The coffee revolution in Lagos

In this feature, EJIRO AWHANA looks at the coffee revolution in Lagos, as a free enterprise opportunity and solution to social and climatic realities

Rains. Cold weather. Suicides. All have created a need; the need to keep the body warm and reduce depression. Pepper soup joints are ideal to keep the cold at bay, but not many can afford a plate, especially with the ailing economy. Again, some people are allergic to meat and fish – the solid contents of the broth.

Again, with the rampant suicide cases, even among youths, coffee becomes more useful for its ability to reduce depression. Even comedians purportedly die of heart attack and depression.

This has raised the need for café in a metropolitan city like Lagos.

The term ‘café’ was derived from French (meaning ‘coffee’). It is usually a relatively small place that sells non-alcoholic beverages along with a few items of food such as sandwiches and pastries.

In this clime, cafes are not common, but in elite territories like Lekki in Lagos. A handful of them could also be found in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

For Lagos life
Lagos is unarguably Nigeria’s economic nerve. Nigeria’s version of New York, ‘the city that never sleeps.’ It is one city in Nigeria that moves on the fast lane; everything must happen now and fast. To be regarded as a Lagosian, your energy level has to be at a certain standard to keep up with the fast paced life.

With its developing status, residents of Lagos have started to embrace coffee, even with the dearth of cafés, to ‘recharge’ and keep up with the fast pace life that Lagos has thrust upon them.

Now some coffee companies employ cart pushes to take the brew to every nook and cranny of the city. These vendors can serve you along the streets.

The growing number of cafés in Lagos attests to the fact the city is finally worming up to the coffee idea. Many a Lagosian drinks coffee for the experience.

Café shops began to dot the Lagos landscape about 15 years ago, with the likes of Chocolate Royale setting the pace. Presently, there are several coffee shops spread across the state, from the island to the mainland.

Status symbol
Many have ascribed presence at cafés as a status symbol, not the love for the brew.

Akinjide Peters, manager of Krispy Kreme, one of the many coffee shops in Lagos, said, “There is the emergence of a middle working class in Nigeria; they drink coffee mainly for the experience.”

According to him, the middle working class has begun to drink coffee to set them apart as new breeds taking on a completely whole new lifestyle.

Fuelled by enterprise
The coffee revolution is due primarily to the audacity of entrepreneurs who saw opportunities hidden under layers of supposed culture and tradition. They saw potential in a whole new alien idea. Unlike other climes where there is a tradition of coffee or tea drinking, Nigerians do not show preference for either.

Seeing the advantage of selling an entire new product over the years, the shop-owners took on the challenge and now coffee has begun to appeal to a certain strata of the Lagos population.

Tayo Oyeyemi, a regular to one of the cafés, said before taking espresso for the first time, he thought it was that horrible brew he drank while in the university to keep up at night so he could read.

A shop-owner on the mainland, Kunle Ajebi, told Financial Street that he saw the need for Lagosians to begin to enjoy the coffee experience. He pointed out that his café, aside serving great coffee and pastries, is an interesting place for networking and relaxation.

Great cafés in Lagos
Eatdrinklagos carried out a survey on a number of shops that sell great coffee. All met the obvious requirement of serving great coffee and pastries, but they got thumbs down for other reasons. The survey also showed that while some were great meeting places, others fell short of that recommendation.

In scaling them, the survey pointed out that a good number of the cafés have excellent customer service, while some of them cannot be recommended as a meeting place. Some offer free Wi-Fi. But some were adjudged fast and reliable, others were found wanting.

The survey also looked at the pricing. Some were pocket-friendly, while others would leave the average person jaw-dropped.

An Ethiopian shepherd reportedly discovered coffee in the ninth century. He found out that his goats were more energised and unruly when they ate a certain unknown berry (later discovered to be coffee beans). Since then, coffee has been brewed and drunk by millions all over the world.

Half a billion cups
Trying to estimate the amount of coffee drunk each year all over the world will be a wild guess. Many have agreed that placing the figure at about 500 billion cups will not be too off the point. From the Middle East to Europe, across the Atlantic and now Africa, coffee remains a strong competitor to tea.

Health benefits
Several hundreds of researches have been conducted over the years into the health implications of consuming coffee. Coffee has a great number of health benefits. Recent research published in the New England Journal shows that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day reduces by over 40 per cent the risk of having heart failures and certain types of cancer.

According to Caffeineinformer, there are more than 20 good reasons to drink coffee. They include protection against cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson’s disease, lowering risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, reducing suicide risk and depression, and for a stronger deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

Coffee also has its down side, which is mainly addiction. Like any other addiction, trying to quit may trigger withdrawal symptoms like nausea, headaches and irritability.

In adjudging the viability of coffee becoming a mainstay in Nigeria’s social circle and gatherings, Peters said that in the not-too-distant future, many of the big coffee brands in the world like Star Bucks and Costa Coffee would come to Nigeria for their own market share.

There is a plethora of opportunities in the business.

Homegrown coffee
Recently, it was discovered that in certain parts of North East Nigeria, chiefly Taraba State, a certain variety of coffee beans could be grown.

Abraham Joda, a budding entrepreneur in the coffee growing district of Taraba, says that coffee growing is still in the trial stages and that although he dedicated a portion of his farm to growing it, it is not yet commercially viable.

He added that he had not got a good strain that would completely adapt to the Nigerian climate, pointing out that small farmers like him could not take the task of researching and developing one.

Joda called on bigger farmers and research institutes to develop a variety of the coffee bean that would grow well in the country and compete with the Kenyan variety, which is known for its full-bodied flavour and strong fragrance, with a slightly winey and acidic aftertaste.

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