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Nairobi Good Coffee Guide

Of course good coffee is arguably very subjective. But when it comes to finding coffee shops serving good coffee in countries which grow coffee, it’s a lot more of a mission than many people would expect. In the meantime my travels have taken me to a good handful of countries where coffee is one of the main exports, and now currently being in Kenya for my second time, I think it’s time I share my findings with you. People who know me, know that I avoid Starbucks, and being in Kenya that means that I also do my best to avoid Java House. With both Starbucks (especially in the USA) and Java House in Kenya, it’s not that I think that they’re completely bad. It’s just that I like to avoid chains, and to be honest, the coffee they serve probably wouldn’t quite be to my liking either. On the other hand I do think both companies massively helped to grow coffee consumption, and it could be argued that the 3rd wave coffee movement wouldn’t be where it is at the moment without these massive coffee chain companies. Luckily in Nairobi, probably also partly due to the numerous expats from all over the world, it’s easy enough for me to avoid Java House, and my focus will be on these locations which make sure that my day gets off to a good start…

Connect Coffee Roasters

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My 1st (coffee) love in Kenya. Connect Coffee Roasters was the first place I truly enjoyed a coffee when I first came to Kenya in spring 2018. Of course I’m aware that people from different countries enjoy their coffee in different ways, and that Kenya despite growing some of the best coffee, is still more of a tea drinking country. It could be argued that Connect is a coffee shop, like many others in many other corners of the world, in New York, London, Paris or other cities which have nice specialty coffee shops, but for me there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. I don’t mind experimenting and trying things, but when it comes to coffee, I like to know that I can rely on the quality of the coffee beans as well as the skills of the baristas and if it’s in a nice surrounding then all the better. At Connect I get all of this, and so whenever I’m in Nairobi it will always be one of my first choices to get my caffeine fix.

A sign of the success Connect has been enjoying can clearly be seen with their expansions. At the original location on Riverside Drive they opened a lovely rooftop space earlier this year. It is not only home to where the roasting magic happens, but also a very chilled space to escape the city crowds and enjoy a great coffee or attend one of various events which take place there. A second location has also recently opened in Gigiri.

Location: Ground floor Riverfront building, Riverside drive road, Nairobi

Barista & Co

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Barista & Co is one of the newest coffee shops in Nairobi, having just opened a few months ago, in August 2018. Some Nairobi locals might already have been familiar with coffee from Barista & Co though, as they started by serving coffee at events back in 2016 . They are still doing this now, alongside having become one of the top addresses in Nairobi for anyone trying to get there specialty coffee fix. Unlike most coffee shops these days, Barista & Co opted for an old-fashioned lever machine, which along with the prominent 20kg Bühler roaster and the numerous brewing devices for filter coffee are the main eye catchers for anyone who visits the coffee shop. Apart from the well prepared coffee drinks, the friendliness and expertise of the staff when it comes to coffee, clearly stand out. Based on this, it’s no big surprise that many workers from the nearby offices decide to escape their desks and prefer sitting at one of the half dozen tables with their tasty coffee drink and relaxed bossa nova beats in the background.

Location: Keystone Park, Riverside Dr, Nairobi

Kesh Kesh

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For me Kesh Kesh Roastery is the final piece in the puzzle of my top 3 coffee shops in Nairobi, which also roast their own coffee. Ready to roast their own beans at any given time and exposing their customers to where the roasting magic happens, Kesh Kesh has their Bühler roaster right behind a glass window, right next to the bar. Design-wise I like Kesh Kesh for being quite different to many other coffee shops, highlighting their Eritrean roots, not only with it being run by Fenkil who’s from Eritrea, but also with the decor and serving, or better said celebrating coffee with a typical Eritrean coffee ceremony.

Well trained baristas and plenty of choices when it comes to food, including both pancakes and French toast, have made it another one of my favourite places to hang out or use it as my coffice for a few hours.

Location: Argwings Kodhek Rd, Timau plaza, Kilimani, Nairobi

Roasted Truth – IKIGAI

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When writing about Roasted Truth, it’s impossible to not also mention IKIGAI. IKIGAI is a co-working office space in Nairobi, better said two spaces as they have two locations. Both amazing spaces! While I’m here to focus on the coffee side of things, it’s quite difficult for me to hide how much I like IKIGAI. I’d probably even die happy, if that was the only place I worked from for the rest of my life. Yes, that’s how much I like it..

So… Roasted Truth is the coffee shop which is part of the IKIGAI co-working office spaces, the first in Westlands and now a second one in Lavington. Roasted Truth at IKIGAI Westlands is set in a valley, surrounded by trees, a lawn and operating out of a shipping container (yes, pretty hipster..) with an attached wooden deck terrace with plenty of tables and chairs.

Roasted Truth at IKIGAI Lavington is quite different. This was the first location I visited, so I had no real expectations, I’d only heard rumours that the coffee should be good. It’s based out of a fairly new business centre, nice enough but maybe a bit sterile.. However when I set foot into IKIGAI my perception changed completely and I can barely stop telling people about it, I really love the space. I love the concept, a lot of wood, a lot of plants, everything seems to have been thought through, has its reason for being.. It’s really probably the nicest designed co-working space I’ve been to, and thank god they didn’t cut corners by not focussing on the quality of coffee. At both locations the sight of a LaMarzoco machine was a good sign for what was to come. Roasted Truth currently get their beans from Connect Coffee Roasters (see above) and the baristas I’ve been served by are also very well trained. Even in the cases when the latte art might have been a bit abstract, the cappuccinos still had a great consistency and were served at a perfect drinking temperature, which unfortunately is not a given.

Location: Westlands: General Mathenge Drive, Nairobi & Lavington: 90 James Gichuru Road, Nairobi

Mwendis Specialty Brew

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Luckily I’m far away from being a fast blogger. Lucky, because if I’d been “in the zone” and posted this blog by late November as I’d initially hoped, I would have missed out on Nairobi’s latest addition to its growing number of specialty coffee locations. Mwendis Specialty Brew is the most different to any other on this list, just for the fact that anyone looking to get their coffee fix with an espresso based beverage will need to look elsewhere. Here there’s no LaMarzoco, LaCimbali or Nuova Simonelli for the baristas to hide behind. Instead when entering there’s a hot brew bar to the left, a cold brew bar to the right and for those who are hungry, a bagel counter in the corner. At the left bar one can choose from pour over (V60 or Chemex), press or syphon. On the right the cold choices are steeping, rapid cooling and water drip. To be totally honest, I’m not even sure if I’d been tempted to try a place like this out as recent as a year ago, but now although I still like my espresso drinks, I think there’s also a time and place for other coffee drinks. Mwendis is certainly making a strong case for me to change my coffee drinking habits a bit, not only by offering so many different options, but also with the design of the location. It’s all made and designed locally, predominantly using wood and stone and huge glass windows at the front and one of the sides.

Talking to the owner, who’s a farmer, with his own organic coffee farm in Meru, it was very interesting to hear his vision. No intentions to have multiple locations or export his coffee. He just wants to offer his coffee to Nairobi.  Hopefully this will be another step, to get coffee in Kenya nearer to be appreciated the way I think it should be. Considering how well Kenyan coffee is known around the world, I really don’t think it gets the recognition it deserves in Kenya itself.

Location: Lenana Road, Kilimani, Nairobi

Tin Roof Cafe

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Out in Karen, Tin Roof Cafe may be slightly out of the way for some people for their daily caffeine fix, whilst in Nairobi. For those living, staying or visiting the giraffes in Karen, Tin Roof Cafe is definitely worth a visit, not just for the coffee but also for its surroundings. The Tin Roof Cafe is part of The Souk, which compared to some of Nairobi’s numerous malls, is more of an understated retail space in a natural green setting with a lawn, many trees, bushes, flowers and birds for those interested in bird watching. Apart from the Cafe, a few smaller stores, an art gallery and a tattoo shop are also part of the space.

The café’s lovely outdoor dining area, includes both a covered terrace as well as wooden picnic tables by the lawn.

Of course, for me the coffee was of utmost importance, which I had along with some pancakes for breakfast. Although the cappuccino I had wasn’t quite in the same league as some of the other coffee shops mentioned above, it was still enjoyable. I would be more than happy to return to Tin Roof Cafe, even if I have to admit that it might be a bit more for the lovely relaxed surroundings than the coffee itself.

Location: Dagoretti Road, The Souk, Karen

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6 ways to keep your COFFEE COOL this summer

According to some, like Donald T., of course there’s no global warming, but with temperatures soaring, fires occurring, heat records being broken and people all over looking at ways to keep their cool, here are 6 ways to keep your COFFEE COOL this summer – and recommendations on where to get your cool caffeine fix in my current home town Zurich. If it’s not just summer coffee options you’re after in Zurich, then you can also of course check this post.

I’m not sure how it is for you, but when it’s hot in summer I often find myself drinking less flat whites, cortados, cappuccinos and espressos. On the one hand I still feel myself craving coffee, but on the other hand when it’s hot and sweaty I don’t find the idea of drinking a hot beverage quite that enticing. So, with summer temperatures currently a bit milder, I thought I’d come up with a list of drinks for those of us who don’t want to cut down on their caffeine intake when temperatures go back up and over the 30°C mark.

  • Freddo Cappuccino aka Iced Cappuccino

In Greece, where I discovered my love for this drink, and which is also where it’s consumed more than anywhere else, when ordering it, you are asked if you’d like it sweet, semi-sweet or unsweetened. A classic Freddo Cappuccino is basically an espresso poured over ice cubes and then topped up with some cold frothed milk. The creamy rich texture of the milk is created by using a shaker, which unfortunately many coffee shops outside of Greece don’t usually have.

ViCafe – isn’t only known for arguably being the most popular place in town to grab a coffee on the go, but it’s also one of my favourites to get an Iced Cappuccino.

  • Freddo Espresso

Freddo Espresso

Freddo Espresso

A typical Freddo Espresso consists of a double shot of espresso (usually about 60 – 70 ml). Depending on how much foam is desired, the espresso is mixed with 4 ice cubes in a shaker for 10 – 20 seconds. Then the liquid is strained into a glass with ice cubes. Often when ordered the customer is asked if the drink should be sweet, semi-sweet or unsweetened.

Ynos – a Greek food/drink location, minutes from Zurich’s main station also serves great quality coffee. Especially for people who are familiar with the Greek style Freddo Espresso and Cappuccino drinks won’t be disappointed!

  • Iced Chai Latte

Iced Chai Latte

Iced Chai Latte – Bros Beans & Beats

Of course, I realise that this isn’t a coffee-based drink, but it is widely served in coffee shops. And despite not really being a tea drinker, this summer I’ve really enjoyed this drink. Iced chai latte is basically cooled chai (black tea infused clove, cinnamon and other warming spices) poured over ice cubes and topped up with milk.

Bros Beans & Beats – still one of my absolute favourite locations in Zurich, serves a very nice Iced Chai Latte, of course along with their other great coffee drinks.

  • Cold Brew

Cold Brew

Cold Brew

It’s been popular now for a while, but its popularity seems to be growing even further, with even supermarkets jumping on the bandwagon and stocking bottles of cold brew.

This cold coffee drink is made by steeping ground coffee in water at room temperature for over 12 hours, before the grounds are filtered out. It is then cooled in the fridge, and can be drunk in many different ways, with ice cubes, ice cream or tonic.

In the meantime, cold brew is basically everywhere, so there’s no real need to emphasize any places. Two of the first places I noticed highlighting their cold brew offering in Zurich were the Milchbar and Henrici.

  • Affogato

Affogato

Affogato – Gelati Tellhof

For me, a good affogato is like a ticket to heaven. What could be better than a tasty combination of two of the loves of my life, coffee and gelato. For those who don’t know it, a traditional affogato is a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over the top of it. The warmth of the coffee melting the ice cream, creating a soothing and comforting mix of yummy. If one goes to a gelateria for an affogato, you will have the luxury of having numerous flavours to choose instead of the classic vanilla. My favourite flavour for affogato is stracciatella, but many other milk-based flavours can also be quite tempting, such as pistachio, hazelnut or chocolate.

Gelati Tellhof – my go-to-place in Zurich when it comes to enjoying an affogato to the max. Not only is the gelateria itself a great escape from the nearby hustle and bustle of Langstrasse, but the affogato is also always served with a smile and style on a lovely little tray. Apart from coming for the gelato on offer, with coffee beans from local roaster Stoll Kaffee, it’s also certainly not the worst place to go and relax with a nice coffee.

  • Coffee Gelato

Gelato

Gelato – Rosso Arancio

In a way this is the simplest. Coffee gelato or if need be coffee ice cream, and yes, there is a difference. If you want to know the difference between gelato and ice cream, read one of my older posts. Although it’s the simplest to explain, it’s certainly not that simple to get right. Luckily there are some great gelaterias around which do a great job, and luckily not only in Italy!

Rosso Arancio Gelato Italiano – my favourite place in town when it comes to gelato. Many flavours to choose from, with the freshest, usually locally sourced ingredients. Always some new different flavours to give a try and the coffee gelato certainly comes as close as possible, for gelato to taste like you’re drinking a freshly brewed cup of coffee!

Any drinks missing? Or any advice on other places to visit in and around Zurich, or even for my upcoming trip to NYC and California? Let me know..

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Zurich coffee shops – episode 1

After having started writing this list way too long ago, lucky enough a couple new places opened up lately in my current home town Zurich, giving me the needed push to finally finalise this first episode..

Like many cities, Zurich has numerous places to drink coffee. Some better than others and some certainly nicer than others too. I don’t plan to list them all, nor do I plan to rank them either. These are just the first ten coffee places in Zurich I’d like to mention. They might have caught my attention for different reasons, the design or atmosphere, or the friendliness (or attractiveness :)) of the staff, but the thing they all have in common, is that I can count on getting a decent cup of coffee at these places. Compared to cities like London, New York, Cape Town, Paris, Barcelona or Athens I believe that Zurich lacks coffee shops (and food and drink venues in general) which are a bit different or quirky, and have a noticeable concept in place. Therefore I will try to start with ones which for me, stand out a bit more, especially if they are a combination of some kind of shop and coffee shop.

Coffee Shack

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