New urban coffee culture a boon for Kenya producers

Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:39am EST
 
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By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Sitting on low benches on the humid streets of the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenyan men sip hot kahawa chungu, or bitter coffee in Swahili, from miniature ceramic cups.

The concentrated black coffee -- traditionally brewed over a charcoal stove in tall brass kettles reminiscent of the ancient Arabic world -- is a specialty of the Kenyan coast that is preserved for men.

The age-old practice has failed to draw in a younger crowd to carry on the tradition.

"The young people are not taking up this culture," said Swaleh, a tour guide in Mombasa's Old Town which comes alive in the evenings as men pour into the streets for their 5 shilling ($0.06) cup of coffee.

The reverse is, however, happening in major cities up country. Young people are rushing to swanky coffee shops or restaurants and ordering coffee instead of tea, which has traditionally been the preferred drink in the former British colony, despite growing some of the world's best coffee.

"Coffee houses are very trendy and are meeting points for the young and businesspeople to sit and have their discussions," said Philip Gitao, executive director of the regional Eastern African Fine Coffees Association (EAFCA).

"We definitely are seeing a small growth in consumption especially due to the number of coffee houses."

Figures are hard to come by, but the EAFCA estimates that Kenyans consumed only 3,000 tonnes of more than 50,000 tonnes produced here in the 2008/09 season.   Continued...