When I came to Kenya in 2002, coffee was an odd drink enjoyed by expats like me. Most restaurants would serve you the kind of dishwater commonly referred to by the misnomer instant “coffee”. The only places you would get real coffee were Java House, which at the time only had two branches, and the Flame Tree at New Stanley. Nakumatt had one or two types of low-quality, ground packaged coffee, and it was imported!
In a major coffee exporting country like Kenya, drinking that foreign currency earner was the preserve of some weird mzungus.
Fast forward to 2019: Buying coffee even at a small supermarket like Chandarana at Yaya, is a process. With 50+ varieties to choose between, you are spoilt for choice. Some imported options are from Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia, but the bulk are location-specific and specialty varieties from Kenya.
Java House, only present at Mama Ngina Street and Adams Arcade in 2002, now have dozens of branches in Nairobi, and seemingly in every little town in Kenya. All with some of the world’s best coffee. Other home-grown chains like Dormans and many others, offer Kenyan coffee at its best, and from every corner. Even many petrol stations have coffee outlets with a quality superior to what you can expect most places in Europe or the US. All of a sudden, Kenya seems to have developed an unsatiable thirst for the coffee it produces!
On Lenana Road, between my home an my office, there is a new coffee place by someone who has taken it to yet another level! Mwendi’s only offers coffee grown at the owner’s farm, at the foot of Mount Kenya, and all the coffee is roasted on site. It is the only place to date to offer light roast coffee in addition to the usual medium and dark roast. I wouldn’t be surprised if their laser syphon coffee maker is the only one of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Mwendi’s takes pride in offering coffee done in every imaginable way. In addition to regular ice coffee, they also offer cold drip coffee, made in a 24-hour process. This is something which until recently, I had only heard about, but never actually seen. And I’m a heavy coffee drinker! The place is literally an exhibition of various eccentric coffee making techniques. I am still in the process of discovering them all.
It only makes sense for a coffee producing country like Kenya to develop an advanced coffee drinking culture. If this is a precursor of what is to come, then the future is bright for coffee lovers like me!