#75 The Expat Coffee Shop
After a long period in the field, the Expat Aid Worker looks forward to getting back to the capital city with normally their first stop being (well, the one they profess to all of their colleagues as being) the Expat Coffee Shop.
Expat Coffee Shops are everywhere, and African capital cities are no exception.
Why depend on friends returning from the States or Europe to bring you back real, ground coffee from Africa? Why invest in your own Bodum French Press when you can chill at the Expat Coffee Shop instead? It’s a guilt free Starbucks where you can take a temporary reprieve from the Nescafe and from Africa in general and feel like you are in, say, London or San Francisco again. You can get a “real cup of coffee” while socializing with other earnest young mzungus dedicated to helping the host nation.
Run by former EAWs who could not leave the natural beauty of whatever country they are in or by hip young local businesspeople, the Expat Coffee Shop is to EAWs what sex-worker-filled, premier-league football-match-on-the-telly pubs are to corporate expats.
The Expat Coffee Shop lives its EAW-Friendly cred by only displaying local art, playing music by Amadou and Mariam, Freshly Ground as well as other EAW approved world music acts, all while serving cups of coffee that cost 5 times the local day wage. Combinations of coffee and cakes coupled with Chinese or Ghanaian food all in the same place make for great one-upping stories back home. Fabric-covered leopard skin trays or similar bizarre-seeming-to-the-EAW décor make for great Facebook photos.
Guilt over the high cost of the brew is offset of course by the pledge on the menu and hanging on the wall that the Expat Coffee Shop only uses “Fair Trade Beans harvested by HIV+ albino child soldier veteran amputees at a women’s run collective on environmentally reclaimed and recently de-mined land.” Furthermore EAWs drink their overpriced beverages knowing that 5% of their purchase is going to “HIV Gender Based Male Circumcision and Partner Empowerment Programs” or whatever local charity the shop is sponsoring that week.
What the EAW may not know is that their expensive coffee beans, produced and processed in Kenya or Malawi or Ethiopia, are pretty much impossible for the coffee shop to purchase in country. It’s most likely been grown and processed in whichever African country, shipped to Europe or America, and then shipped back for the Expat’s drinking pleasure.
The shop has one of the best, sometimes only, wi-fi connections in the country, so it allows for a convenient place to write the all-important site visit report or Skype with the Home Office to bring them up to speed on the latest disease eradication and education program. The Expat Coffee shop can also make for some embarrassing moments when meeting with host nation counterparts — they may shuffle uncomfortably at seeing that a cup of coffee costs the same as dinner for 6 at a local restaurant, until the EAW tells the server to “put the coffee on my conta, cuenta, facture” or whatever the local word for the bill is.
Even though thanks to European influence the country the EAW is in may have an established cafe or patisserie scene serving potent espressos and 20 different blends of coffee with some of the freshest and flakiest pastries around for less than a dollar, the appeal of a big cup of coffee and a bagel for $10 will pull the EAW in every time. And seriously, it’s so totally worth it given the hardships the EAW experiences outside of this small haven of joy and respite.