The cry for kahawa

Were it not for the doubtful hygiene of the cups I’d drink it all the time! Photo: Daniel Hayduk

Walking the streets in every part of town or even on the beach there is a guy balancing a heavy kettle full of boiling hot liquid.

One hand holds the kettle, complete with built-in coal stove, and the other holds a tray of kashata high in the air, like a waiter.

Kashata, a traditional Swahili sweet with peanuts  that is a treat for the kids or a cheap bite on the road and most importantly, goes perfectly with a strong cup of black coffee.

Wherever this man goes, the cry for kahawa! can be heard.

Already weighed down with the kahawa kettle and the kashata, there is also a small bucket with water and coffee cups dangling from the same arm in which he holds the tray.

Amazingly he will walk many miles looking for customers in a speed not often seen here.

Imagine, carrying all of that to walk for hours over mostly rough roads and tracks!

As soon as customers are located he will carefully lower his loads, rinse his cups and pour out the coffee.

While his customers enjoy he waits at a respectful distance.

Often a second or third cup are ordered, maybe with a sweet bite from under the plastic wrap.

When all is done, he adjusts kettle and bucket, covers up his tray and continues his path.

There are some regular kahawa places where men gather to drink coffee: in front of our local butcher I often see them sitting on a low wall in the shade while Bwana Kahawa provides.

Sometimes the ‘knife grinder’ joins the gathering — but that’s for another story.

Apparently the custom has come from Arab traditions and was introduced here by a businessman with foresight; now Kahawa sellers can be seen all around town.

Ambitious young guys from the village use it to start life in the big city.

The basics, a coffee kettle plus coal stove, must be bought directly in Kariakoo or can be leased for a flat weekly fee — additional earnings are then for the coffee-seller.

It is hard work and income is minimal: for one cup of kahawa he charges 100 TSH and for a piece of kashata 200 TSH.

Were it not for the doubtful hygiene of the cups I’d drink it all the time!

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About the Author

Josie van den Hoek

Josie first visited Dar es Salaam in 2000 and is still here. She writes about encounters on her daily walks and Tanzanian life.