This is a fascinating rabbit-hole journey. While listening to episode 4 – The Hidden Side of Coffee – of the Containers podcast (embed below), I was drawn to the mention of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, at which essentially quick-lot auctions for Kenyan coffee takes place. Bags of coffee beans (yes I know they’re not actual beans) are sampled in another room, with logistical data written on the sample bags to let the buyer know what’s what. Hundreds and hundreds of these bags are then auctioned, weekly, at the Coffee Exchange. OK so simple mercantile capitalism, right? Only at some point time stood still at the Kenyan markets, and the Exchange proper is some interior wood-paneled room with a lecture-hall style pyramid of of desks, each complete with a built-in ashtray. (Wait for it!) And the market, the auctions, are determined by brokers pressing buttons as the lots cycle through up on a LED billboard, with some crazy *pew pew pew*-like sound – the whole thing seems like some sinister Tandy Corporation idea gone amok that instead is the trading post for some of the world’s finest coffee!

So to get right to the point here’s a sampling of the *pew pew pew* sounds:

Sounds like a classic arcade game, no? I can’t quite decide which one.

And here’s the 34-minute episode of Containers that tipped me off to this sound, and space. The first 10 minutes of this episode is the setup and introduction to containers as they relate to coffee and specifically the Nairobi Coffee Exchange facility – where the sound comes from. So give it a listen – or, for further context scroll down below to see some images of the Exchange market.

Here are various images I collected that show the Exchange – both the auction and sampling rooms:

And some videos from the ‘Tube that show various other stages of Kenyan coffee production that are mentioned in the podcast above – including the ‘parchment’ process and the fruit-to-bean staging:

And for additional reading on the Market and Kenyan coffee check out the following blogs and articles:

A Day in the Office – Nairobi, Kenya

Coffee auction prices down 11pc after last week’s rebound


Kenya: Producing coffee – in pictures (The Guardian)

Kenya entry @ Sweet Maria’s Coffee Library

Also the Google image search for nairobi kenya coffee trading outpost has some good shots

Deliciously fascinating stuff!