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The Happy Drink of Sub-Saharan Africa

a man standing next to a body of water

“Kahawa” or coffee in Africa dates back to a long time ago when the founders discovered berries that could make them elated and energized after chewing. Religious men quickly realized that consuming the berries could help them stay awake during long hours of prayer and concentrate better on their chanting. To preserve the flavor of the powerful beans for longer, they roasted and soaked them in hot water, and coffee was born. The Swahilis use coffee to welcome visitors and prefer it as "kahawa chungu" or unsweetened coffee. They believe a shared cup of coffee helps foster and cement friendships. Those from the East African coast, especially Kenya and Zanzibar, may hear kahawa chungu and think of old Swahili men sitting on the house verandah or sea shores, where they will sip kahawa chungu and play backgammon. The men will take a break from their businesses at 10am for a cup of coffee brewed in brass kettles served with barfis or dates which helps balance off the taste.

On the coast, including Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu, you will find alleys where old men form small groups sipping kahawa chungu from miniature ceramic cups, it is an old tradition. Kahawa chungu is the best way for a teetotaller to while away the evening and lessen stress. The spices infused in the coffee are grown in village kitchen gardens, where one can smell the sweet aroma of ginger, cloves and cardamom drying in the sun. Spices and coffee are woven into the fabric of life and culture of Africa at large. Touch, taste and smell the spices that grow here, and you'll be on your way to understanding the true nature of Africa. 

Mahfudh Khamisi