Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Red Bush Tea and other simple pleasures

When I came back to the States this time, I discovered that there was a growing interest in Red Bush tea, it seems like almost a fad. I have to admit that I was a bit surprised. Even though it is fairly common these days in Africa, I somehow never thought it would gain a following in the States. I am happy that it has caught on here though, It is really good, it is healthy, and if a lot of people buy it perhaps nobody will strip mine the mountains where it grows.

Red Bush tea comes from South Africa, which is the most developed country on the continent. South Africa is making commercial inroads anywhere in Africa where there is enough stability to support them. So in Tanzania you have a high end supermarket chain and a Fast Food franchise to name a couple of things.

The fast food chain is called "Steers" and it is quickly becoming the MacDonald's of Africa. You can find them all the way up to Kenya. They offer the standard fair of Burgers, fries and soda. The food is not very good, but it is expensive. People who eat there do it as a sort of status thing.

The supermarket chain (at least in Tanzania) caters to the Ex-patriot community, the wealthy, Tourists, and UN staff. (Arusha is where the Rwanda War-Crimes trials are going on). They are a place where people go to get luxuries rather than staples. You can find Lays potato chips there (licensed and manufactured in South Africa) and American style catsup. And you can get South African coffee, like "Kloof Coffee" which is a good quality bean mixed with chicory root. I sort of developed a taste for coffee with chicory when I was bumming around New Orleans, and it was a real treat to discover that South Africans had also taken a liking to the mix. You can also get Red Bush and Honey Bush teas, which until I returned to the States I though were an African secret. Try some of either if you would like to do something nice for yourself.

Speaking of coffee, here is a bit of high weirdness. Tanzania produces some of the best coffee in the world, like Tanzania Peaberry, and do you know what everyone drinks? Instant! That's right, instant coffee, go figure. As far as instant goes the local stuff, like Afri-Caf is OK, as long as you don't try to tell yourself that it is real coffee. You could, if you looked, find small bags of beans (but nothing to grind them with) or you could find commercial coffees, but they were all made from Robusta beans (shudder) imported form South Africa. And even if you could find the coffee, finding a good way to make it is not so easy. You can get a "Mr Coffee" for a huge amount of money, but who would want one?

This presented a problem.

I am not a "heavy" coffee drinker, but I do really love to have a cup in the morning, and maybe, if I have the time another in the afternoon. I have to admit, it is something I really enjoy.

I did manage to find an espresso shop down where the Mzungu hang out, but that didn't quite do it for me. Espresso and cappuccino are nice now and again, but sometimes the best thing in the world is just a plain cup of coffee.

Well, I guess the coffee fairy took pity on me or something, because one day a shop opened down in the tourist shopping center. This German Ex-Pat opened up a high quality coffee roasting shop. Not only that but he had imported a number of "French Presses".

Like a lot of Germans, he exhibited that tendency toward perfectionism which gave us Mercedes and BMW, when it came to selecting and roasting coffee beans. He also was a supporter of Fair Trade Coffee , so the beans he got put money in the hand of the farmer who was taking the time to grow pure organic Arabica coffee.

I spent the better part of a half hour bargaining with the guy to get the price of the press down to something that was not totally obscene, and then had him grind me a kilo of his best Fair Trade peaberry.

I hope whoever reads this will give a thought to the idea of making purchase of Fair Trade products like coffee a regular practice. The cost difference is usually minimal, the product is better, and it is good for your Karma.

Just look for
on your products.

So thanks to a German perfectionist, I was able to spend my afternoons sipping truly magnificent coffee and nibbling on fresh mango. Living in the Third World can be a trial

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