Njoga Coffee—A Kenya Coop Comes to San Diego
We all have a different definition of what "local" is. For Edward Kariithi, local is Kenya, where he grew up and where his family still farms coffee. The farm is part of a co-op of seven farmers called Njoga, owned by Kariithi's father. And Kariithi is selling the coffee beans through his business Njoga Inc. from his offices in Sorrento Valley.
Kariithi came to San Diego 17 years ago to attend United States International University, known as USIU, and earned a Masters degree in Finance and Accounting. He stayed and back in 2010 decided to try to help his parents market their coffee by selling green beans. The business didn't work out but a roaster in Fountain Valley agreed to roast it. Then Kariithi started selling it online and door to door. It still wasn't really taking off.
He then met Dave Bacon through a mutual friend. Bacon was in the trading business and when Kariithi told him about the problems he was having selling the coffee, Bacon bought some of it. He liked it so much that eventually he left his company and set up Global Coffee Trading with Kariithi and another partner. Today, their offices include a dramatic wood-lined coffee house with a 25-kilo Loring roaster on the ground floor. They roast beans every Thursday, 20 pounds at a time. Their local customers for beans include Caffe Calabria, Nomad Donuts, and Dark Horse Coffee Roasters.
"Think of it as a tasting room," Kariithi said. "Typically a roaster with a coffee business comes in to market test blends. And people from the surrounding offices and Qualcomm on the hill above us come in for a cup of coffee."
Global Coffee Trading, which has a cupping room and trading room upstairs, imports and trades beans, including Njoga's, which Kariithi said remains a separate business.
"One of my goals with Njoga Coffee is to give my parents income in their old age," said Kariithi. "But the other offshoot is to make a difference in a kid's life. My mom was an orphan, educated by Italian missionaries—and here I am in America!"
So, Kariithi, through the nonprofit organization Now That You Know, has partnered with Mwalimu Academy, a girl's school in Meru, Kenya, to provide school fees for students in need of financial aid.
"It costs $500 a year and $2,000 for a full high school education," Kariithi explained. "If they can graduate from high school, they can then go to college and the government picks up the tab.
"Educating girls changes their entire future; it changes everything. It changes the lives of generations at a cost of $2,000."
So far, through Njoga, Kariithi has been able to help five girls over the past four years.
The Njoga Arabica varietal coffee beans are terrific. Consumers can buy them by the pound in dark and medium roasts. They also roast a dark Swiss water decaf, which I tried. It had a deep, smooth flavor that I enjoyed, freshly ground and brewed in a French press.
Njoga coffee beans are available for sale online and on the Euherd website. You can visit the Global Coffee Trading coffee house at 11585 Sorrento Valley Road, Suite 108.