Saturday 22 October 2011

The Macchiato Diaries

So, for those who may not know I’ve been in Ethiopia for more than a week now on an (what exactly can I call it?) assignment/fact-finding mission/humanitarian junket. The basics: a few weeks ago I was offered a trip here by a Canadian charitable organization to see and hear the issues facing the Afar people, an indigenous group of nomadic Ethiopians who have existed in the Horn of Africa for more than 2,000 years.

So, last Friday I flew with a group of Canadians (which included two Afar-Canadians) to Addis Ababa and then drove 10 hours north to a remote Afar town called Samara. Lots of eye-opening surprises there like, who knew BlackBerry reached all the way out here? Or that a small truck stop called the Erta Ale –café could make such a good espresso?

Anyways, I’m currently back in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s sweaty, sweet capital city, and I can report that the coffee obsession continues. I’ve never consumed so much: it’s intoxicating and ever-present. Since the city is predominantly Muslim (or Orthodox Christian) you don’t meet over alcohol. Instead, coffee is the go-to ritual. Which makes sense, since it was discovered here.

A very cool man on Churchill Street

So, this morning we headed out from our hotel, which serves a very good macchiato (a single costs the equivalent of 33 cents Canadian) and walked to Tomoca one of the city’s best coffee shops.

A brilliant little spot off of the thruway of Churchill Street, it’s a pleasant throwback to the coffee shops of Italy (which didn't do much pleasant here during the Second World War). Men stand around (no seats) and sip their coffee as they read papers and check their iPhones. Founded in 1953, the dance they make you go through is fantastic. You buy a coffee at the front (again, too cheap) and they give you a hard, square plastic tag that you bring to the bar at the back.

The front cash at Tomoca

The weighing scales for fresh beans, and the awesome lion logo at the back

You give it to the woman there and tell her what you want. I had already had three machiatos, so we got espressos instead. Then the barista works his magic and you enjoy the results. Mine was deep, dark and sweet. You almost didn’t require sugar. Almost.

Yes - that is a moosehead on the wall above the espresso bar.

My fellow traveller-in-coffee, Warren Creates

No over-priced cookies, fresh smoothies or CDs in sight. Just this sweet, black fluid.

Anyways, that seems to be one of the dominant themes of my trip so far. It's like I’m like Hunter S. Thompson, but fueled to distraction by caffeine. Enjoy the pictures. Tomorrow: Nipper takes Addis!


BK said...

you can't keep a good reporter down --or away from coffee!

Brad Mackay said...

I know. And i had totally kicked it a well. That and my quat habit!

Angela said...

Looking forward to hearing more about your travels!

Brad Mackay said...

If i make it back!