Why you should care
Coffee. For many of us it’s as essential to human life as water or Wi-Fi. But ironically, many of the countries that produce most of the coffee we consume in the West are just not that into it. Take Tanzania: Coffee beans are the nation’s second-largest export, but you’re a thousand times more likely to be offered a cup of chai before an espresso. That, however, is starting to change.
There’s a growing “coffee culture” among the country’s middle class — similar to what’s happening in Kenya or Ivory Coast — and new coffee shops are popping up in Dar es Salaam, the country’s capital. This is a welcome blessing for coffee-addict tourists and expats who no longer have to pay through the nose at swanky hotels to get their hands on a latte.
Black Tomato is a front-runner. This small chain of cafes attracts a wide variety of regular clients interested in its beautiful courtyard and colorful furniture. “It was so hard to find good coffee in the city, but it’s becoming easier,” says Cindy Arzuaga, a Spanish teacher who has been in the country for nine years, who mentioned Black Tomato as one of her favorite spots.
Then there’s Wamama Kahawa Coffee Roasters, which serves what’s likely one of the best cups of coffee in East Africa. This 100 percent Tanzanian-owned and -run coffee company and shop produces its own blend that tastes delicious, but also empowers local women by providing them with jobs. Starbucks may be proud of its fair trade, but when it comes to minimizing the carbon footprint, this coffee wins: The beans are actually grown only a few miles away. Farm to cup.
Last, but not least, there’s Karambezi Cafe. While located inside the imposing five-star Sea Cliff Hotel, it is open to anyone with an appetite for “frostie lattes” and coconut macaroons. Since its recent opening, it’s been extremely popular because the coffee is as good as the panoramic view of the ocean you get from the deck area.
Granted, coffee culture may seem like a bit of a Western imposition to Tanzania — and its cost doesn’t help. It’s about $2 to $3 for a cappuccino when you can get chai for 20 to 50 cents anywhere in the country. And yet, that’s still nothing compared to what you would pay for a Starbucks venti double-mocha-frappu-latte (barf).