In this five part series, I recap my recent trip to Kenya where I sampled the up and coming coffeehouse culture Kenya. In the second part of the series, I give compare the three, Nairobi Java House, Dormans and Artcaffè, starting with Nairobi Java House.
The first coffeehouse I had the opportunity to check out while I was in Nairobi was Nairobi Java House.
Originally the goal was to have gone to the Dormans, located at Yaya Centre mall in Nairobi’s Hurlingham neighborhood, but instead, I ended up at Nairobi Java House. On entering the place, I the first thing that I noticed was that the majority of the people eating at there where not actually drinking coffee or any espresso type drinks. They were instead ordering fruit juices, soda, ice cream shakes to go their burgers and French fries (or chips as they call them in Kenya). This I think was the oddest part of Nairobi Java House because from the name itself and the fact that they do pride themselves in their coffee, I would assume that it was a total coffeehouse. But that not a deal breaker, I would still go there anyways.
I was not super excited their coffee. Please don’t get me wrong, the coffee wasn’t bad at all, it simply wasn’t exceptional. Now I say this, not because I was expecting the coffee to be spectacular, rather after I had the opportunity to sample some of the other coffeehouses, I realized that Nairobi Java House still had a little bit of a way to go to catch-up with the others… at least in terms of coffee anyway. It is interesting to note that one of my sources told me that their coffee actually used to be worse and when Dormans came in, it was actually baristas from Dormans who helped train the baristas at Nairobi Java House… thus helping them improve on their espresso. And that I think is ok because in my mind, there is always room for improvement no matter how good your coffee is.
But ultimately what really put me off from Nairobi Java House was their customer service. Of the three, comparing Nairobi Java House, Dormans and Artcaffe, the customer service at Nairobi Java House’s came in a distant third compared to Artcaffè and Dormans. This more than anything else made me realize that I would not be too interested in going back there especially since the coffee was not exceptional.
Although I didn’t like the customer service at the Yaya Centre location, at least the supervisor allowed me to take pictures of my paper coffee cup “…as long as the background of the pictures did not show the main espresso bar area nor the customers seated in the place”. However, the Nairobi Java House located at The Junction, they would not allow me to even take a picture of the cup while I was inside the place. It was there that I heard the rudest reply from the supervisor. He actually told me that I would get into big trouble if I took a picture in the place and if I wanted to take a picture of the cup I would have to be off the premises including the patio. Now what supervisor did not realize was that the whole time I was there, I had been taking plenty of pictures in and around the place including their espresso bar. I even got a couple of great overhead pictures. Ha! I guess the joke’s on them after all.
But I have to give credit where credit is due. The one thing I really like about Java House is the interior décor of the place… which is why I actually took the pictures of the place knowing very well that they would not allow me to do so anyway. I loved the colors they chose which sort of reminded me of a cross between the Kenyan national colors and the Kenyan savannah. I really think that it’s a mistake not to let people take pictures inside the place in part because the pictures on the Nairobi Java House website are not that great and partly because if people post their pictures in sites like Flickr, Facebook and the like, this would be great free publicity and wider promotion.
I do know some people who do love the coffee at Java House and I think if they enjoy the place, more power to them. If you disagree (or agree) with my notion that their coffee is not the greatest, feel free to leave you comments and tell us what you think.