Art of the Bean Ambassador
“I am a very positive person in life. This has always helped but I think it also helped that I made friends along the way.”
Born and raised in Windhoek, Nandi Jordaan is something of a protector of the coffee bean. Because while yes, one could argue that being the second most traded commodity in the world, coffee doesn’t need protecting, however after sitting down to a cup of coffee made by Nandi and hearing her passionately explain how coffee should be served and enjoyed, you’ll find that Nandi is an ambassador to the bean. You’ll also find yourself more in love with coffee than you were before you sat down with Nandi, although you never thought that possible.
Nandi’s story of how she found coffee (although she’ll tell you coffee found her) is a classic example of following the calling of your heart, although it incorporates another important element, determination. While studying Environmental Science and Languages she got a part time job at a coffee shop in Cape Town. Wanting desperately to learn more about coffee after her interest was pricked, Nandi pleaded with her boss to send her on barista training (Baristas are like the chefs of the coffee world) He refused but one day their coffee machine broke and the person who came to fix it turned out to be the owner of Tribe Coffee Roasting. Nandi’s determination struck again when she befriended the owner of Tribe and asked to learn the ropes about coffee.
This was the birth of Nandi’s love affair with coffee that has led her to where she is today, about to depart Windhoek for Rwanda where she will be studying to get her Q-Grader. This is a qualification in coffee that will allow her to grade coffee beans or be a coffee buyer.
This would make her the first in Namibia to have such a qualification. According to Nandi “There is currently only one person in South Africa with this qualification and only twelve in the whole of Africa. So I’m excited.”
Nandi explains, “Coffee is grown from a berry on the farms then it is handpicked, then sorted, then washed. After washing it then gets dried and then goes to the cooperation where it is graded into different coffee qualities. After this stage the coffee is exported where after it arrives at the coffee roaster. It’s a long chain and you can only essentially taste the coffee at the end. If it’s a bad bean you can’t reverse the process. This is why a Q-Grader is an essential part of the chain that can say what the roast profile will be and what flavours you will get out of the coffee. Without the Q-Grader you won’t know the roast profile until the end of the process.” Nandi also explains that a Q-Grader can mix a flavour profile of different beans to get a specific taste. This is helpful for when a specific area doesn’t produce enough beans in a season, yet a coffee roaster needs that flavour to make up their house blend. The Q-Grader knows what ratio of beans from other areas of the world to mix to get a similar flavour profile. “They can substitute beans with other beans in different ratios or with different roast profile to get the same flavour and taste.”
Adding this qualification to her name will be another in a list of accomplishments Nandi has received from the coffee world already. She has for example, recently won the Latte Art category at the Regional Barista Championships in Cape Town in 2015.
More than her natural talents, her commitment to the industry of coffee is evident although as she notes, this came when she saw how passionate African coffee farmers are. Last year, Nandi and her cousin backpacked through Africa, visiting coffee farms along the way. “I loved how passionate the people are about coffee and what they do” notes Nandi who quickly points out that “Coffee and Cocoa are the two biggest industries in the world that still uses child labour. The farms I visited were 100% sustainable and fair trade farms. This makes the people who work on these farms so passionate and proud, because they are not using child labour.”
When asked what her favourite coffee is, Nandi beams “I think the best coffee comes from Rwanda. I really love Rwandan coffee. Burundi actually won the African cup of excellence award. So that’s the best coffee that was selected in Africa for 2015.”
When asked how she made her love of coffee into her life with coffee, Nandi says that “I am a very positive person in life. This has always helped but I think it also helped that I made friends along the way.” From hearing Nandi’s story it is clear that her openness is what lead to her ease in making friends and that these friendships have become her connections that move her forward.
But Nandi’s story is one not best told, but rather tasted. According to online coffee review blog, We Do Coffee, “You know the magical realism idea that people’s feelings are transmitted through the food they make? Like is the movies Babette’s Feast or Like Water for Chocolate – that’s the feeling we had when we drank Nandi’s coffee.” So until Nandi departs Namibia for Rwanda to become what is the ultimate in evaluating coffee, you can find her at the Joy of Food in Windhoek where she is hosting coffee pairings. That is until she sets off on her next coffee adventure.