Originally from Kenya, barista Fredrick Nyakuna is currently living and working in Oman. His work hasn’t been a walk in the park, it's has been hard, but his passion, love of coffee, hope and strength has kept him going. In this interview, Fredrick outlines some the issues with immigrant labour in Oman, speaking openly about ways that baristas can gain a foothold in the industry and own their own careers.
When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?
I used to work as a waiter in restaurants and hotels in Diani Beach on Kenya’s coast. When the number of tourists dropped because of travel restrictions around coronavirus, most waiters lost their jobs. This forced me to move from working in high-end tourist hotels to go on a job search in normal restaurant in towns. I ended up getting a job as a waiter in a medium-sized restaurant that also served coffee drinks, food and other soft drinks. This is where my love of coffee aromas smell and my skills started to develop.
What's the status of specialty coffee in Oman?
The status of speciality coffee in Oman is rising as many people are learning more about different types of coffee and preparation. Everybody is drinking coffee and baristas are in high demand here - every month a new coffee shop is being opened. Since this is an Islamic country, drinking of alcoholic beverages and taking recreational drugs is prohibited. Coffee has become the only drink that is legally accepted across the board. More people here embrace drinking of coffee, they're keen about taste, freshness, origin and understood as a drink that it brings people together, creates good memories and relaxation.
The biggest challenge we are facing as baristas from Africa is marginalisation. We are working long hours and the pay is very low. This brings your morale down, developing low self esteem, loneliness, and stress. Employers have been known to take the passports of their employees
What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
Like any other industry, coffee has lots of job opportunities, as it has been for thousands of years since it was discovered. It offers employment to many people across the world, from farmers, pickers, to graders, cupping, roasting, packaging, blending, marketing, and so many other professionals.
If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
Like any other industry or career or education, the rules are the same - you must have interest, passion and determinations to invest, learn or purse. My take is you join a good school of coffee education and science. They teach you about what it takes to grow, harvest, process, roast, cupping, packaging, marketing and finally selling the final product.
After you have the passion, knowledge, interest and determinations you can pursue your career in coffee industry as an investor, farmer, roaster, grader, lecturer, barista or a coffee shop owner.
Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
The internet has access to information to learn more about coffee, mixology. You can also visit roasting companies to learn more practically. Or go straight to a farm and see by yourself how coffee is planted, taken care of and harvested.
What's next for your career? What's on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
For now I'm in Oman. Next year I want to work in Dubai or Qatar, from there my ambition is to fly to Europe to go to the next level of my coffee career, meet new standards of coffee, new recipes, new people! Get more exposure and experience. From Europe, I have two plans: 1. open a my own coffee shop and train and groom new baristas or 2. retire from working to become my own boss and train, groom, my two sons to join and start early career in coffee. The more knowledge, experience in coffee, the better, there is a future. Coffee makes you visit places you can never imagine, you can go. Where people drinks coffee, there are new opportunities, business ideas - coffee brings people together professional. Coffee Is the center point of incubation... ideas, business, friendship.
Follow Fredrick via Instagram account at @fredricknyakuna