Monday, June 27, 2005

La Distinction

Nick Wachira reflects on Nairobi's burgeoning coffee shops:

"At Dormans Coffee Shop along Mama Ngina Street in downtown Nairobi, getting a seat on a weekday afternoon is a frustrating experience.

So is the case at the Java Coffee House, and Lavarza next door on Kaunda Street.

Forget shuffling between the sea of human and vehicular traffic during the after-work hours, and jostling for space with office workers on expensive coffee dates.

Inside these coffee shops, it is a world of make-believe. With the strong smell of freshly brewed house coffees, blended with a light touch of western music and artistic decor, one could rightly assume that their minds have been transported back to Europe or America. At Dormans Coffee, it actually feels like the world famous Starbucks – only that the Nairobi version is half cheaper.

A regular cup of house coffee goes for Sh100, a similar sized Expresso for Sh120, and entry-level lattes start at Sh140.

In a country where nearly three million people have dropped below the poverty line in the last five years, one may wonder how so many city residents blow nearly Sh200 on frappuccino, iced mocha or a banana smoothie in one lazy afternoon – but then Nairobi is a city that thrives on contradictions and controversies. " (Nick Wachira, "Chasing a 'Starbucks' dream in Kenya," The Daily Nation, 6/21/2005).


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