August 25, 2005
Addis coffee shops: My favouite place in Ethiopia #4
As everyone knows, Ethiopia produces the best coffee in the world (sorry Kenya and Colombia but it is true). Coffee was discovered here – by Kaldi the shepherd boy who noticed his goats were getting a little frisky after eating the beans. Only the most superior "arabica" beans grow here. If you can get you hands on them wherever you are, you have to try the almost lemony flavour of Yirgacheffe coffee, or the earthier taste of "Unwashed" Harar. (Does anyone know why it is called "unwashed"? There must be more welcoming brand names.)
In Ethiopia, amazing coffee is also incredibly cheap – much cheaper than a jar of Nescafé. You can get a steaming cup of it at any pavement café in Addis for about 1.25 birr. And there are lots of varieties – simple buna, buna ba wetet (coffee with milk), macchiato etc etc.
And yet, despite all this, some people are clearly buying Nescafé. You can find it in even relatively small shops – all the big supermarkets stock it. I have been offered it a number of times in people's homes. And I can exclusively reveal that there are vast tubs of it in many of the offices in the UN compound at the centre of Addis Ababa. To add to their crime, it is served with powdered Nestlé milk.
Nescafé, as everyone knows, is the vilest excuse for a cup of coffee in the world. It tastes disgusting. When it goes off, as it does quite quickly, it gives off a smell like tar. A friend in the coffee trade once gave me a hair-raising account of how it is made. In case there are any Nestlé lawyers reading this, let's just say it does not come from the cream of the coffee bean crop.
The fact that Nestlé has found someone to sell it to here is nothing short of a capitalistic, free-market miracle. Maybe it is the exoticness of it – a foreign brand seen as better than the home-grown version. Maybe it is its just-add-water "instant" convenience. But if you are really that lazy, coffee shops will deliver a cup of the real stuff on a tray to your home or office in a matter of minutes.
Whatever the reason, if you come to Ethiopia, stick to the local brew. Three of my favourite places to drink it – making them three of my favourite places in Ethiopia – are City Café & Pastry on Bole road, Tomoca below the Piazza, and the wonderful Starbucks rip-off Kaldi's on Bole Tele (photos coming).
Posted by aheavens at August 25, 2005 8:40 AM