Stean Fasol inspects freshly picked coffee cherries with small farmers in Rwanda. (Supplied)
- Swahili-speaking South African Stean Fasol introduced beans from Rwanda and Kenya to one of the world’s oldest coffee cultures.
- Fasol is working with small farmers to reduce the amount of water they use and improve their equipment.
- Anaerobic fermentation tests have produced coffee with an alcoholic flavor that has been a success in the Netherlands.
- For more stories, visit www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
A South African entrepreneur is adding flavor to one of the world’s oldest and most difficult coffee markets, Amsterdam, with beans from African countries.
At the same time, Stean Fasol is helping smallholder coffee farmers in Rwanda and Kenya by developing a way for Dutch consumers to “tip” them digitally and by modernizing their equipment.
Stean’s Beans, the business Fasol started while studying entrepreneurship in Amsterdam, is working with East African farmers to drastically reduce the 150 liters of water they use to grow and process enough coffee to make a cup of espresso.
And Fasol, who grew up in Kenya and speaks Swahili, is also testing washing stations in East Africa to anaerobically ferment coffee, creating a drink that tastes like alcohol.
“I took several bags to Amsterdam for high-end stores and the regulars loved it,” she says. “This year there has been a lot of interest in coffees that have a different flavor.”
Fasol, 26, was an entrepreneur even while still at school in Cape Town, spending his free time trading cellphones and laptops online. But when he enrolled in 2014, he knew his dyslexia and his ADHD would make traditional academy difficult. “I’m not cut out for conventional studies,” he says.
The business course he found in the Netherlands was more practical, requiring students to set up and run businesses during their four years of study. Fasol decided on a coffee company after interning at an East African coffee company and then finding part-time work as a barista and in a roastery.
He wanted to understand all the processes in the coffee supply chain, so he trained as an espresso machine technician and was certified as an expert by the Coffee Quality Institute.
Now all systems are up and running at his roastery in Amsterdam, where he just received 19 tonnes of coffee from East Africa, with more shipments on the way.
Fasol packs his roasted beans in recycled containers and uses three cargo bikes to deliver them to coffee shops in Amsterdam.
The city is one of the oldest in the world where coffee is drunk thanks to the ships of the Dutch East India Company that arrived in the 17th century with beans from Ethiopia and Indonesia.
Most of the coffee in the 21st century comes from giant plantations in Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia, but Fasol’s is grown by small farmers in East Africa who typically farm less than 2.5 hectares.
Many of them don’t even have identification documents and deal solely in cash, preventing them from building a credit history, getting a loan to upgrade their 1960s-era equipment, or buying insurance.
With Fasol’s help, 400 Rwandan farmers have opened bank accounts. This means you can pay them digitally, but you have a bigger idea to overcome the disconnect between European consumers and small African producers.
“The Dutch use an online payment app called Tikkie for almost everything,” he says. “I’m working on something called ‘Tikkie the Farmer’ for coffee shops. If customers like the coffee, they will be able to add a small tip that goes back to the small farmers.”
Fasol’s dream of a “coffee without water” arose from his regular visits to washing stations in Rwanda, where the skin and pulp are removed from freshly picked coffee cherries before the sticky, sweet coating of mucilage from the grain is removed by fermentation in a tank. of water.
Large amounts of carbon- and acid-laden water often end up in rivers and groundwater as a result of this process, which is why Fasol persuaded the Dutch government to provide grants and interest-free loans to equip farmers for the tasks they consume. more time. labor intensive alternative to dry processing.
The coffee cherries go to the drying tables immediately after harvest and remain there for six weeks, with regular moving and raking to prevent rot, then all the layers surrounding the bean are removed together.
Fasol is also experimenting with anaerobic fermentation and persuaded the owner of a washing station in Rwanda to seal one of his fermentation tanks for 48 hours so that no oxygen could enter.
The “very fruity and alcoholic taste” of the roasted beans has been a niche hit in Amsterdam. “This is where I see the coffee industry going,” says Fasol. “If we produce something unique and add value, we will be able to charge more and farmers will earn more.”
In the meantime, however, he has started buying more than 40% of the crop from Rwandan farmers which is grade A coffee. “The next 20% is grade B and it has found its own niche in Amsterdam because it is less expensive “, He says.
Uganda is the next country Fasol plans to add to his stable, but he’s already working on another mission: getting East Africans to drink the coffee they grow so it becomes more than just another crop.
“Everyone in Rwanda drinks tea,” he says. “Many of the small farmers have not even tasted their own coffee beans.”