3. Mwanza Coffee

Allison and Derek are snickering at me. They say, “Only Will would ask to use an espresso machine in Africa.” I successfully found the best coffee shop in Mwanza. Instant coffee is 4000 Tanzanian shillings, which is about $2.50—the highest price in town. I spied an ancient La Pavoni, 3-group espresso machine hidden behind a mini-fridge on the bar. After receiving my first round of instant coffee, I pointed to the machine and asked for espresso. The barista, to use the term loosely, began to show me how he makes cappuccinos. First, he fills the portafilter with pre-ground coffee, which looks to be ground for French presses. This answered the question that had been bothering me the entire time: where was the grinder? He quickly answered my next question too: where was the tamp? Ahh, of course, the bottom of the water glasses is the perfect size to tamp the grounds—very resourceful. Twisting the portafilter into place, he then flipped the switch and water jetted through for about five seconds until four ounces of espresso was in the mug. I’ll leave the milk steaming to your imagination with the espresso experience as the context. Of course, I needed to use the machine just to say I used an espresso machine in east Africa, with French press size preground coffee, the bottom of a glass for a tamp, and raw milk from who knows where. I did not pour latte art and I believe my Tanzanian brothers found my methods comical.

And this is the summation of the coffee scene in Mwanza. Coffee exists at every little shop and restaurant, but as instant coffee. Africafé is the brand served everywhere. Tanzanians drink plenty of coffee, as do the expats and missionaries, but here it is not an item considered enjoyable. In fact, I had the incredible opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Mwanza, who was a brilliant man, but I don’t believe he was convinced that I could make coffee a delicious experience. However, café culture already exists in Mwanza. Our host, Malaki, a successful Tanzanian and eternal optimist, described how his people loved places where they could be together in fellowship and where community was nurtured. They also appreciated high quality, specialization, and excellent service.

Our vision and goals for the coffee company are still in limbo, but so far the three of us still feel strongly about our initial plan, which I believe many our wondering what that was. We believe the world of specialty coffee creates such a positive environment in the United States and we would like to bring that community to origin countries. In the future, we would like to partner with organizations, such as Mavuno Village, to employ at-risk graduates of orphanage programs. Having a job is crucial and difficult to find without a family. We hope to give our employees customer service and business skills and possibly, additional education that will equip them for the rest of their lives. These are just ideas and dreams, but I believe it takes just as much energy to dream small as it does to dream big.

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