Visitors at Sextant Coffee, on Folsom and 10th streets, have had their beverages made by someone other than owner Kinani Ahmed since last month. Ahmed is recreating the staff he lost at the start of the public health crisis after completing every duty solo for the preceding year and a half.
Ahmed, a vivacious guy in his forties, hides a drive and dedication that has seen his company through the COVID-19 epidemic. After 15 years of operating two coffee shops, he created Sextant Coffee in 2014. Ahmed, who is originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, began his career in biotechnology at the University of California, San Francisco, but yearned for the rituals and culture of coffee drinking that he had experienced as a youngster. As a side endeavour, he decided to open a café to share his ideas with his neighbours.
He remarked, “I grew up with coffee.” “I was usually surrounded by individuals who were involved in coffee cultivation or exporting.”
He yearned for the comfort of his grandmother’s regular coffee habit. “Every day mum would take the green beans, wash them, and roast them over charcoal in a cast iron pan,” he explained. “Every time you want to drink coffee, you roast the beans fresh. It’s rather complicated. That’s how almost every family starts their day.”
Given his close relationship with coffee, Ahmed soon felt that just owning a café was unsatisfying. “I realised I needed to manage the entire production,” he explained, “and then I extended even further, into sourcing.”
He left his job at UCSF to pursue coffee full-time.
According to Ahmed, coffee was initially cultivated centuries ago in the area around modern-day Ethiopia, before a few kinds were transplanted to other parts of the world and used as foundation crops for the variants that today dominate the worldwide market. Ethiopian farmers are still producing the original variety. As a consequence, crops grown on tiny farms, like as Ahmed’s family’s near Addis Ababa, have genetic traits that aren’t seen anywhere else.
Ahmed began buying beans from Ethiopia and roasting them himself, thanks to his family’s connections. Sextant Coffee, which also sells coffee from Colombia and Brazil, was formed as a result of this.
Despite Ethiopia’s current civil war and looming famine, Ahmed claims that the violence is primarily focused in Tigray, in the north, and has had little influence on coffee exports.
Sextant has grown steadily since it first opened its doors. “We were supplying coffee to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms,” Ahmed explained.
Ahmed was in charge of a big staff, including a marketing department, by March 2020. He was completing preparations to licence his product and operate two more cafés at the San Francisco International Airport. When the first city-wide shelter-in-place order was issued, Sextant had just finished its yearly coffee bean purchase. Sextant went from a 15-person firm to a one-person operation in the blink of an eye.
“The toughest part was losing my team,” he said. “I had to put on every hat.”
He worked 12- to 14-hour days on a regular basis. He feels himself fortunate to have remained in business while so many others failed.
Ahmed is looking forwards to reviewing his 2020 growth plans once the epidemic fades in San Francisco. He can finally take his first day off in eighteen months now that he’s recruited a manager and two baristas. He’s even taking a week off. What is he going to do? Transport him and his family to Los Angeles.