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The rise of luxury coffeehouses in Ethiopia’s capital

Despite the rainy evening, coffee lovers from all walks of life congregated at a new establishment seeking refuge with their caffeinated beverages of choice. Dukamo Coffee Shop, located on the ground floor of Bole Mafi Mall, opened its doors just last week but has already attracted a diverse crowd united in their passion for quality brews.

With its wooden furniture and warm interior design, the shop has provided a comforting atmosphere for customers. Among those taking shelter from the storm on Wednesday was Frehiwot Zewdu, an occasional coffee drinker who appreciated the charm and convenience of having such a venue.

“It’s nice to have options like this in the community for enjoying a cup of joe,” said Frehiwot. The new business caters to coffee enthusiasts across the city, including those who don’t frequent cafes regularly but still recognize the social significance of gathering places that offer quality drinks. As the rain poured down outside, Dukamo filled up with a cross-section of caffeine fans seeking refuge over roasted beans and hot beverages.

The success of Dukamo thus far hints at shifts taking place in the coffee culture of Addis Ababa. For years, the traditional neighborhood joints serving basic coffee down flights of stairs have been synonymous with the coffeehouse experience. However, customers now have newer options that cater to more discerning tastes.

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Cafes like Dukamo offer specialty coffee drinks crafted with high-quality beans from local roasters. Their comfortable atmospheres, furnished with amenities like WiFi, draw a clientele seeking more than a quick cup. As Addis Ababa develops economically, its residents’ preferences in coffee appear to be evolving as well.

The modern coffee shop model brings a level of sophistication to the coffee-drinking experience not previously seen in the city. Their popularity points to growing demand among consumers for specialty varieties and intimate settings where coffee can be socialized. Whether occasional customers or daily drinkers, patrons now have destinations where coffee is elevated beyond a basic beverage to an artisanal experience enjoyed amid comfortable surrounds.

As cafes like Dukamo continue to find success, it seems the traditional coffee shop may face new competition on the streets of Addis Ababa. The changing landscape reflects how the city’s coffee culture is adapting to modern tastes as well as premium quality standards.

Dukamo prides itself on sourcing high quality beans directly from the renowned growing regions of Sidama and Bonga. “Our coffee is an exceptional tasting experience unlike what can be found anywhere else,” boasts Tigist Dukamo, senior manager.

However, increased quality often correlates with increased cost. Frehiwot, an avid coffee lover, noticed the prices were steeper than average. “At 90 birr per cup, it’s over four times the market rate. As good as it tastes, that makes it unaffordable for most,” she remarks.

Frehiwot proposes that if cafes grow their own beans, the end cost should better reflect that. “Otherwise, exceptional coffee may become a luxury reserved only for the financially well-off.”

While specialty cafes emphasize elevated standards, there are establishments striving for equilibrium. Eleni Yetagesu, owner of Coffee Bar in the Bole Medhanialem neighborhood, aims to deliver consistent flavor and quality at affordable prices.

“To achieve this, we carefully select locally sourced beans like Jimma and Kefa that undergo a meticulous roasting and brewing process,” she explained.

“Our establishment harmoniously blends tradition and modernity, employing a streamer machine while respecting Ethiopia’s ceremonial coffee practices.” She continues, “At Coffee Bar, one cup of coffee is just 25 birr – reflecting our dedication to quality at a rate accessible to all customers.”

There is a growing urban coffee culture in Ethiopia, with cafes becoming a popular part of the new urban lifestyle. However, one cafe stands out from the others by offering a unique experience.

Wild Coffee Tasting House was established three years ago as the first cafe in Ethiopia to offer export-quality coffee varieties to local customers. This was a novel concept, as Ethiopia’s high-grade specialty coffees are usually only exported and not available for domestic consumption.

Owned by Gezahegn Mamo, Wild Coffee has invested heavily between 25-30 million birr into its two locations in Bole and Flamingo neighborhoods. “Our goal was to provide premium coffee options that customers couldn’t find elsewhere,” says Gezahegn.

Barista Lukas Desta spoke proudly of Wild Coffee’s popularity amongst coffee enthusiasts, thanks to positive feedback. The cafe sources coffees from renowned origins like Sidamo, Jimma, and Yirgacheffe. “Our signature Wild Coffee Special blend combines seven distinct varieties,” noted Lukas.

With cafes like Wild Coffee and Dukam already having proven a welcome addition to Addis Ababa’s growing cafe culture, attracting a diverse clientele with their high-quality offerings and inviting spaces, the city’s tastes evolve alongside its economy. On a night when shelter and community were appreciated, the cafes had delivered both—cementing their role in the shifting landscape of Ethiopia’s esteemed coffee tradition.

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