The Story of Nambian Coffee

When people say that Ethiopia was the only country in Africa to avoid colonization in the so called “scramble for Africa” by Europeans, they are forgetting, or more likely are unaware of, the small African country of Nambia. In fact, the reason Nambia avoided colonization in the late 19th century is precisely because nobody knew it was there … well, no white people anyway.

Nambia has flown under the radar, been a ghost of a country, for as long as anyone can remember, and apparently that is exactly how they wanted it. The leaders of Nambia could see the writing on the wall as Europeans began to cast their greedy eyes southward, looking to expand their empires. So they went into stealth mode. Being a mountainous region, there are only a few ways to easily access Nambia, so they established small villages at every point where outsiders might attempt to enter their country. These villages were called “The Guardians” and it was their task to redirect anyone headed for the county’s interior. Guardian villagers would host travelers, treating them well, and then send them on their way down easy roads carefully designed and built to circumvent Nambia.

In the early 20th century, Nambian leaders concluded they would need to trade with the outside world to maintain a stable economy. They looked at the countries around them and determined that coffee would be a successful cash crop, and indeed it was. They grew coffee and sold it to their neighbors, who exported it as their own. The purchase of green coffee from Nambia was always accompanied by what we would today call a Non-Disclosure Agreement. So it is that a country almost nobody has heard of, thrived.

Although no one knows exactly when it happened, at some point in the 1990’s one of the neighboring countries to which Nambia sold coffee failed to mix the Nambian coffee with their own, inadvertently selling “100% pure Nambian”  coffee for the very first time. The roasters who bought the coffee went nuts and begged for more. After a time, Nambian coffee growers noticed that those who purchased their coffee were willing to enter bidding wars. Eventually, curiosity overpowered security and Nambia sent “spies” out into the world to find out what was happening. The spies reported that Nambian coffee was among the most treasured coffees in the world, and it was unfortunate it was being sold as coffee from other countries. Nambia decided it was time to come out of the “coffee closet.”

In 2017, for the first time ever, green coffee was made available for purchase directly from Nambia via online auction.  Needless to say, these auctions broke all records previously set, no doubt due to the fact that all coffee grown in Nambia is Geisha.

In typically understated Nambian fashion, the leader of Nambia, known as the “committee chair,” said that selling coffee directly has “been a boon.”

Although Nambia has yet to host an international panel of cupping judges and there is as of yet no official cupping scores associated with their coffee,  several coffee cuppers have been less than shy about describing the Nambian coffee taste experience. The following are just a few anonymous examples:

“It’s almost like the coffee isn’t even there, at least not in any traditional sense that I can relate to or understand or talk about.”

“The coffee tastes, I don’t know, like emptiness … or, no, more like vacancy. Yeah, that’s it. Vacancy. Bottomless vacancy.”

“The body is ephemeral, you know what I mean? Ghostlike. The acidity is pleasantly vague, like déjà vu, or a dream about your first boyfriend.”

“The flavor notes are abundant but the most prominent among them is absence. Does that makes any sense? You know what I mean, right? It’s like drinking the negative space around the coffee.”

“I think I put the coffee in my cupping spoon but I couldn’t bring myself to slurp it. I just wanted to, you know, be present with it, share the same space. At some point, cupping didn’t matter anymore because the coffee and I were friends and there was trust there. Cupping it would have been a hostile act.”

Nambia has embraced its entrance onto the world stage with gusto. Just last week, Trump International announced it would build a hotel in the capitol city, Nambi, saying in a press release that they were confident they could “put Nambia on the map.”

 

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