How Ugandans love of the good life is driving café culture
Endiro coffee is easy to miss. Although the tiny café is right at the entrance to the Kisementi shopping and entertainment area of Kampala City's Kololo suburb, it is hidden in thick shrubbery. Once inside, rustic wood and metal dining chairs and tables, metal-framed wall décor and black and white photos complete the café's relaxing laidback feel. Coffee beans splashed on some tables as décor scream the café's signature offering, writes Nicole Namubiru.
Waiters walk about, welcoming, taking orders, and smiling. The occasional growl of the coffee bean grinder is noticeable but the conversation is toned down as the clientele, which includes residents of this high end suburb and staff of the various corporate organisations in the neighbourhood, sip their coffees, teas, smoothies, and juices as they nibble on salad platters, meaty steaks and burgers, or toast.
Sula Matovu, a young businessman is a regular. He says he loves to spend his evenings either at Endiro, the Cafesserie in the adjacent Acacia Mall, or Holy Crepe in Kololo.
"I love cafés because they are really chilled down environments," he says, "If I want a calm place to spend an evening in the city and do a little bit of work or hold a meeting, I opt for a café."
"The coffee in cafes is most times better than in restaurants," he adds," I think it is so because it is their specialty."
John Fusco would love to hear that. He is the general manager of Café Javas.
"It is unfortunate that though Uganda has the best coffee, most people have not taken advantage of it," says Fusco, who has roots in Canada, and says he has travelled vastly and tried different coffees around the world.
He says although the café culture is catching on in Uganda, there remains a lot of room for improvement. Fusco says Ugandans need to be educated more about what a gem their coffee is and thinks three things will do the trick, namely; urbanisation, education, and exposure.
"Most people that have travelled vastly appreciate good coffee. And when they get back home and realise that Ugandan coffee tastes better than most in the world, they are hooked."
He says it is no wonder that Ugandan coffee is highly demanded on the world market. "Ugandan coffee is highly appreciated whether for making lattés, cappuccinos, espressos, name it. I still think Ugandan coffee will make the best of the beverage," he says.
Although Uganda is the second biggest exporter of coffee in Africa after Ethiopia, only 3% of produced coffee is consumed locally. Uganda exports 150,000 metric tons after Ethiopia which exports 860,000 metric tons of coffee.
Patrick Chandia, the Outlet Supervisor at GoodAfrican coffee, has seen the boom in café culture.
"People today are more exposed to the western culture and one of its attributes is the café culture," he says, "They love a good coffee." He recalls a time when Ugandan never really cared about having tea or cocktails in a restaurant.
"They always thought if they could make themselves a cup of coffee at home, why then buy it in a restaurant," he says, "But with the increasing exposure to different cultures and lifestyles, people can now differentiate between a good cup of coffee and an ordinary one."
He says once one has tasted a good one, they will want another one any day.
He says one does not have to be a coffee devotee to have interest. To him, the quality of the coffee and the service always draw people back to a café.
Chandia says he has seen their clientele increase over time.
And it is not just GoodAfrican Coffee that is seeing more customers; the sprouting of new cafes all over the city is an indication that business could be good across the spectrum. Many people seem to love a quick bite and coffee to wake up to in the morning or relax over on an afternoon or evening.
Kampala Capital City Authority's licensing office has registered about 3,140 restaurants in the central division of Kampala only in the last quarter. More have opened up in the other divisions of the city. Most of these serve quick meals and offer patrons easy hangout venues. Many serve coffee.
Chandia also believes it is the ambience that draws many people to hang out at cafes. He says he has noticed that people love to sit at a place with a good environment or space. Some work at their laptops as they sip their drink, while others use café's as alternatives to an office.
Café Javas' Fusco says when one walks into a café; they will be met with an aroma of fresh coffee, freshly baked bread, and spiced foods and snacks.
"The aroma would make anyone crave a quick bite or coffee," he says. Chandia agrees: "Ugandans love the good life," he says.