Tag Archives: gourmet coffee

Angolan Coffee: Cafe Ginga Lobito

AngoNabeiro / Cafe Delta / Cafe Ginga
Estrada do Cacuaco Km 5
PO Box 5727, Luanda
Email: anabeiro@snet.co.ao
Tel: +244 222 840161 / 62

How is the coffee?  How well is it delivered?

My expectations for any coffee that is roasted in a hot and muggy coffee producing country and transported to the United States in luggage are generally pretty low.  Opportunities for the coffee to be damaged by heat, humidity, and poor packaging are far too great. Upon receiving this kilogram of roasted whole bean coffee I politely thanked the gift bearer and placed any hope of this coffee stimulating my palate far from the reach of reality.  A couple of days later, I used my 480-watt Baratza Virtuoso burr grinder to grind up a fine espresso sample of the beans for use in a Gaggia Classic modified machine with a Rancho Silvia wand.  About 23 seconds later, a full Illy cup of syrupy espresso was ready to be slurped.  My initial surprise was that the machine pulled the shot surprisingly well for a first try.

After sipping the shot I was surprised again with the freshness and fruitiness of the drink.  The aroma of the beans was not nearly as satisfying as the drink itself.  The quality of the beans themselves did leave a little to be desired.  The roast was not consistent enough to be considered specialty quality – with some beans barely brown and others burnt to a crisp. Also, some were very small and damaged while others were huge.  Furthermore, I found a piece of metal wire resting in between a few beans when I was pouring the bag into a storage container – reflecting less than ideal quality control standards by the processing company. The packaging for the beans is metalized with an additional layer of multicolored labeling and a valve application for allowing gases to escape after sealing – a high quality packing meant for beans that a company would expect to export and/or sell retail.

Again, the taste was exotic and I was encouraged enough to make an entire pot of drip coffee with the same beans.  The end result was a bit less to my specific liking – I like a brighter coffee with a lighter roast and more mild finish.  Although, on colder days I like a drip coffee with a bit more character in the body than my usual Central American and Colombian varieties.  I’ve begun mixing some beans from Cundinamarca, Colombia with my Angolan coffee that apparently originates on an estate (fazenda) called Lobito (not to be confused with the port city of the same name) and am pleased to drink this blend in both espresso and drip coffee form.

What’s in a name? Ginga’s backstory

The Ginga (Njinga) name is distinctly Angolan, as it refers to a queen dating back to the times of the Ngondo Kingdom in Africa.  The Ngondo Kingdom was originally a tributary kingdom of the Kingdom of Congo – existing before the Portuguese colonizers arrived in 1482.  The Ngondo Kingdom was governed by Ginga’s father, Ngola Kiluange(Kiluanji), when the Portuguese arrived. He fiercely resisted the Portuguese as well as all other foreigners until his eventual decapitation. The Portuguese attributed the name Angola to the lands now known as Angola, not knowing/caring that the Ngola was the name of the ruler, not the lands.

Queen Ginga is a legendary figure in African history and the object of pride in Angola, as she is viewed as one of Angola’s most shrewd diplomats, rulers, military minds and intelligent leaders.  So much is written on her that her entire history appears to be in dispute and includes elements of near-mythology – certainly originating from the 16th century equivalent of smear campaigns and propaganda.  She is rumored to, at times, have adopted cannibalism, a very pious Catholic lifestyle, and – according to Maquis de Sade’s “Philosophy in the Bedroom” – she sacrificed elements of her all male harem of lovers immediately after lovemaking. In other words, there is much mystery and intrigue surrounding her life but she is most certainly a key historical figure in the Angolan national identity.

Throughout her political career, Queen Ginga both resisted and compromised with her Portuguese occupiers.  There seems to have been a relative interdependency between Ginga and Portugal.  She converted to Christianity, adopted tribal customs, and went to war with the crown and neighboring tribes – whatever ensured her survival.  Perhaps this is why the brand name Ginga is appropriate for a coffee company that claims to be 100% Angolan, yet is very much entangled in a past connected to Portugal. Ginga is one of two coffee brands connected to a holding company called AngoNabeiro, the other being Delta Café (a widely known Portuguese brand).  AngoNabeiro is part of a Portuguese conglomerate known as Nabeirogest, or more informally, Grupo Nabeiro.  One of the strongest performing companies in this group is Café Delta.  Café Delta dominates the coffee market in Portugal, is expanding rapidly in Angola and Brazil, and has long been active in segments of the East Asian market for roasted coffee (see Macau).

But, the Portuguese connection dates back to before Angolan Independence when AngoNabeiro was setting up coffee production operations in 1973 right before Portugal experienced a coup d’état in 1974 and, as part of a larger Portuguese agreement, Angola was liberated from colonization through the Alvor Agreement (Acordo do Alvor) in 1975.  Between 1975 and 2002, Angola endured a violent civil war that ravaged the countryside and made sustaining its agricultural economy very unpredictable. As in nearly all civil conflicts, land/property rights were constantly challenged creating terrible instability for coffee farm owners.

During the earlier part of the difficult times in Angola, Rui Patricio oversaw daily operations and ownership of AngoNabeiro inside of Angola.  Production continued, although at very small quantities, until 1983 when the company closed due to lacking technical assistance and know-how.  The physical infrastructure where AngoNabeiro’s main facility was located was loosely protected, unproductively, until 1998 when Delta Café proposed a revitalization of its coffee production in Angola.  By 2000, the Café Ginga brand emerged and by 2002 the civil war in Angola finally ended. Café Ginga and AngoNabeiro has grown steadily since, with an estimated US$1.2 million of annual revenues in 2005 according to Director General Rui Melo. Part of their growth has been thanks to a business structure where the mixed-capital Angolan company, AngoNabeiro benefits from Grupo Nabeiro’s know-how and financial largesse (capital and cash-on-hand). Café Delta is one of many companies housed within Grupo Nabeiro and it has been tremendously successful over the past decade.  As Ginga changes outside perceptions of high quality coffee within the Angolan market their ambitions are set on carving out market share in nearby South Africa and other countries in their immediate vicinity.

Rui Melo interview on history of AngoNabeiro (Portuguese): http://www.winne.com/dninterview.php?intervid=1686

Mr. Rui Melo
Manager / Director General of AngoNabeiro

Woof News: Winter 2010 Update

2010 is upon us and what began as a graduation gift idea between professor and scholar has now evolved into a means of stimulating interest in the specialty coffee industry and in its entire supply chain –

– from farm level decision makers who must decide how to react to how global climate change is impacting their growing season and yields;

– to cooperatives who must decide how to integrate IT solutions into their business processes;

– farmers who must choose between numerous certification choices;

– exporters who must decide what price is a ‘fair’ one at which to sell their prized beans;

– importers who must navigate an increasingly competitive specialty coffee market;

– specialty roasters who must communicate their value proposition to a growing market segment;

– shops trying to differentiate their brand and product from the Starbucks baseline and from other shops claiming to provide the ‘gourmet’ experience;

– to end-consumers who seek clarity and consistency of quality despite all of the contingencies that must occur before the latte art is disturbed by the first sip.

Cafehound.com was launched early this fall as an online medium for Krislert Samphantharak and Matthew Maher to communicate and share their knowledge and experience with each other more than anything else. It began as an incremental journey to explore various portions of the supply chain in detail and encourage participation and collaboration with some of the major actors in the specialty coffee industry.  Before long, Café Hound was able to secure interviews with roasters, importers, shop owners, professional baristas, farmers and people involved on the academic/research end of the soft commodities market.  Given the very positive response that the website has received and as a consequence of very promising content in the future, Café Hound has decided to begin institutionalizing some processes.

1. Custom blend releases on occasion to generate publicity and raise funds for charity

2. Regular café reviews  spanning the globe with occasional guest postings from our friends and associates abroad

3. Spotlight pieces that investigate particular segments of the supply chain with specific attention to farmers, importers and roasters.

4. Academic themed reviews of literature empirically evaluating aspects of the soft commodities market, especially coffee and specialty coffee

5. Newsletter updates

6. Creating a non-profit organization to provide a legal basis for managing funds and further enhancing our ability to provide value to entrepreneurial agricultural producers and children in the developing world.

Regards,

– The Hounds

Cafe Hounding: Caffe Art Java – Montreal, Canada

645 Avenue Du President-Kennedy
Montreal, QC H3A, Canada
www.caffeartjava.com

When I went to Canada in November, I was excited to check out Caffe Art Java, a cafe that many people on the internet claimed to be the place to get best coffee in Montreal. Fortunately, Caffe Art Java has one cafe by Rue University on the edge of McGill University, which was very close to where I stayed.

The cafe uses coffee beans roasted by Gimme Coffee in Ithaca, New York. For espresso, they use Leftist blend (which you can buy online from Gimme website as well). The blend is medium dark, but leaning more to the dark side. The barista was skillful and did great job for both the shots and the latte foam. The cafe also serves hot food. I ordered croissant with ham and cheese, which was heated panini style and tasted quite good.

The decoration of the cafe is modern, sleek, and hip. It has red couches, brown chairs, and dark tables. It has light background music (French music when I was there). .It has strong wifi with both 2.4 and 5 GHz options. When I arrived there around noon on Sunday, the cafe was not crowded, but there were more and more people coming throughout the early afternoon. There was plenty of seating however. Most of the customers when I was there were students with laptops working on their school work, but there were quite a lot of young professionals visiting the cafe as well. The staff and the barista were friendly, and seemed to know lots of their frequent customers well.

I may have to explore Montreal more (preferably not in winter!) before judging whether Caffe Art Java is in fact the best in town. But overall, it is indeed a great cafe to get coffee and light meal in downtown Montreal.

Cafe Hounding: The Espresso Bar at the British Library – London, UK

96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB
London, UK
www.oliverpeyton.co.uk

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I came across the Espresso Bar @ the British Library by accident while I walked from the library to King’s Cross Station. It is located on Euston Road on the library complex and it was open just a week earlier. What intrigued me at first was what they put on the window: “We only serve our own unique coffee blends, roasted and freshly ground on premises.” So I gave it a try. Result: Great coffee. The staff was also friendly and offered me freshly made churros. It was definitely a good discovery for a coffee lover.

Cafe Hounding: Monmouth Coffee Company – Covent Garden, London, UK

27 Monmouth Street
London WC2H 9EU, UK
www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk

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I visited Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden during my business trip to London, UK, in September. The cafe has good reviews on the internet and is one of the places featured on CosyCoffeeShops.co.uk, a website run by Tom, a new friend of Cafe Hounds. It is located in Covent Garden area within a walking distance from the Tube stations.

When I arrived at the cafe, the first thing I noticed was a long line of customers waiting to purchase their coffee beans, which testified its reputation for good coffee. Although their roasting facility is in a separate location on Maltby Street and they also sell roasted beans over there, the huge amount of of beans behind the counter for their retail sales at the Covent Garden cafe was very impressive.

I ordered a white flat, which is a latte with less milk and therefore a bit stronger than the usual latte. The drink was made from their house espresso blend. The cafe itself is very small. It has very limited seating area. I was not lucky enough to get a seat. In fact, it was quite tough to even find a space to stand in the cafe with a big crowd of people waiting to purchase the beans. The cafe also offers some pastries.

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With its small size, Monmouth Coffee is not a cosy place that you can relax and enjoy your drink, but it is definitely a good place to get good espresso drinks if you do not want to go to the usual Starbucks or Costa.

For more information on Monmouth Coffee, please also visit Tom’s review here.