Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and I can assure you they make a damn good cup of joe in Addis Ababa. The Ethiopians were never colonized, save a few years in the 1930s by the Italians, so the culture of drinking coffee is truly their own. Coffee has been drank ceremoniously in the region for hundreds of years, spreading eventually to the Arabian peninsula, Europe and finally the Americas. Thanks to Starbucks and their “gourmet” blends, many Americans have an association between Ethiopia and coffee, but very few people know that it actually originated here.
You can drink good coffee in Nairobi but, compared to Addis Ababa, you really have to go out of your way to get it. Until very recently there wasn’t really a culture of drinking coffee in Kenya, Kenyans instead preferring to drink tea (a habit brought by the British in the early 1900s). Now there are several European-style coffee shops in Nairobi (Java House and Dorman’s, for example) and it’s becoming more popular to go hang out over a cup of coffee. That being said, Kenyans are very frugal and coffee’s still a bit expensive in Nairobi, so you really have to LOVE coffee to do it often — I always end up offering to pay just so I can get MY fix.
I worked a bit on Saturday morning, but then I hooked up with a colleague and we walked around Addis Ababa. I had an order from a friend in Nairobi to get some coffee, so we asked around for the best place to buy roasted beans. After that we had a snack and did a little shopping for textiles. I think fabric is the most beautiful and practical souvenir of all the countries I’ve every visited (not to mention, it’s cheap!). I’m still here for another work week, so there’s plenty of time to buy a few more things if the mood strikes me. Luckily I packed light so there is a lot of room in my bag.
Still cold and rainy in Addis but I’m hanging in there.