coffee chronicles

An update on my quest to find freshly brewed coffee in Dakar:

A while ago, Tantie (Mamie’s younger sister; real name Armand) recommended I try Presse Cafe, in the neighborhood of Plateau. After three caffeination-starved months in Dakar, the sight of their bean grinders and espresso machines felt like spotting a unicorn.

I now stop in to the cafe every time I’m downtown, but it’s too far to go for my daily fix. Fortunately, I recently discovered an even better place right in my own backyard.

A ten-minute walk from my house, through the dusty pastel streets of Amitié, an inconspicuous shop called Coumba Cafe does their own roasting and grinding and brews an uber-strong cup of espresso topped with a perfect layer of crema (a word I learned only during my recent coffee obsession).

The first time I drank one tiny shot of it, I had to down a liter of water and eat a banana to calm the coffee shakes. Tremors aside, it was heavenly to be so wide awake.

Now I’m a regular there. I love their decidedly non-cafe-like decor and that they’ve been around since the 80s.

For less than a dollar, I get my espresso fix from someone who knows my order without me saying a word. Apparently they make a delicious version of cafe touba that, unlike the kind sold on the street, actually wakes you up, but so far I have stuck to the espresso because I don’t really believe in a world in which cafe touba possesses powers of caffeination. Maybe one Saturday when I don’t have any work to do I’ll try it out.

On that note, I’m heading there now because my brain is still not fully functional and it’s after 12pm!

touring Senegal

baobabsSo I got back from my trip Saturday night and it felt a bit like a homecoming, which was nice. But then again it also felt like exactly the opposite, which is part of what prompted the waterworks.

I am getting ahead of myself. The trip: I was hired by a non-profit that funds development work in Senegal (and other countries) to make videos about some of their projects. Since I traveled as part of a donor visit whose itinerary contained not only site visits but also lots of tourist stops, I got to enjoy plenty of off-the-clock sightseeing during the week we spent on the road. I also got to enjoy the company of the donors, who were a really fun and interesting group.


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Nuts for Nespresso

nescafe_vendors.jpgIt’s not that my disdain for Nescafé comes from being a coffee snob. It’s more that it just doesn’t work. As I’ve noted before, I’m super sensitive to caffeine, but I can drink seven cups of Nescafé and still feel no more awake than the second after my alarm clock goes off.

But there are really no other coffee options here, apart from a drink called Café Touba, which is sold in mini plastic cups at all the road-side kiosks (like the ones in the photo above). The coffee is ground with peppery spices and mixed with lots of sugar. I tried it. It tasted okay – though it smelled uncomfortably like Robotussin – but it had absolutely no effect on my level of alertness.


On my first Saturday here, during my stroll along the Corniche, I stopped in at a fancy hotel to see if they might have honest-to-goodness coffee. My desperation for caffeine was such that I was overjoyed to find them serving Nespresso. It tasted frothy and delicious, and more importantly, I spent the rest of the day properly wired for the first time in a week.


Since then I’ve found a pan-African / Caribbean restaurant a couple blocks from my house that also serves Nespresso, and I’ve been going every day for my daily fix. I thought the problem was solved… Until I went to the restaurant this morning only to find it closed on Saturdays until later in the evening. I am literally beside myself in my longing for a Nespresso right now. I know this is utterly ridiculous in quite a number of ways. And yet the fact remains that I about to lose it.