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Coffee Stories

Smayah Uwajeneza

By 1st July 2020May 5th, 2022No Comments8 min read

Recently we talked to Smayah Uwajeneza, the ‘18 East Africa Aeropress champion. Regarding the current global BLM, Smayah has her own thoughts about it. As a hardworking barista from Rwanda Africa, her coffee journey definitely inspires many coffee professionals. 

“We need more visibility, we need more platform created for people who are under-represented. because I believe in this case one could think or interpret it in a way that is negative. So we better provide inclusion and equity for all members of the coffee industry, and I am so glad that at least these steps have started taking place and that is how I found myself becoming one of the SCA LEAD scholars of the first cohort.

And this is what I think to be the short and long time solution for the Racism outbreak going on;

First of all, I would like to ask everyone to understand and see that we all bleed the same blood, breathe the same air, feel anything that touches us, eat the same food, live under the same planet, and most importantly all drink the same coffee, it is evident enough to look ourselves in other people’s faces/ body.

we might be economically different, but we are all human, people. our skin color should not be a reason to forget humanity and hate and kill each other. My heart feels so heavy every time i see violence going viral. things got to change, love has to prevail.

coffee makes us one, no matter how far, which continent we all from. The more diversified and equated we can be, the more we can promote diversity and more we can help different people and our coffee industry shall prosper and so is the world.”

Smayah Uwajeneza

Smayah Uwajeneza


“Hello everyone,

How many of you had their cup of coffee today?

My name is Smayah Uwajeneza, born and raised in Rwanda, where the lives of innocent people are our guiding lights, amazing community that taught me the useful and values of lives and a treasure of generosity.

Lovely audience, Education is the key for life,

I joined specialty coffee industry as a fresh high school graduate, laser

focused on taking a job that would allow me to save for school, I fortunately found an opportunity to attend trainings at Question coffee (sustainable growers), the social enterprise that unlocks women potential to learn how to make specialty coffee, that is establishing income opportunities and coffee training programs and helping over 30,000 of women farmers to become coffee business professionals. and it was where the coffee world was awaiting me, and It was this time (2016) I was introduced to coffee as a career.

 For me it was a challenge even to drink coffee for the first time, the first espresso sip will never leave my memory. Regardless I needed to save money for college. So I had to transform this challenge into the opportunity. my passion starts with curiosity. After completing my basic barista training, I asked for resources to learn more detailed technical information about extraction. I satisfied my curiosity with intense work ethic. Within a week I had consumed what takes most baristas months. From there I mastered milk, latte art, and brewing without the support of a curriculum such as SCA, but with a small smart phone that I downloaded videos on while on my breaks working at Question Coffee. and now I use my growing wealth of knowledge to inspire those around me. I was lucky enough to work for a company that works handy with the women farmers,

I started visiting these farmers and whenever I’d be at the farms, with the stories I was receiving from these women, seeing pregnant women carrying kilos of the coffee cherries on their heads, walk miles and miles, but they still believe it is all for the best, all these helped me to understand that coffee was not just coffee but it is our life. They gave me a hope into the coffee life journey that I was just starting. But the years to come I never lost sight of my college goal, 2018 I joined law college evening session.

 ‘’there is no limit to what you can do and what you can be, everything is possible if you just believe.’’

I was coffeely blessed by 2018. I traveled around the world mostly in different states of America, where I also had a lot of opportunities to present both myself and my community. I won couple grants from Specialty Coffee Association started to be shaped to be a skillful coffee leader.

I won East African Aeropress champion that allowed me to go compete at the world level in Sydney, Australia. I met this queen Carolyn and a lot of people of my dreams through all these travels, I was mostly featured in a lot of magazines, news, Articles, social media posts, and I got promotion at work from Sr Barista to Roaster and a quality control. coffee made an African star girl. how? Coz ‘’your story is valuable.’’

but I could neither be here today nor achieve anything without commitment, consistency, support and considering the treasure of giving back to my society.

Because I am concerned with the future, I started creating ways to look at things differently, by being a representation that anyone from any background can establish a career in this industry.

Despite the poverty, and other issues I see in rural areas back at home, as I said I still smiles and hopes, these farmers are really people that wants to see their lives change but they don’t have a voice and so I decided to give back to my community this way, And thank you for giving me your time and listening.

So how can we collaborate on impacting lives of these farmers, I believe some buyers do really pay reasonable prices for the coffee they buy from them, but the concern is the quality needs to be there, for the coffee to have value, and for you to pay great price that might make coffee little more profitable to these farmers. But honestly, there is still lack of resources for them to achieve high quality coffee.

I kind identify with these farmers, as I was raised in a very big family of 15 children by a single parent as my dad passed on when I was 4yrs, so I grew up seeing mom struggling to educate us, however societal norm that discourages girl’s high education was there, so I was left to figure things on my own and with low resources after high school or get married at 16 but I could not see that to be my life, and I started looking for a job from the final day of my high school. but from my own experience and these famers experience, I been really paying attention to what allows someone to bring themselves up when resources are not, there is a lot factors but the most essential one is support, I have received a lot of support over my life, I guess people saw that I was passionate and motivated but with low resources, and some people came in and offer me a huge support. and so I believe we can all support them through their work, be supporting them with transportation means to facilitate the efficiency of their coffee production, be rewarding those who did well, be paying extra bonus to their coffee, these are all ways we can collaborate with them, coz if they are motivated and strengthened through their work then we can all guarantee the future of the coffee industry.

I believe through collaboration and love we can make this world better place.

Reach out to us if you want to be part of this change, thank you and God bless you.” Smayah told

Appreciation to Specialty coffee association, Sustainable Growers, Carolyn, Stumptown coffee, Question coffee, Gade, Shanon, Deean, etc fro making this day memorably remarkable.


This story is from Smayah Uwajeneza’s blog.

Ronita Dragomir

Head Barista, Coffee writer, Co-editor of CoffeeBreak