Before the outbreak of COVID- 19, coffee shops had become offices, meeting venues and hangout joints. Some culprits, myself included, used to occupy tables long after we were done sipping coffee and munching an assortment of snacks.
Recently, many coffee shops were set up in response to the growing number of consumers. Trends show more and more urban Rwandans embracing this aromatic beverage. Before the suspension of tourism, the number of coffee addicts visiting the country was rising sharply.
The aroma of fresh Rwandan coffee is irresistible to many. As I always say, there is a huge difference between fresh, locally grown coffee and those stale products occupying space on the shelves of different stores the world over — inorganic lifeless concoctions consumed one year after being processed.
Rwanda is a specialty coffee producer. Most beans grown in the country are either bourbon or bourbon-derivative. According the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB), there are more than 400,000 coffee fields in the country, covering an area of approximately 42,000 hectares.
For a long time, coffee has been an important generator of foreign currency. The extent to which the current global pandemic is affecting its supply chain is still unclear. However, the crop will undoubtedly continue to bridge the gap between imports and exports while contributing to the socio-economic transformation of rural communities.
Some coffee shops have been offering takeaway services during the ongoing restriction of movement. Starting Monday, they will be allowed to operate normally until 8 p.m. but tables will be fewer and the atmosphere won’t be the same.
Phase one of the process of reopening the economy will see a considerable number of old customers, myself included, still staying at home. Even those who will be running errands and eating out, won’t be spending as much time as they used to. Certainly, they won’t be turning those establishments into conference facilities. Weddings that command community participation aren’t coming back anytime soon. As a result, wedding meetings are out of the picture and virtual meetings addressing other issues are here to stay.
There is still no room for hanging out and socializing. Movements leading to such pastimes are deemed unnecessary and non-essential. Masks covering our mouths and noses will also serve as a reminder that it’s not yet time to converge and argue about soccer and other topics.
When we finally get out there, we will be treating each other like suspects. Heightened vigilance is the norm. As much as we miss our conversations over coffee, circumstances will keep us apart a little longer.