After my initial, slightly less than optimal experience at Nairobi Java House, I was really interested in trying out a proper, no nonsense coffeehouse. Not a place where they had a kitchen to prepare and serve café style food and stuff. From everything I had heard and from the little I had seen, I knew that Dormans, ‘The Coffee Experts’, was the place to go. And since I was staying relatively close to The Junction mall, I decided there is where I would go to try my first Dormans latte.
Now before I dive into my Dormans experience, let me start by laying down a little background about how I became familiar with Dormans, roaster and coffeehouse. A couple of years ago I was searching on the internet for coffeehouses in Kenya. I was not really expecting to find much, so it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered the Nairobi Java House website. This was clearly something new in Kenya… new beyond the traditional coffeehouses that Nairobi used to have, that simply served… coffee.
This discovery certainly peaked my interest and I was now really interested in seeing what other new coffeehouses were now in Nairobi. It wasn’t until someone I happen to know from Kenya then showed me Dormans’ website.
So as we were talking about the Nairobi Java House and Dormans and comparing the two, he told me that Nairobi Java House tended to attract the younger crowd, the one that simply wanted to go out and have fun but were not necessarily into coffee or coffee culture. This I noticed pretty quickly when I first went to Nairobi Java House. Dormans on the other hand, tended to cater for the espresso enthusiasts. He also told me, but this was at a much, much later date, that even though Nairobi Java House was really the first real modern coffeehouse to come onto the Kenyan scene, it really was Dormans that came out with the better coffee.
In addition to this, it was Dormans that helped train Nairobi Java House baristas to make better espresso. This was reaffirmed to me a couple of weeks later when I was talking to manager at a small café in Westlands who told me they used to serve Dormans, preferring them over Nairobi Java House roasted beans simply because the Dormans beans were clearly superior those of Nairobi Java House. This manager did not use those exact words because clearly he was not trying to be rude or mean, but this is what he was implying.
Now earlier this year, Gwilym Davies of England won the 2009 World Barista Championships (WBC) that took place in the city of Atlanta. What was exciting about this year’s competition is that the barista who represented Kenya was a barista named John Makau. John placed 12th in the 2008 competition and 23rd overall in the 2009 competition, beating all the African competitors. This is certainly no small feat. Incidentally, John is a barista at Dormans and highly respected among his peers.
Finally, a couple of months ago I picked up one of the Seattle papers which happened to have an article on some baristas from Kenya who were in Victoria BC for some training at Habit coffee. These baristas were all from Dormans.
The above three points were more than enough to convince me that Dormans is probably the top coffeehouse in Kenya and I should expect nothing but excellence. And so it was that this past month of August, I happened to be in Nairobi, Kenya and on this particular day, there I was, making my way to The Junction mall, to get a latte from Dormans.
The Dormans location at The Junction is a little espresso bar that is somehow connected to the bookstore at this mall. If you order from one side of the espresso bar, you will have to walk through the security scanner thing because you will technically be inside the bookstore. However, if you order from the other end of the bar, then you will be ordering from outside of the bookstore.
In some ways this arrangement reminds me of the various Barns & Noble bookstores that each have the in-house coffee shop for those interested in books and coffee. But the difference here is that this Dormans has seating both inside and outside the store (though still in the mall). So for those not interested in entering the bookstore, the can still order their coffee and relax at the ‘outside’ seating area.
I really liked the baristas at this place especially Steve and Alex. They were very friendly and welcoming and very proud of their craft. We chatted for a bit about Dormans participation in the WBC and about John’s great performance. We also talked about the baristas from Dormans who went to Habit Coffee in Victoria BC to learn more about the art of the barista. When I told them about the GFBO blog, they were willing to show us their latte art… which was really beautiful.
The lattes we ordered were even better than they looked. Alex, the barista, made me a really nice latte. It was a nice strong latte with great taste and flavor and I really enjoyed it. I have to say that of the three places in Nairobi where I had so far sampled espresso, Dormans was actually my favorite. Artcaffè by the way was my second favorite coming in at a close second. But I have to say that I strongly believe, if Dormans were to open a coffeehouse in Seattle, they would do very well, and give many of the local coffeehouses a run for their money.
I really like the fact that Dormans roasts their own coffee beans and serve those at their retail locations. They also have more than five different blends that you can buy, not only at their coffeehouses but also at the various supermarkets around the country especially the Nakumatt supermarket chain. I even saw Dormans coffee sold in places as far as Kakamega town in the western part of the country.
Now here is something to note. When you order your drinks, you will order either a regular size (the equivalent of a 12 oz cup) or a grande. The regular size is a single shot while the grande is a double. If you want a double shot regular latte, you can do what one of the baristas at the Dormans at Yaya suggested, order the grande but have them put it into a regular size cup since that will be cheaper than ordering an extra shot.
What’s my conclusion about Dormans? If you do find yourself in Nairobi and you’re looking for a coffeehouse where you can relax and enjoy an excellent espresso drink, I would highly recommend that you go checkout Dormans