Every year, over 30,000 coffee professionals complete an SCA education program with more enrolling each year. As a new regular feature, we’d like to spotlight some of our amazing alumni and share their successes. Our second featured alumnus is Regine Guion-Firmin, an AST based in Nairobi and working mainly in East Africa with coffee producers. She founded Karibu Kahawa, which means Welcome Coffee, an organization allowing a direct connection between Coffee Producers and small to medium-sized roasters. The organization also hosts Karibu Kahawa Camps under which she runs SCA Education courses at radically lower prices for local baristas and coffee professionals.
We’re proud to say that Regine is an alumnus and look forward to seeing all she will accomplish in her career.
Tell us a little bit about yourself! How did you get started in coffee? What do you love about what you do?
Several years ago, while I was still living in London and looking for a job, I saw a small advert: “Would you like to serve coffee in a museum?”
I answered it, got hired the next day, touched an espresso machine for the first time two days later, and became assistant head of training six months later.
What I love about coffee is the people who make it delicious, from the producer to the barista.
Tell us a little bit about your business/company (date founded, location, values, size, etc.)
I am an AST, based in Nairobi and working mainly in East Africa with coffee producers. I founded Karibu Kahawa, which means Welcome Coffee, an organization which allow a direct connection between coffee producers and small to medium-sized roasters and hosts Karibu Kahawa Camps where I run SCA Education courses at radically lower prices in Africa, for local baristas and coffee professionals, funding SCA Education for coffee producers.
Working with coffee producers, I realized that while the demand for coffee education was high (like Q or SCA), most of them cannot afford it and access to funds to pay for this education is hard to get. So, I decided to do it myself. Thankfully SCA/CQI friends have been supporting me in this project, financially and with education.
With this support, I was able to help a young coffee producer from Nyeri to sell his coffee to a coffee shop chain in Kenya. And now I am financing his coffee education as he is planning on becoming an AST, with SCA Sensory Skills, SCA Green Coffee, and SCA Coffee Sustainability modules, by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
I am also working with a community of estate farmers in Embu, setting up a coffee shop in a local university and training their Head of Education, also an estate farmer, in order for him to train the other estate farmers from the community.
Each of my SCA/CQI friends who comes to visit in Nairobi always offers free coffee class, and go to work with coffee producers.
Why did you choose the SCA Education program?
Since I was five years old, I always wanted to become a teacher and as I grew up I found myself attracted by alternative, useful education, which can be offered where you do not expect it and also empowers those who need it the most. Therefore teaching SCA Sensory Skills and SCA Green Coffee to coffee producers and SCA Barista Skills and SCA Brewing to young African baristas is very important in order to contribute to the development of the East African countries.
Which courses did you complete or are in the process of completing? What certificates do you hold?
I teach the SCA Sensory Skills, SCA Green Coffee, SCA Roasting, SCA Brewing and SCA Barista Skills.
How did your SCA Education positively impact your career, business, earning potential or ability to support your local community/coffee industry?
Because I can teach in French and English, I run courses in both languages which is very useful in places like Burundi or Rwanda. I can teach coffee professionals technical words in both languages, in order for them to be able to trade their coffee easily in French and English.
However, I always encourage them to further their education to become an AST and/or Q grader, as it is extremely needed over there.
What are you most proud of as a coffee professional?
Seeing my students improving their lives. A year ago, I met a young farmer who was looking for marketers to sell his coffee. His mother wanted to uproot the coffee trees because the cooperative was not paying her regularly. Six months later, I managed to get his coffee in one of the largest coffee shop chain in Kenya. No need to say how pleased and proud his mother is today.
What successes or accomplishments have you had professionally since enrolling in SCA Education?
From a simple barista in a main street coffee in London, today I am working with coffee producers at origin.
What advice would you give to others who are considering SCA Education or wanting to launch a career in the coffee industry?
Education will bring you to places you never thought you could go! Don’t be scared to better yourself. Never forget to share your knowledge with others and encourage them – not to become you, but to become a better them.
Support your students in becoming ASTs and helping them become better than you. Then you will have to work on becoming better than them and so on. Therefore, new students will benefit from this constantly improving education developing in a healthy competition.
If you want to launch a career in the coffee industry, you need to learn how to do all the work from the foundation.
Would you like to be featured in an upcoming Alumni spotlight? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!