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Cultural Spotlight


The African continent not only gave birth to the human species, it’s also the place where coffee originated. Without Africa, we wouldn’t exist; without coffee, many of us would go through the day having a harder time existing. Add to this the fact that Africa is now home to some of the world’s largest tea-producing countries, and its importance in supporting café culture around the world becomes even more apparent.

While cafés are not as prevalent in Africa as they are in Europe or the U.S., the act of taking a few minutes out of a busy day to recharge and enjoy a steaming brew is as important in Africa as it is everywhere else in the world. Legend has it that coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia by a goatherd named Kaldi. In Ethiopia, an elaborate coffee ceremony is one of the defining aspects of local culture. Green coffee beans are roasted over an open flame, then ground with a mortar and pestle and boiled in a special pot called a jebena. The resulting infusion is poured into small cups and served with a side of popcorn. In Senegal, workers begin their day with café touba, a filtered coffee blended with pepper powder and cloves. People in South Africa love to add the creamy liqueur Amarula to their after-dinner coffee.

If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, there’s always…well…tea! Tea is even more popular in Africa than coffee, and Kenya is one of the world’s top tea producers. In Kenya, no day is complete without a hot chai masala, an Indian influenced blend of black tea, spices and milk that reflects East Africa’s historical role in the global spice trade. The South African rooibos (“red bush” in Afrikaans) is the source of an herbal tea that is known throughout the world thanks to its rich flavor and ruby color. Wherever you travel in North Africa, any social gathering will include a glass of strong, sweet mint tea.

Walk into any café around the world and the influence of Africa is there, be it the Kenya AA coffee being ground up for high-end lattes or the Tanzanian luponde teas that are ubiquitous offerings.