Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hey Hey It's Nescafe...

One of the visual trademarks of this city that struck us when we first arrived and to this day still does - dots every street and street corner immagineable.  It's the Nescafe Cart. It shows the face of entrepreneurship in the most delightful way.

The person sets up his cart and in some cases 'claims a spot' on the street - if it's a good spot he may find himself there all day - if not he can move about the neighborhood very easily to a new location. If the business doesn't come to you then go find the business!  Like anything there may be better corners than others so I'm not sure how it works in terms of claiming your territory.  And in the spirit of diversification some carts will sell phone card credits or Senegalese souvenirs.

While I don't understand the popularity of it at all - in terms of taste - it is instant coffee we're talking about here with  an over abundance of sugar relative to the size of this very small plastic cup that it comes in.  There doesn't appear to be any instant coffee competition (hint hint Starbucks Via) - unless you go into a cafe to sit down  for something brewed and even cafes are few and far between in which you will get a truer cup of coffee or espresso. Of course that all depends on what your sense of 'true' is, but what can I say it's still not Peets!
For one of these little beauties you get 'a show' that goes with it!  The man - as I've seen no woman cart pushers - will toss in 2 teaspoons of the instant coffee, 3-4 spoons of the sugar, add the hot water and then do this really beautiful pour between cups a few times creating a slight foam at the top.

This guy showed me actually that he was trying to be more efficient. He already had the scoops of coffee and sugar all prepped in the cup and each cup was just nestled in the other ready to go.  Now this guy at the end of our street uses two methods - the traditional pour and a little electric stirrer.  I ask him why? and he said whatever the customer wants. 

So I tell him what I want. I want a video of him making my coffee. And he obliges.

He has an excellent spot. He's on the corner of Felix Faure and Lamine Gueye. It's prime real estate for sure.
While no cart appears to be the same. There is one thing that is very common and it troubles me to no end.

It's where most of the plastic cups go after the quick drink if the cart owner does not supply a garbage bag to throw it in. It is the innate behavior of the culture to just throw it on the ground. Sad actually.

Here's what I see around me all the time. It does eventually get swept up manually.

Since this post is about coffee I'll try to stay on topic but I have many thoughts about what the possibilities could be for this country for better street sanitation.  There are solutions but of course it requires money,  government intervention for new ways to handle the garbage management  and change in attitude by the people. Do you remember the campaign of  "Keep America Beautiful" that started in the 70's - we've come along way in the US  and I wish the most for this country on that front!

Back to caffeine!! Another type of coffee sold on the streets is Cafe Touba and it's origins are as follows - from  the website Indigenous Coffees -  This blend is deeply rooted in Sufi tradition and emulates the unique flavor of the Mourides Brotherhood from the Holy City of Touba, Senegal. Touba was founded under a great tree by their spiritual leader, Cheikh Amadou Bamba. Touba is their word for bliss and is also the name of the Tree of Paradise. Amadou Bamba introduced the mixture of coffee, pepper (djar), and clove to his followers in Touba as a daily medicinal remedy and to aid devotees in staying awake during the many prayer recitations. Instead of rolling carts you may see a stand like this. Or people carrying large silver urns around. The coffee is already made and ready to go. It's taken 8 months but I've come around on this coffee brewing it at home with it's uniquely spicy biting taste.

When I think about the coffee to go experience here and I think about it back in Berkeley,  Senegalese follow the "keep it simple"  approach but back in the states there is this to consider
  • hot or iced
  • short, tall, grande or venti
  • non fat, 1%, 2%, whole or soy
  • plain, espresso, latte, or cappuccino
  • chocolate, vanilla  or caramel
And I know I've probably left out a few choices. As I see how life is here - I'm
beginning to appreciate at times where there are not that many choices. It just cuts down on the mental gymnastics of having to make a decision at times.

Since I did mention "ice" above you might be wondering why it would be hard to find an iced drink in this city - well it takes a freezer and electricity which if in a cafe -  the cost to run the freezer would be prohibitive and when the electricity is cut for hours - bye bye ice. Not a practical nor a price preforming drink. With the heat starting to climb here though - I have to say an iced coffee about now would be oh so tasty!  I probably should not have taken this blog post down that path.

I will admit we've had the luxury of some friends coming over to supply us with a 1 lb bag of ground beans at a time. But it doesn't last long.  There are other ground roasted beans available here but nothing beets Peets - imho. And since that is the case we thought we'd do a little market research - lets let our local security guys and friends on Rue Jules Ferry try for themselves. Brewed at the apartment, then poured in a demi-tasse for a small taste. We went down the street to all the guards. They insisted on adding alot of sugar (the way they like it with their Nescafe) and Guy's reaction to Peets  "C'est dur". Translates to it's hard/strong! - YEAH just the way we like it!

If you really want to kill two birds with one stone you go for the shoe shine too! Oh yeah and I did mention there is one shoe shine guy on every corner too!  No rolling carts but just as mobile - small bag, a foot stand, kiwi shoe polish and a rag ;+}


Excerpt from a book - Training for Work in the Informal Micro-Enterprise Sector: Fresh Evidence from Sub-Sahara Africa - written in 2006

1 comment:

  1. Two questions: How much does a cup of coffee cost? Do you know the proportion of people who own their carts vs those that rent them?