Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Meet Yousef, who makes great coffee for everyone passing through his colorful, predominately Muslim neighborhood of Nyamirambo, breaking every rule dictated by Starbucks:

No signage, no branding. You must know which dark, narrow alley to walk down, and which curtained (doorless) doorway to walk through to enter the very “close quarters” of Yousef’s 18-person family of wife, sons, daughters and daughters-in-law, grandchildren, etc. But everybody knows.

No whole bean coffee, freshly ground just minutes ago. No, Yousef buys his coffee already roasted and ground.

But then he roasts it more. Indeed, he explains that he purposely burns it, something that his Starbucks counterparts go to extraordinary efforts to avoid. He puts the coffee in a large pan, not Cuisinart copper, but rather the cheapest aluminum pan from China, and he re-roasts it, without water,… not over a perfectly temperature controlled Thermidor burner, but rather fanned charcoals, until the coffee is appropriately burned.

Then he boils the coffee (Howard Schultz would be horrified) and makes what I can describe only as dark, thin mud.

Then he serves it in small Turkish cups, each of which is quite wonderfully chipped, cracked, and stained, and which is lifted from a community rinse bowl.

The coffee is quite inexpensive, $0.05 a cup,… as my grandfathers would insist is exactly as it should be. It is delicious, and we regular patrons will commonly enjoy 2, or 3 or 4 cups, perhaps get wild and crazy and drop $.25. The conversation is rich and stimulating (as well as quite “stimulated”). There is a great sense of community and fellowship, where differences make no difference,… and diversity is celebrated as a blessing.

This is Isaac, literally the son of Abraham (no kidding), who I met while drinking coffee. He is an Historian who witnessed and narrowly survived the Genocide,... thus a man who lived history and lived to tell about it. It appears that he wears his pain on his face, but in fact, Isaac is very joyful and engaging,... and fascinating.