While brainstorming on the subject of this assignment, Marly and me discussed the fact
that coffee is one of the oldest and most common African products around us. It is a true
African product that has integrated into our lives, yet we know little about it. This is
curious: a product that we see and use everyday and everywhere, but of what we don’t
seem to be interested in its origins. Not the least strange because we, apparently, don’t
know and care about what we take in, but also strange because it is a product known for
its very questionable production process.
A visit to Perron Coffee, the Hague, learns that many people feel the same way:
during the time I sat here, not one person asked where the coffee beans come from and
on the website it is nowhere to be found. Either they don’t want us to know or they want
us to ask about it specifically. People use this space mostly for working, something based
on the fact that nearly every table has a laptop on it. Most of the visitors are between
twenty and thirty years old. It is also remarkable that many of the tables are taken by a
single person only. Very few people are sitting with someone else. This is very “Corona-
proof”, but also quite unusual for a café. Besides coffee people here order all kinds of
drinks and food to fuel their workday. The atmosphere was busy and bubbly.
Moving on to Single Estate Coffee Roasters, also in the Hague, you immediately
find a different approach of the product of coffee. When you order a coffee, the waitress
asks whether you want an African or a South American bean. She describes the taste and
the difference of the production process. She seems very knowledgeable and takes all
the time to explain and display the product. The people here are sitting in small groups
or pairs. There is a mother with two children. The age of the costumers differs from four
or five years old to seventy-something. They all seem interested in the waitress’
storytelling of the coffee products, but none of the visitors I saw deliberately asked for
this information on the coffee.
Single Estate Coffee Roasters serves coffee from different African countries such
as Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. When there, I drank the one from Ethiopia, which,
according to the waitress, is their bestselling coffee bean. When the cappuccino came to
the table, the foam was perfect and the smell of the coffee really spoke to me, it made me
think of when I was little and my grandma would make coffee in her tiny kitchen. Other
visitors seemed to have their own memories and got cozy with their drinks, even though
it was 23 degrees Celsius outside. The acoustic background music and the soft colors of
décor melted into this quite moment of peace, that everyone shared in their own way
and time. The atmosphere was mellow.
Even though people are unaware of where their favorite fuel comes from, it does
not mean that they do not care completely. They seemed interested in the story behind
the beans, but did not enquire on their own initiative. It would also be a
misunderstanding that they do not appreciate the coffee, they clearly do, the origins of
the bean just do not seem to matter that much in the end. Quite curious considering the
fact that we become more and more aware of what we eat, wear and spill, but
apparently this does not include our day-to-day (lifesaving) fuel.