While Kenya’s primary export is tea, a new beverage is brewing in central Nairobi: cappuccinos spiked with camel’s milk.
Manager Omar Shariff has noticed a shift at CJ’s Restaurant, a popular café in downtown Nairobi. Whereas demand for camel milk was previously largely driven by the local Somali community, it is now being requested by an increasing number of customers.
His menu now includes “camel-ccinos” and “camelattes,” with plans to expand into camel-related products such as a camel burger.
While camel milk is consumed throughout the world in other regions – including much of the Middle East, Asia, and Australia – its popularity in East Africa has largely remained limited to rural groups. However, interest has grown both regionally and globally, with prices prompting some to dub the milk “white gold.”
“Camel milk is extremely profitable on the international market,” observes David Hewett, ranch manager for the Mpala Research Center on the Laikipia Plateau in north central Kenya. “Half a litre of finished milk costs between $10 and $20,” he explains, in comparison to conventional cow’s milk, which costs about 50 cents per half litre in the United States.
Exploiting a plentiful source
Africa is home to approximately 80% of the world’s camels, with approximately 60% residing in East Africa alone. Kenya’s pastoral lands are home to over four million camels, a figure that has quadrupled since 1999, according to the Kenya Camel Association.
Though the beverage has been a long-standing daily staple for some in the region, it lacks an organised and widespread distribution network. Rather than that, milk is most frequently found in informal markets throughout the country.