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Published: December 17th 2011
Roasting over a charcoal burner
Starsucks. The word is graffiti’d beside the pictures of English football stars in the wall of the alcove where the coffee guys prepare their wares for the day’s selling. It’s a strident reply to the world domination of a certain brand of cuppa they will never be able to afford. But once you drink their hard-earned brew, who would ever want to. My friends know I’m not normally a coffee-drinker, and I didn’t think I would especially like this which had been boiled in the pot over a tiny charcoal burner for an hour! But it was smooth! Barbe just hopes I won’t be this wired all day!
One of the young men busied himself with roasting the beans as we arrived, also in a small pot without a handle over charcoal. The wooden spoon fit neatly into a groove on the edge of the pan to lift it off the heat if need be. Before our eyes the beans turned from a light green to a dark brown, Arabica from the northwest region of Tanzania. Meanwhile, another young guy was fanning the flies away from a cake that had been patted into shape on a wooden board, consisting of
peanuts, caramelized brown sugar and a small amount of flour for thickening. Since the coffee is served with neither milk nor sugar, a slice of this brittle-like snack sweetens the tongue. (But again, I found hardly necessary!)
Once the beans are roasted they were poured into a large mortar and pestle type device, and it was the job of the youngest member of the group to pound it into a fine powder, probably because it’s the hardest job in the 80-degree heat. I took a turn, but could not get the rhythm needed.
We met these young guys during a four-hour “The Real Dar es Salaam” tour arranged by my sister (who lives here and took it herself once by bicycle). The guide was a young employee of a group called Afriroots who undertake development projects in the poorest parts of the city, in addition to trying to introduce tourists to these otherwise hard to get to parts. They are hard to get to because they simply aren’t on a map and I’m not generally keen on getting myself completely lost. Maja seemed to know everyone in every market.
Once the coffee is ready it is served
Mon, Barbe and Sayid our driver
in a tiny espresso type cup. They carry a bucket of boiling hot water to clean the cups after each use. And there are no paper cups to throw away. They carry the kettle on an even smaller portable charcoal burner, and visit customers at bus stops and other places where crowds congregate.
The tour also allowed us to taste a traditional nan-like bread they cook in the streets for breakfast. The maker of this was quite African, but the community is influenced by centuries of Indian and Swahili Arab intermingling. The neighbourhoods we travelling through were at least 75% Muslim, which you could confirm by the small number of Christian crosses in the corner of any cemetery we passed.
Everyone we met was friendly and welcoming: karibu!
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