Do you have camel milk? The camel milk scene in Kenya is growing.
Camel cappuccinos, camel pizza, and camel quesadillas – these are just a few of the items that stand out on the menu at Kulan Café in bustling Eastleigh in Nairobi, Kenya.
” Camels [are] very emblematic of Somali culture, ”said Bashir Warsame, one of the cafe’s owners.
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Warsame is part of a growing camel milk industry in Kenya – he and other business owners and entrepreneurs hope it spreads more globally.
The 27-year-old Somali American grew up in the United States, where camel products are almost impossible to find. He moved to Nairobi a few years ago.
“Being around the nostalgia for these traditional products is something that made me want to learn. I wanted to know more about it, ”Warsame said.
This cultural curiosity coupled with an emerging interest in business inspired him to experiment with camel products and co-found Kulan Café.
“We are trying to create a camel cafe scene here in Kenya and hopefully it can spread to the rest of the world.”
“We are trying to create a camel cafe scene here in Kenya and hopefully it can spread to the rest of the world,” Warsame said.
But it also involved changing and adapting the traditional Somali way of producing camel milk.
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“It’s smoked because it offers a natural way to increase the shelf life of milk. So that changes the taste profile of the milk, ”Warsame said.
Traditional processing gives camel milk a distinct smoky taste – it’s not for everyone.
A few years ago Warsame founded Nuug, a Nairobi-based company that produces and sells flavored camel yogurt and pasteurized camel milk. Nuug is now one of several brands offering camel milk in Nairobi grocery stores, signaling a growing market in the country.
“There is a sharp increase in demand for camel products and in particular for camel meat and milk,” said Khalif Abderrahman Abey of the Kenya Camel Association, a lobbying organization.
This is in part because camels are increasingly seen as a sustainable breeding choice, especially for communities living in drylands.
“[Camels are] a response to climate change, ”said Abey. “Because it’s not competing with cattle or sheep” for water or grass for food.
As more people turn to camel breeding in Kenya, the alleged health benefits of camel milk and meat, compared to other farm animals, are also spreading.
Nutrition is at the forefront of Hamida Rashid’s mind. In a Nairobi grocery store, the mother of two browses the many offers of milk on the shelves.
Rashid’s youngest child is allergic to cow’s milk, so she explored alternatives.
“They tried camel milk here and there. Yes it is really very good [for you],” she said.
But there’s a big caveat for her: “It’s just that they can’t really stand the smell of it.”
For new customers, the taste and smell of pasteurized camel milk may still require adjustment.
Warsame has tips for reluctant and first-time customers: “Whatever drink you choose, be it a chai latte or a caramel macchiato, I would say just add some camel to it. ”