me fall more in love with my addiction to beautiful coffee. Hand roasted, with care and attention, something that we do every day at Colombo. I’m lucky enough to know what coffee REALLY is! It’s a very personal thing, but I don’t just regard it as the golden brown liquid that gets me out of bed in the morning. I’m going to fill you in on a secret that most “coffee-fiends” don’t even know…Coffee is a fruit – first & foremost. If you have tasted the coffee pulp (flesh of the fruit that surrounds the beans/seeds) you will know how coffee fruit can be sweet, floral and acidic, all the qualities of a great cup of coffee. I have tasted Kenyan coffee fruit, in an area called Nyeri. I can tell you that some incredible coffee is grown and washed (the process of removing the coffee beans from the fruit) there!

Maxine "manning" the Colombo counter at the Shongweni Farmer's Market.

Maxine "manning" the Colombo counter at the Shongweni Farmer's Market.

A couple of Colombo locals enjoying some Agressive Chocolate.

A couple of Colombo locals enjoying some Aggressive Chocolate.

 The Corner Cafe's "Judd Coffee" is blended by Colombo exclusively for them.

Ah, The Corner Café.. Did you know: Their "Judd" coffee is roasted and blended, exclusively for them, by Colombo.

The downtown hotel that Peter the cab driver had booked me into was not exactly what I expected. This particular area of downtown Nairobi is more aptly described as very-far-away-from-uptown Nairobi. I survived the afternoon and, thankfully, Mahinda read one of my three hundred emails before I had to find a meal! He found me, oblivious to my apparently dangerous surroundings. Judd Campbell (the hilarious owner and waiter at the Corner Café) met us a few days later and we left soon after for Wanjohi farm, in Nyeri via the Great North Road. We were there to help Mahinda get a license to wash and sell his own coffee, something that proved far more difficult than I had imagined. The days we spent up at that farm were some of the most inspiring times of my life. With a glorious view of Mt Kenya, we picked berries, hand-pulped coffee with the locals and even helped build a manual washing station next to the small farm-house at Wanjohi. I really felt like I had learnt more about coffee in a week, without even drinking a cup, than I had learnt during the years I’ve spent running a coffee roastery. Mahinda escorted us from coffee factory to coffee factory (the washing stations where coffee fruit is pulped) while learning from friendly farmers and factory workers. He opened his family home to us and although there was no electricity, I felt far more at home than I did in very-far-away-from-uptown Nairobi. After one last party with the locals and a full helping of nyama-choma (Kenya’s ‘Shisa Nyama’) at one of Dogoretti Corner’s many “butchery-bars”, the three of us parted ways. Judd needed to get back to the café and Mahinda needed to get back to work as a part-time lecturer at Nairobi University. As I boarded my plane, I felt an intense realization that my journey in coffee had only just begun both figuratively and literally…I left Kenya for Burundi “the Heart of Africa” for another coffee adventure.

Kyle Fraser
Marketing Director
Colombo Tea & Coffee Co. 


Pop into Colombo for the most well-priced gourmet coffee you will have in this city and maybe a little single-origin chocolate while you’re at. They’re on Gale Street… Yummy.