Haile Coffee: a new brew for runners who love their caffeine fix

traditional coffee ceremony with roasted coffee in arba minch, ethiopia
Haile Coffee: the perfect blend for runnersJoel Carillet - Getty Images

Many articles have been penned, books written, and podcasts recorded delving into the secrets behind Ethiopian dominance in distance running. Well, let me tell you, all that quasi-mystical talk about lifestyle and something in the air at altitude _ it's all wrong. I know the secret: it's the coffee.

I've been lucky enough to do the Great Ethiopia Run twice, and it's an absolutely incredible experience that I cannot recommend highly enough. On the first of those occasions, slightly spaced out by jet-lag and an all-night journey, I found myself part of a small group getting some interview time with the great Haile Gebreselassie himself. It all felt somewhat surreal and dreamlike – that is, until Haile offered us coffee, I drank some, and approximately 10 minutes later was bouncing off the walls. If I'd had that coffee when I was doing Berlin marathon, I'd have set a world record too.

Coffee is the Ethiopian national drink - the country is the seventh largest producer of coffee, and the biggest in Africa - and the traditional coffee making ceremony is a hugely important social custom. But while we may not get to participate in that in the UK, we can now at least imbibe a small part of the tradition, in a form that is just perfect for runners.

Haile coffee is the creation of former top British marathon runner Richard Nerurkar, alongside Joel Kidger – who competed for England at the 2002 Commonwealths – and Spencer Thomas, who won the British 800m title in 2019. And with that pedigree, you'd expect it to sell fast (sorry).

Nerurkar and Gebrselassie have worked together for some time – when the former retired from his competitive career, he moved to Addis Ababa with his family and helped Gebrselassie to set up the Great Ethiopia Run, which is now African's biggest running event with over 40,000 participants. Then in 2014 Gebrselassie himself became a coffee producer, and for the last few years Nerurkar has been helping to sell the coffee to international importers.

As Nerurkar explains, 'Coffee is such a big part of the culture in Ethiopia, and Haile is such a big name in international running circles, so it felt natural to connect the two and present a quality product to runners who love drinking coffee.' Consider us sold.

The coffee launches with three different varieties – Champion's Choice, Emperor's Delight, and Haile's Blend. Sadly, drinking them doesn't actually guarantee you two Olympic titles and 27 world records, but there's no doubt that coffee can be a performance enhancer, and it's certainly our go-to fix before a tough session.

'Haile is known as one of the sport’s great champions,' says Nerurkar. 'In the same way, we hope that people who drink our coffee will appreciate its quality and associate Ethiopia with world-class coffee, as much as they do with their world-class athletes.'


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