Monday, October 20, 2014

On the Hunt for 'Real' Coffee from Beitbridge to Harare

Golden Spiderweb FungaiFoto | ZIMBOJAM.COM
Below is a piece I recently published on Zimbo Jam about a road trip sans filter coffee! Here's a link to the original article:
I’ve been called a “coffee snob.” And I’ll be the first to admit I have a caffeine dependency. No, addiction! 

I love my morning cuppa Joe, as they say in the USA, and can be pretty miserable if I don’t have it.
Now, when I say coffee, I don’t mean Nescafe or Ricoffy. I mean coffee coffee. Real coffee – filter, espresso, cappuccino. Coffee made with real beans. Anything else simply doesn’t cut it.
In Zimbabwe, a coffee-producing nation it is fair to assume that it should be relatively easy to get a cup of “coffee coffee” pretty much anywhere.

Apparently not.

Some weeks ago, a dear friend and I were driving back to Harare from Johannesburg and ended up spending the night at the Lion and Elephant Motel in Bubi River, following some typical road-trip adventures involving bald tyres and a pretty horrendous Beitbridge border crossing. We left Bubi River before Lion and Elephant had started serving breakfast. Our goal was to have coffee and breakfast in Masvingo. 
First stop: The Blue Bird Café, 50 Robertson St, Masvingo

From a quick Google search for ‘breakfast in Masvingo’ The Blue Bird Café sounded like the perfect Sunday brunch spot and has some lovely online reviews suggesting a wonderful menu, and, more importantly, great coffee.

Alas, it was closed on Sundays. Looks like a great place to visit next time we pass through Masvingo. Not on a Sunday. 
Second stop: The Chevron Hotel, Simon Mazorodze Ave, Masvingo

We were skeptical about the Chevron’s breakfast before entering the building. The skepticism grew as we walked through dark passages to the dining area. Wait staff seemed surprised to have customers, with only one couple sitting in the dining room. The breakfasts were pretty overpriced, with a full breakfast at $18; a Continental at $15. But what sealed the deal and sent us scurrying back to the car? They only had Ricoffy. Unacceptable! 
Third stop: Golden Spiderweb, somewhere between Masvingo and Chivhu

To be honest, while we’d heard good things about the Golden Spiderweb, we were creeped out as we approached the café. It was completely deserted and looked like a relic from another era. A Rhodesian era, to be specific. Everything inside was set for a banquet; only no people or food. Not even any wait staff. After wandering around for some time we managed to locate someone at the back. And yes. There was no ‘real’ coffee. We signed the visitors’ book though! 
Fourth stop: Denise’s Kitchen, also somewhere between Masvingo and Chivhu
We’ve been here before, and enjoyed it very much. And Denise’s Kitchen probably looked the most promising of all the places thus far. There were people sitting under umbrellas at their outdoor tables. Sipping hot drinks. The desire and hope for coffee was strong. Even stronger when we saw their extensive menu. Starting to salivate, we were again disappointed. No coffee in the kitchen. Ricoffy? 
No, thank you!  
By this time a caffeine headache was starting to throb and the jokes about finding a cup of coffee were starting to wane into the realm of sad, mad or desperate.  
Fifth stop: Vic’s Tavern, Chivhu

Again, this is somewhere where, in the past, we have enjoyed a nice cup of filter coffee. Their menu and customer service may be severely limited, but several months ago, en route to the Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo, we stopped here for coffee and Coca-Cola in their semi-outdoor verandah. Alas, this time around, nothing was available. Once we had finally found someone to serve us, we were offered Tanganda tea or soft drinks. Not what we’re looking for, sorry!  
Sixth stop: Chicken Inn, Chivhu

In a last ditch effort, before we succumbed to the caffeine-deprived fog that accompanied the rest of the drive to Harare, we stopped into Chivhu’s Chicken Inn. Amazingly, they boasted a Nescafe machine, which at this point would’ve been welcome. Alas, no ZESA. Therefore, no coffee. 
At this point, we gave up and finally got our delicious cup of coffee in the comfort of our own home in Harare. Ironically, even that coffee wasn’t Zimbabwean – the grinds were a gift from a friend who’d recently visited Jamaica. Beitbridge to Harare, a failed hunt for a real cup of coffee.

- Harare Coffee Lover


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