Coffee – the drink that unites us and gives us vitality 

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There were many upgrades we wanted to make at The Lounge, your pre-flight experience with Discovery Bank and SAA, but here’s why we started with coffee.

By: Dinesh Govender, CEO Discovery Vitality 

Have you ever had a quiet moment over a great coffee pondering the contents of your cup? It is quite amazing that the coffee bean, in its small and unassuming form, has the power to transform from a raw, green bean into a dark and delicious elixir that awakens and intoxicates our senses.  

Coffee has a long-standing tradition as not only a social beverage enjoyed in bustling cafés or offered by way of welcome to intimate gatherings and meetings, but today, as a source of pride as one of Africa’s biggest exports. With each sip, the bean unlocks a world of flavours, connecting us to its origins – the ancient highlands of Ethiopia, where the indigenous people discovered its stimulating effects. From Ethiopia, coffee cultivation spread to the Arabian Peninsula and eventually reached the shores of Yemen, becoming a sought-after commodity.  

Today, alongside Asia and South America, Africa is one of the largest producers of coffee in the world, accounting for almost 12% of the world’s production, according to the World Economic Forum. Exports were valued at about $2.5 billion in 2021, with Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda leading the pack on the continent.  

Our coffee is appreciated the world over. Kenyan coffee is known for its bold and full-bodied flavours; Ethiopian for its fruitiness; Tanzanian coffee is smooth and mellow; while Ivory Coast beans are packed with chocolate nuttiness. Much like a fine wine, the terroir of the region imparts unique characteristics to the beans. Climate, including rainfall and sun exposure, the altitude at which the beans are grown, soil composition, and diversity of flora and fauna result in a range of flavours, aromas, acidity levels, body, sweetness and overall complexity. 

The demand translates not just to shillings and birrs, but also millions of jobs, both directly and indirectly, stimulating rural development in Africa and providing a source of income for farmers and traders.  

The value lies elsewhere, intangibly, too, encouraging social interaction, cohesion, professional bonding and love relationships (the romantic Parisian café is as iconic as its Eiffel tower, isn’t it?). We’ve found at Vitality, coffee is so powerful that it can incentivise behaviour change. Yes, coffee encourages people to be healthier. In 2015, we had to think of a reward that would encourage people to exercise more.  

By making that incentive a cup of coffee, we started a movement in fitness. We have seen how this incentive (and others) has extended lives by encouraging people to exercise and earn the much-coveted reward at the end of the week. While our programme has evolved to include improved driving and spending behaviour, rewards like smoothies, shopping vouchers and rewards currency, coffee remains a coveted item. People love it that much.  

About The Lounge from SAA and Discovery Bank 

It is also one of the reasons we prioritised new coffee machines when Vitality Travel from Discovery Bank partnered with SAA to create The Lounge, your pre-flight experience. Along with a new dining and cocktail menu, a curated local art collection, upgraded fittings and furniture and much more at The Lounge, we sourced the best coffee machines and coffee beans for our travellers. 

The aim is to bring the best coffee we could procure from around the globe and create a cultural adventure to Vitality travellers who visit The Lounge. In refined luxurious comfort, a coffee menu now prepared by trained baristas, awaits. I am quite passionate about it… and made sure to test the new La Marzocco coffee machines, sourced from Florence, in Italy, the moment they arrived. This heritage brand is over 100 years old and known as the “Ferrari” of coffee machines. 

By offering a truly exceptional coffee experience within The Lounge, we acknowledge and support the cultural significance of this African commodity and promote an appreciation for diverse coffee cultures and connoisseurs and their contributions to the coffee community. I hope you enjoy your next coffee experience at The Lounge. Do reach out to me when you do. @dineshgovender 

Fast facts about your coffee at the lounge

  • The coffee at The Lounge is brewed using the La Marzocco coffee machines, which we sourced from Florence, Italy – a heritage brand that dates to 1927. 
  • In the pursuit of excellence, the SAA Lounge team has undergone specialised training around brewing techniques and creating different types of coffee.  
  • Guests are free to ask staff for guidance, insights and recommendations on a coffee choice to suit their taste.   
  • Last year, Vitality members bought over 1.5 million coffees with their rewards. Fun fact: if you were to stack up each coffee cup, the stack would be 718 times the height of the Eiffel Tower. 
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