The South African Series

Shouts Out to Cameroonian Coffee. It Changed My Life

I was going to blog about the noises Black women hear when their mates speak, but a little bag of coffee got in my way.

As a Ghanaian, I didn’t grow up with coffee culture. As British subjects, the mark of sophistication was to start one’s day drinking tea, and so we have a tea culture. Do we grow tea in Ghana? No! We import it from India and China, but that’s not the point. Successful white colonialists drink tea, and therefore so do we. If we DO drink coffee, it comes in the form of that swill better known as instant Nescafe. If you are even a slight coffee connoisseur, it would not be a stretch to consider it a cup of some of the worst stuff you will ever choke down your throat.

As the Ghanaian palate expands and develops with travel, migration and interracial relationships, coffee is becoming a more integral part of our appetite. Food makes up a huge part of culture, and as our culture shifts to one that is more capitalist in its existence, the business of what to drink takes center stage. A guest of any importance who walks into an office will be greeted by the secretary with a series of questions which often include what said guest would like to drink.

“Would you like coffee, tea or water?” she/he may ask.

If the guest replies “coffee”, how cool would it be to follow up that request with “Ethiopian or Cameroonian coffee?”

Ahhh, but you see, the Ghanaian mentality would be to continue to import Nescafe because it is “French” or to get coffee from Colombia…because well, it’s Colombia. How many of us on the continent know that some of the best coffee in the world is grown right on African soil? I knew this in theory – because I consider myself a part time champion of made in Africa goods – but I didn’t have a chance to confirm it until today. And now that I have, I am SO mad at Chantal Biya, her husband, and the entire nation of Cameroon. African Unity is about sharing, and they have been keeping the good stuff from us for all these years!

In 2013, Marshall and I went on vacation to South Africa, and I wanted to buy myself a souvenir outside of the typical mask, painting or jewelry. While in Cape Town, we went to a wonderful restaurant called Moyo that also sells a myriad of items in the stalls that encompass its grounds which included CDs, some art and coffee. My coffee purchase was a last minute decision, as I only had a few Rand left in my pocket after a day spent shopping and eating. The merchant allowed me to smell some pre-ground beans from different parts of Africa, and the Cameroonian variety appealed to me the most. It was a sweet, earthy scent. It clung to my senses like a long lost cousin. Part of the coffee drinking experience is not just how it tastes, but the aroma as you sip from your mug as well. I gave the man my last R49 (about $5) and took my bag back to America where I vowed to only drink it on the “most special occasions”.

And for two years, it sat in the back of my freezer, completely forgotten. Why do we treat “special” things in this way? Like good dishes. Why do we only use our best dishes on special occasions? Isn’t every day you draw breath a special occasion? Anyway.

This morning, I found myself out of my usual brand of “American” coffee (which always comes ground). That’s when I remembered the small bag I had purchased from SA. I fished it out of the back of the freezer, assuming it was “ready to prepare”. I was so excited that I live tweeted the process of making myself a cup.

coffee1 coffee2 coffee3 coffee4 coffee6 coffee7 coffee8

It changed my life, you guys. I don’t think I can ever go back to regular, pre-ground coffee. Geographical limitations will not allow me to get coffee from Africa (and I refuse to give the exploitative Borg that is Starbucks $22 for a bag of Ethiopian, no matter how good their marketing is supposed to make me feel), so I will make do with what I can get a hold of. But for the rest of my people on the Continent: Please. Let us stop all this suffering, eh?

Let us commit to partake in the goodness that the land has yielded for us. Let’s share our resources with each other. Boko Haram is sharing war and plunder with Cameroon and may expand to the whole west African region…why should we expect evil to spread and not love, ESPECIALLY the love that sits at the bottom of a great cup of coffee? I have seen the light. We need a summit on intra-African trade. We need Moroccan argan oil to be on every beauticians shelf in Africa. We need Malian cotton to cover our African beds at night. We need Ethiopian spices to flavor our African dishes. We need to trade within Africa at a higher level, because this is some bull! I can’t believe I lived this long without ever tasting a cup of Cameroon coffee. Jesus be a commodities trader and importer!

Fix it, Lawd… fix this!