This morning before walking over to the Catholic Church for mass I was part of the 1% of Kenyan’s who drank coffee this morning. Kenyans do not drink coffee. Isn’t that amazing? This fact was astonishing to me when I learned I would not be drinking amazing Kenyan coffee everywhere I went in this country known in America for excellent coffee beans. This was an eye-opener not caused by caffeine. “Can’t you stop at a coffee shop for a snack and a cup of coffee on campus?” No. No, I cannot.
The reasons are complicated, varied, historical, and economical. Kenyans drink tea. Kenyans love tea and drink tea all day long. It is not made with water, but is instead steeped in hot boiling milk. They prefer hot milky sweet tea. It is very good, and just the way I like my tea.
Tea was introduced here when Kenya was a British colony, and tea is grown in Kenya. It is local, affordable, and available. Never ask a Kenyan if he would like coffee; offer him tea.
The British first introduced coffee as a cash crop as the volcanic soil in some areas is perfect for the coffee bush. But the coffee grown here is mostly exported, and often it is dried and roasted and packaged and prepared outside of Kenya. The beans are grown in Kenya and then the beans leave the country. In the grocery store here, the Nakumatt, the Kenyan coffee you can buy has to be re-imported back into Kenya, making it very expensive. Kenyans do not drink coffee.
If you order coffee in a restaurant you are brought a cup of hot water and a bowl of brown crystals and a spoon: Nescafe. Instant coffee. Freeze dried instant coffee. This is the coffee that is affordable and readily available. The first time it was brought to my table I was not sure what it was. Coffee as we drink it is an American construct. A Starbuck’s in Kenya would be an obscene joke, an insult.
I brought a French press in my suitcase, knowing there would be no coffee maker in my house. Many of you in America are drinking coffee as you read this. It may be coffee grown in Kenya. Enjoy.