Dormans – My Bittersweet Café

First up in the coffee house reviews is Dormans. Why? Dorman’s is my de-facto coffee house. Let’s start with why they win, then will move to why they are losing me… Dormans Junction

  • Internet – My love affair with Dormans is primarily because they have a good internet connection, not so much the coffee. They have a connection that is upwards of 10mbps… This makes it a perfect place to work from, have calls etc. But to be honest, I just need a place to complete my torrents 🙂
  • Coffee  – My usual while at Dormans? Their Americano/Espresso/Latte. They generally tend to have very mercurial house coffee, but their espresso based drinks tend to be of good quality. I have only taken Chai Masala (Ginger Tea) once.
  • Cakes – There is only one cake I recommend. The white chocolate cake. Be sure to take this with an Americano (Sugar free) primarily because it’s basically made of sucrose. If you don’t mind a sugar high, this is for you :).
  • Service – This goes to Dorman’s Sarit and Junction in particular. They have the best staff. They actually call up the ISP to find out what’s wrong should the connection go down.
  • Coffee Beans – They sell coffee beans in all their outlets which makes shopping for beans an easy affair for me :). I love their blue mountain selection.

Now to the *not so good* on Dorman’s chain

  • Food – Can best be described as terribly wanting. Firstly, the selection is poor. Pricey (comparative to Java). And not always fresh. I only partake of their breakfast selection and their fries (which are quite good, at times).
  • Ambience – Dormans generally have uncomfortable furniture and poor ambience. Looks good from afar, but the tables are too cramped, seats uncomfortable etc. I prefer a rather basic look (re: Java) and better comfort.
  • Locations – This is still in reference to above. They generally are located in corridors and hallways… The only Dormans well done as a proper coffee shop is in the CBD (correct me if I’m wrong). That particular location is a little too congested for my liking… I’ve only once found a seat, and that was at 8.15, a few minutes to closing time.
  • Operating Hours – All Dormans with the exception of the Carnivore branch (again, correct me if I’m wrong) close business at between 8.15 and 8.30. In this day and age, this is way to early… Longer operating hours would go a long way.
  • Lack of Power – Dormans management decided to seal off power plugs… For those of us who go primarily because of the link, this was a gross disappointment. At the end of the day, many techies were forced out. My current laptop battery serves me fairly well (gives me 4-5 hours regularly), so this does not always affect me, but it’s annoying.

What they should do to improve?

  • Get a better menu.
  • Change the staff uniforms (those ones are atrocious, and my dress sense sucks).
  • Re-introduce power, and perhaps turn it off during peak hours.
  • Start a coffee appreciation class.
  • Start selling affordable end-user coffee machines.

Next on the line? Savannah Coffee House

Coffee 101: Low budget quality Coffee in Nairobi

Are you a geek? Are you a regular caffeine junkie looking for a ‘fix’ (sounds much worse than it actually is :D). Do you simply enjoy a well brewed cup of mud? No clue where to get the machines? Here is a quick guide…  First, where to get quality cheap beans…
  1. Dormans Nairobi Office – Located on 17 Milimani Drive, this is probably your best bet for quality coffee in Nairobi. You can get freshly roasted/ground beans at fair prices at this shop.
  2. River Cafe – Located in Limuru Road, it is a coffee shop/restaurant that also has a coffee roastery.
  3. Supermarkets – All supermarkets typically have coffee in stock. However, not any type of coffee should be worth your hard earned money. Coffee to stay away from? *Kahawa #1, Dormans KKKahawa, Gibsons (everything apart from their Gourmet beans). What to buy? The rest of the Dormans, Java portfolio generally tend to have good beans. Another option? Out of Africa have the best Arabica beans/grounds I have come across in Kenya, in my opinion(for Espresso Coffee – this is your best bet).
  4. Java House/Dormans – They generally tend to stock coffee. Savannah coffee house do not stock coffee :(.
  5. Pekeshe Coffee house – They have some rather good medium grind robusta coffee. I last sampled it 2 years ago and it was great. *note to self – need to buy more*

Notes on coffee? Avoid ground beans as you cannot be sure of their quality… The reason ground beans are cheaper than beans in Kenya is because they mix any and every bean they can come across, quality is not guaranteed…

Currently, what I’m on? Rwenzori beans from Uganda, Gibsons Gourmet Beans…
Sip 🙂
Now, you have the beans, how do you prepare said beans? Coffee machines can cost an arm and a leg, how to get started?
  1. French Press – At around 800 KES (Tuskys & Uchumi) and 3,000 KES (Nakumatt), this is probably one of the best, and fastest way to get your coffee. Use water that’s nearing boiling point…
    The French Press

    Care should be taken not to make the coffee too strong and hence bitter. You should use coarsely/medium grind beans.

  2. The Moka Pot – Best traditional espresso. Has an authentic taste that I simply love :). It’ gave birth to the classic Americano (Espresso in hot water).
    The Moka Pot

    Use fine grind Arabica Beans for best effect.  The machine goes for 600 KES at Tuskys, and 3200 KES at Nakumatt.

  3. Stove Top Percolator – One of the most widely used machines, historically. In my opinion produces some of the best tasting coffee you can ever get.
    Stainless Steel Coffee Percolator

    The machines are available for 800-1500 KES at Nakumatt. Use coarsley/medium ground coffee. Care should be taken not to boil water. Coffee should *never* boil :), it burns (no better way of describing the resulting taste).

  4. Filter Coffee/Electric Drip Brews – I generally stay away from the lower priced filter coffee machines in Nairobi, primarily because of quality of build e.g. some make the machines from cheap plastic, so your coffee necessarily has a smell of burning plastic (maybe I’m being a detail Nazi, but hey 🙂 )
    Filter Coffee Machine

    Others make the drip basket too small, so the coffee constantly overflows… My recommendation? Buy a Black & Decker device and you will never be disappointed (for the low end). I’ve only tested two other brands with disastrous results.

So you have your coffee beans and you have your coffee machine, how to grind?
  1. Sonashi Grinder /Sanyo Grinder – The *only* affordable (under 10,000 KES) grinders I came across in 3 months of searching in Nairobi. Simple machines, you use visual judgement to determine grind level… Will set you back 1,200 KES at Tuskys/Uchumi/Nakumatt.
  2. Hand Grinder – Available at Tuskys and I guess Nakumatt for roughly 650 KES.
With the above you should be in a position to enjoy relatively great tasting coffee at an affordable cost… I think… :), and no, I’m not an addict 🙂