High prices keep Kenyans away from coffee shops

By Bedah Mengo
The past few years has seen an upsurge of shops selling coffee in Kenya's capital Nairobi, intensifying competition in the sector.
   However, despite intense rivalry, prices of a cup of coffee remain unaffordable for most Kenyans, making many shun the drink that is revered across the world.

   A survey in various shops selling the beverage across the capital revealed that a cup of coffee ranges from between 2.3 US dollars rate and 12 dollars.
   However, prices of a mug of coffee at some high-end shops outside the Central Business District hit 17 dollars. The cost varies depending on sizes of mugs, kinds of flavour and which country the coffee originates.
   Unflavoured coffee is cheaper than flavoured. Similarly, coffee imported from Brazil, Turkey and Ethiopia, among other countries, costs higher. The brewed coffee, which has been in vogue for sometimes in the capital, costs higher than the normal coffee.
   "Each day I pass several coffee shops on the streets to and from work, but I do not bother going in because of high prices. The price of a mug of coffee is too costly," Antony Karencho, an office worker, told Xinhua in an interview.
   Karencho works at a non-governmental organization as a programmes officer and earns a pay that puts him in the middle-class bracket, the target of coffee shops.
   "I can comfortably say I have some money to spare on coffee. I can drink it every day if I want, but I do not do it because I find the prices exaggerated," he said, adding that the last time he went into a coffee shop in the city was in January.
   "I was going to meet a colleague from our Uganda office. He had come into the country for some projects and wanted us to discuss a business venture. I took him to one of the coffee shops in town," he said.
   At the shop, Karencho said, a cup of coffee cost him 5.9 dollars. "It was the first time for me to go there but despite our meeting going on well, I felt the coffee was a rip off. The mug was small and the taste of the drink was 'strange'. I could not tell what they had added in it," he said.
   Since then, Karencho said he has never gone to coffee shops for a drink. "I switched to fresh juice, which is fairly-priced. These days when I want to drink coffee, I do it at home where I bought the packaged one," he said.
   Vivian Njiru shared Karencho's sentiments, noting that coffee prices are too high in Nairobi.
   "On every street in Nairobi, you find a coffee shop but the sad thing about all this is that prices are still very high. How do you buy a cup of coffee at 10 dollars?" she posed.
   The marketer said increased competition in the business has not encouraged the culture of taking coffee among Kenyans because of high prices.
   "When the shops came up, the craving for coffee was high. Then, there were few shops selling the drink, but they targeted the upper class. There were great opportunities for businesspeople to serve the low-end market," she said.
   Businesspeople took advantage of the high demand for coffee and started shops selling the beverage. However, with rise in demand, prices have also been going up.
   "I am one of the many Kenyans who have been put off by the high prices. The costs have ensured coffee remains an exclusive drink, for the rich and foreigners, yet it is grown here in Kenya," said Njiru.
   Gilbert, an attendant at a coffee shop on Mama Ngina Street, acknowledged that the high prices have put off many people.
   "Prices have been rising gradually. We have adjusted our costs upwards twice in the past six months. This has affected business. These days we do not get many customers in the morning. Those who used to take breakfast here have seemingly found alternative places," said Gilbert.
   A cup of coffee at the shop goes at an average of 4.1 dollars. Some restaurants, to keep business, are offering customers coffee sachets, which are cheaper than the brewed beverage. A sachet of coffee costs about 0.17 dollars.
   The cafes sell the cup of coffee at between 0.59 US dollars and 0. 95US dollars, which makes it affordable for many people.
   This trend is fast-picking among shops that were exclusively selling brewed coffee. On their menus, they now have an alternative of sachet coffee.
   "The sachet coffee is cheaper but why should I take it while I can make the same drink at home. Brewed coffee was a hit among Kenyans because of taste, but the prices have spoilt the party," said Njiru.
   Kenya is recognized as one of the best producers of high quality coffee beans in the world, with the sector employing close to six million people. However, the high prices are making coffee remain a "strange" drink among many Kenyans. (Xinhua)