Why I am Going Back To Coffee
By Moses Kitambi
The other evening, I stepped into this anonymous, middling restaurant with tasty, ancient wooden furniture In Nairobi, Kenya and the strong aroma of coffee turned me on. Not sexually, exactly, but all my sensual nerves were awakened.
Here is the irony. I am not a coffee person. Never have been, and hopefully, never will. True, in high school, in many a night, we revised after taking cups and cups of Nescafe. But that was it. There was no love gained for the world’s highest-selling beverage.
My favorite beverage is tea. The only time I drunk coffee with annoying and exaggerated frequency is when I moved to New York for my graduate school and I needed a way to douse the initial pressure and workload at school. I realized Americans liked their coffee, and I joined the bandwagon.
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I started having four cups of coffee a day, and soon, I was downing up to ten, and when that wasn’t enough I added a Red Bull, because, I had assignments running deep into the night. Between August and December, I had taken so much coffee, I had become a chronic insomniac.
But I like my sleep. In the second part of my graduate school, with a reduced workload, I read somewhere that coffee does not make you alert any more beer makes you sober. And Red Bull and any artificial stimulant were just bad for my health. Then my best professor told us that coffee is a rubbish drink, unnecessarily expensive and has no nutritional value. I bought his gospel. And so early, 2016, I swore never to take coffee, and now three years and four months, not a cup of the offensive drink has gone through my lips. I convinced the brain that even, its aroma, that can be alluring at times is just as bad.
But that aroma of coffee in the anonymous restaurant the other evening was seductive. I texted my good friend Laureen Akoa, who loves coffee, and informed her that I may relapse. She laughed and said, it is only a matter of time.
I had bought the vibe that coffee is bad for your heart. And then, last week the British Heart Foundation released their findings following their study that examined the relationship between coffee consumption and stiffening arteries. The study’s researchers found that drinking up to 25 cups of coffee every day does not increase the likelihood of stiffening arteries, which can increase a person’s likelihood of heart attack or stroke, as reported by HuffPost.
And I remembered that aroma. Could I be cutting myself off from one of the best servings of life? I mean, Africa has the best coffee in the world. Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda grow some good coffee. And I live at the intersection of the country. Increasingly, I see many coffee products being sold in outlets, not limited to Java. Better still, locally roasted coffee freely abounds and one can even order from online stores.
For some time, the debate has been, is it prudent for Africa to export her raw materials to Europe and America where they are turned into finished products and come back costing an arm and a leg?
I mean coffee, cocoa, and tea farmers are some of the most overworked and underpaid folks anywhere in the world. In fact, in recent years in some parts of Kenya, people uprooted their coffee, like in Kisii where I come from, virtually all the coffee was uprooted in the late 1990s and early 2000s because of the falling prices (ironically) and the meddlesome middlemen. I see the same trend taking place with tea, as farmers in Nyeri, Central Kenya, and a governor in the North-Western part have been seen cutting down the plantations.
I once visited Kiambu County with the Kenya Tourism Board chaps and we visited a coffee plantation. Coffee farming in Kiambu has become a baron affair, where colonial home guards are the only ones with plantations worth of note. The farmhand decried the uprooting of coffee in favor of apartments.
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“It is wrong. One coffee tree can employ up to 7 people. But an apartment, you only employ one caretaker and that is it…that is why we have crime in Kiambu, people have sold all their land because coffee farming no longer pays. But things are changing…” he told us.
Lately, as a food writer, I am trying to understand the process. What makes coffee from one region better than the other. I am quite curious and I have been digging online.
African Coffee Club has proven very helpful in my search for monthly online coffee subscriptions. And I intend to dig more on what they do and how I can get their coffee since nothing beats the weather small talk than knowledge on food. Because I intend to impress a lady with it. One day.
*The author is a food blogger in Kenya.