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Tea Shops

Liberia's answer to Starbuck's.

Liberia's version of Starbuck's.

Tall skinny latte please.

I'll have a tall skinny latte, please.

Monrovia isn’t the best city for coffee lovers. If you ask for a coffee, nine chances out of ten you are going to get instant Nescafe with hot water added. If you are a at a Lebanese-run place, you might have the choice of Lebanese coffee, which is similar to Turkish coffee – the coffee grounds and water are boiled together in a small pot and not filtered, leaving a strong, dark, sludge-like mixture. Only the nicest places (e.g. a few hotels) offer an espresso or a cappuccino made from a coffee machine.

Liberians don’t seem to be big drinkers of either coffee or tea as compared to other African countries I’ve lived in or visited. In Tunisia and Morocco, a large part of socialization was based on sitting around and endlessly drinking thimble-sized glasses of mint tea; in Somaliland, there was a tea shack almost every block selling super-strong sugary milky chai, decanted from a thermos; and in Kenya and Tanzania along the “Swahili coast,” coffee-vendors roam the streets at night and set up informal outdoor cafés on street-corner benches throughout the day.

That said, there are quite a few local tea shops around town which sell basics like bread, eggs, instant coffee, tea, and Ovaltine (which is strangely popular). The drinks are usually served with a very generous amount of condensed milk and sugar, the sweet and the dairy practically drowning out the taste of the tea or coffee underneath. Maybe it’s not so different from Starbuck’s after all…

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About Home Strange Home

I first left the US in 1999, when I was 18 years old. Since then, I’ve spent 13 years living abroad - 3 in Canada, 7 in Europe, and 3 in Africa. Now I've finally returned to the US on a one-way plane ticket. I arrived home in late January 2014 and set foot in the US for the first time in nearly 2.5 years. In Home Strange Home, I blog about the ups and downs of my re-acculturation experience.

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