Gerald Katabazi is a barista; a term usually given to a specifically trained coffee-house employee, who prepares and serves espresso-based coffee drinks.
At 33, Katabazi owns a coffee brewing shop and training academy. He started his career way back in 2004 as a waiter at the Kampala Serena Hotel. He is now his own boss.
Before becoming independent, Katabazi had done several odd jobs including hawking shoes and handkerchiefs along Kampala streets. But none of these turned around his life. It was until a friend introduced him to the manager of Pap Café on Parliamentary Avenue; where he prepared and brewed specialty coffees, which was the core business of the Café.
Café Pap, which trains staff, on how to brew coffee, opened him to this trade.
Katabazi took advantage and enrolled at Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) for coffee brewing courses.
“Initially, I knew about coffee because back in my village, we had huge coffee plantations but I didn’t know that it would change my life,” Katabazi who admits that the training at UCDA opened his eyes about the benefits of coffee, explains.
Life as a barista
As a waiter, at Pap Café, Katabazi then used to earn about Shs100,000 (about $28). Given his desire to be self-employed someday, he developed a savings culture. He had to rely on his salary and tips from the customers he served. Thanks to his expertise, he later got a better paying job at Kampala Serena Hotel which almost tripled what he was earning at Café Pap.
Katabazi would supplement his savings with trainings he carried out after partnering with several hotels and restaurants countrywide to train their staff on how to brew coffee-using the expertise he got from UCDA and Café Pap.
“I would negotiate with the hotels which would pay me for training and supervising their staff for about two months,” he said.
The savings he got from these trainings permitted him to pursue his dream of becoming independent. That is how he started ‘Volcano Coffee’.
Volcano Coffee was an idea that he generated but further developed with other colleagues under the umbrella ‘Friends of Coffee’. Friends of Coffee are people who, grow, drink, export and take coffee as business that have launched a campaign aimed at increasing and developing a culture of drinking coffee.
Uganda is ranked 10th among the world’s producers of coffee and second in Africa. But the consumption is way below 2 per cent.
Through ‘Friends of Coffee’, he says, they also intend to increase coffee consumption and this is expected to supplement on the revenue the country earns from the export of unprocessed coffee beans. More to that, coffee farmers’ lives will improve.
“When I registered Volcano Coffee; I had to start a brewing unit. That’s how I started this coffee shop,” he says.
Volcano Coffee and Restaurant is located on Nakasero Road where he serves coffee and trains in baristaring.
Apart from brewing about 130 cups of coffee daily, Katabazi also sells roasted coffee beans.
Katabazi has been hard hit by instabilities in South Sudan, thus his focus on promoting coffee consumption locally.
He began with savings amounting to Shs7 million.
Currently his investment, both in the coffee shop and academy, is worthy $15,000 (Shs52 million). He is expanding into branding coffee where he anticipates to inject about $10,000 (Shs34 million).
Cost of coffee
A cup of coffee on the city market costs between Shs7,000 and Shs12,000 depending on location. But at Volcano, a 500ml cup costs Shs5,000, earning a daily income of Shs650,000 from 130 cups.
Katabazi works closely with 500 smallholder farmers and this indirectly translates into about 3,500 people.