By Jandri Barnard
Even though this is a known meeting point for locals and coffee drinkers alike in Stone Town, I almost missed it during my first visit to Zanzibar.
After a chance encounter, talking to locals at the night market in Stone Town, I overheard where to find the best coffee in Zanzibar. Not instant coffee-flavoured powder, quickly mixed with boiling water, but authentic African brewed coffee. Made from roasted coffee beans, locally found in Tanzania.
The Zanzibar Coffee House evokes the nostalgic feeling of lost Arabian Nights, within the heart of Stone Town. Here all the windowframes and doorframes are carved out of wood, like most places in Zanzibar, and you can easily feel like you are framed inside an Irma Stern painting. Zanzibar, and Stone Town, were the places where she drew most of her inspiration from.
While sitting on the wooden seats inside the Coffee House, the daily lives of the Stone Town residents pass by outside like moving paintings.
The cool Indian Ocean breeze wares off the worst of the tropical heat, making you reach out for another caffeine injection, to energise you for the rest of the day. Or even a 4-cup plunger, which will occupy you a while longer.
The variety of coffee beans available here, comes directly from the plantations of the owners in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. Over the years the plantation survived world wars, as well as historical and governmental changes in Tanzania. But throughout the history it still upheld its reputation for sustainable coffee production within the Rift-valley. Every cup of coffee reflects the cultivation history, quality and devotion towards the people that work and live on the plantation. The Coffee House is proud to have their own professionally trained baristas. The head barista, Asmah Juma, was also one of the firsts to win the Tanzanian Barista Championships in 2009.
From the different coffees available you can choose from espresso, americano, mocchiato, cappucino or a refreshing alternative for the tropical climate of Zanziber an iced cappucino or iced latte. If having the coffee on its own is not enough, then there are always other freshly baked confectionaries available: chocolate cake with a thick ganache icing which starts to slowly melt in the tropical heat, carrot cake and lemon cake, small butter biscuits, giant muffins, golden fluffy croissonts as well as savoury sandwiches. The choice can be a bit daunting and difficult, thus the easiest solution being to return again to try out another coffee or another treat to nibble on, until you discover your favourite.
There is a hotel situated next to the Coffee House, where you can easily overnight, to linger longer on the magical caffeine powers of this place. The hotel building is one of the oldest buildings in Zanzibar, dating back to 1885 when it was build by Wazir for Sultan Sai Bargash.
The various rooms and suites are each named after a coffee drink: ‘Espresso’, ‘Macchiato’, ‘Moccachino’, ‘Arabica’, ‘Bourbon’ and ‘Cappuccino’. Every room is individually decorated with antique carved furniture and richly draped fabrics. All the rooms have air-conditioning and mosquito nets, for the tropical weather and accompanying musquitoes throughout the year. Thus you won’t even be disturbed in your slumber at night.
You can then conveniently start your day at the Coffee House Hotel with the aroma of a cup of freshly roasted coffee on the rooftop balcony, with breakfast. At dusk you can watch the sun set over the minarets of Stone Town and decide to extend your stay at this coffee paradise in Africa.
Finding your way there:
With your sense of adventure guiding you, get lost in the streets of Stone Town, until you find the aroma of freshly ground coffee blowing on the tropical wind. Or ask locals to show you the direction to the yellow walls of the Zanzibar Coffee House. Or to be more prepared follow the map on www.riftvalley-zanzibar.com.
Here you can even order the coffee directly, coming all the way from Tanzania to your front door!