Just over a decade ago, there was no coffee-drinking culture in Rwanda to talk about.
However, over the past few years, the popularity of coffee among Rwandans has steadily risen mainly because of chains such as Bourbon Coffee — Kigali’s main coffee conglomerate that slid its doors open to coffee drinkers in 2007.
The opening of Bourbon Coffee stirred the proliferation of several other coffee shops around Kigali City and its suburbs, giving rise to a coffee-drinking culture that was hitherto a foreign culture to many Rwandans.
Today, there seems to be a coffee shop at every corner of the city, and coffee has come to touch many people’s lives in new and diverse ways.
At most of these outlets, coffee comes in different forms, among them Italian cappuccino, which is traditionally prepared with espresso, hot milk and steamed-milk.
But when you pay close attention, you realise that much of the cult of Kigali coffee shops has got little to do with coffee.
Many Kigalians, especially the middle class, see coffee shops as places to meet with friends, hold business meetings or spend some time enjoying reading a good book or simply the atmosphere of the hangout.
Axelle Umutesi is a 28-year-old a local radio presenter who patronises coffee shops most evenings simply to enjoy fine coffee in the company of her friends.
“My friends and I usually get together in a coffee shop just to discuss the day’s work as we enjoy our coffee,” she said.
With free Wi-Fi, coffee shops also serve as virtue offices of sorts for foreigners and researchers as clients are usually seen working on their laptops between sips of coffee.
“Most of our clients are foreigners but sometimes we also have Rwandans meeting over business issues or on romantic dates,” said Benric Hirwa, a waiter at Shokola Lite Café in Kacyiru.
Shokola Lite Café is also ideal for patrons looking for a place where they can also enjoy reading novels as it boasts of a well-equipped library with a wide range of novels.
Kacyiru is also home to several other coffee shops, the most popular being Neo, located near the Top Tower Hotel. According to Che Rupali, manager of this hushed nook, it is designed mainly as a meeting spot ideal for relaxing over a cup of coffee even though it also sells fast foods.
Book readers also seem to be the same target clientele for Ran Coffee Shop, which is strategically located just above the Rwanda Library Services.
In the city centre, coffee drinkers are spoilt for choice as several coffee shops have sprung up lately — Brioche at the Grand Pension plaza building, Blues Café near Crane Bank, Bourbon Coffee at the Union Trade Centre and Simba Cafe at the famous Simba Supermarket.