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THE DISH: Cheers to great coffee

Saturday October 13 2018

Harvest Bakery and Coffee in the US. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Harvest Bakery and Coffee in the US. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

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There is almost no such thing as a movie about America or a small town without a Starbucks in the middle of it.

At this point, it's practically as much a part of a typical American landscape as President Trump's ridiculous tweets and “Little House on the Prairie”.

Even in the smallest of towns, you will find a Starbucks where you may not be able to find a Chipotle, or a Forever 21. Trust me, I've tested this theory.

That being said, much like everything else in America, Starbucks is very much driven by hype, a lot of the time, excessively so.

Not that Starbucks isn't good coffee. I just don't think it is great coffee. I don't think it is the best coffee ever – then again, I'm a Kenyan who grew up in Ethiopia, two countries that produce some of the best coffee in the world, so I consider my standards, at the basic level, higher than average.

Snacks sold at Harvest Bakery and Coffee. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Snacks sold at Harvest Bakery and Coffee. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA


For the record, the best coffee I ever had was, not so coincidentally, picked off the coffee bushes from my childhood home and ground in the kitchen. Nothing I have tasted since compares.

Back to Starbucks – like I said, it is driven by hype. Which is why it is in almost every movie, every city.

It has managed to become a marketer's dream, really, spanning across generations of coffee lovers and hipsters alike. And that's great. I admire the hustle. Even though the Pumpkin Spice Latte smells like pumpkin spice and tastes like everything else to me. Yeah, I said it.

But to my surprise, there is better coffee than Starbucks – it just doesn't have as big an advertising budget. Yeah, they might also be driven by hype, but they're worth a try.

One of these places, I randomly found in an airport. I'm generally against buying things in airports, because the cost is about three times what it would be on the outside, which is, quite frankly, just annoying (it's like they assume since you can fly, you can afford to pay with inflated prices, but anyone who knows me knows I travel with $10 tops every journey).

But since it's fall, basically, and I was freezing, and I didn't want to leave my gate, I made an exception to the eat-and-drink-before-you-leave-home rule.

The spot was called Harvest Bakery and Coffee. It felt like a small, homey place, because the attendant wasn't overly chirpy or particularly rushed, which is a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how American you are, and I watched her brew the coffee which, even in Starbucks, is a thing I like.

But my favourite part that took it above and beyond? I love a coffee shop with a bookstore. It's one of the best things about a bookstore, or a coffee shop, and vice versa. And, the coffee was very good.

The glorious bookshelves at Harvest Bakery and Coffee. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The glorious bookshelves at Harvest Bakery and Coffee. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA


Second joint? A very popular coffee spot in Arizona called Dutch Bros.

The funny thing about this place is that it has almost as many gimmicks as Starbucks does, if not more – which is why, actually, on the particular day I visited, there were long lines outside it and the Dutch Bros store across it, while there was no traffic whatsoever at Starbucks.

The line was so long, in fact, that waiting for a cuppa took 45 minutes. I did the American thing and stood in line for the 45 minutes. Was the coffee worth it? I don't know. That's a whole episode of ‘This is Us’ or something. But it was definitely better than Starbucks.

One of their gimmicks is to give you straws according to the personality they think you have. Pink if they think you're cool, green if they think you're weird, and so on and so forth (I'm paraphrasing the actual colours, but I swear, there is a system).

Another is having their attendants take orders from the people lining up in their cars as they're on the line.

And they all make conversation, above and beyond the usual plastic American banter that is compulsory for tipping. Some get into your car, even. Some of them are snarky, like millennials – and millennials love it.

Our attendant was called – get this – Kale. His real name. After the usual crispy/freshness jokes, he asked us where we were from as he was taking our order, and making a beep sound with his mouth every time he touched his screen. I said Kenya. And got a free drink. Note: this review is unaffected by goods exchanged or received...


Wondering where to get the 411 on what's happening in and around Nairobi's foodie scene? There's a lot of places you could go, but here's where we want you to be – getting the dish on the dish. Get it? We knew you would.