Sprice, a drink on the menu at Tomoca Coffee comes dancing, literally, in a clear glass cup. It has two hues, a light golden coloured liquid wobbling in the bottom half, and a dark intense-looking one on the top half.
Before you drink it, Thomas, the barista, says it must be stirred.
The first thing that hits the taste-buds is the taste of sweet Kenyan tea, but as you swallow, it is rich Ethiopian coffee.
Tea and coffee surprisingly work well together. On a normal day, I would not dare mix my coffee and tea, but the tannins in the tea meld with the bitterness of the coffee. Its a drink I would have multiple times.
Sprice is a popular beverage in Ethiopia that combines coffee and sweetened tea.
This is one of the drinks Ethiopian Coffee house Tomoca has brought to the Kenyan market. The brand opened its first outlet in Nairobi in July at Two Rivers Mall, with a second slated for Ananas Mall in Westlands in two months.
“This is the first venture for Tomoca within Africa. We chose Kenya as our first gateway for Africa-based expansion due to many benefits Kenya provides to the private sector in terms of investment incentive and other critical aspects that are needed for startup businesses to flourish,” says Amir Yusuf, a director at Tomoca Coffee.
“Secondly, Kenya has a very young and dynamic population with good purchasing power, which demands high-quality products and services that are on par with international standards. The retail industry is also supported by low overhead fees, mainly through low rental fees and attractive incentives by property landlords.” Amir says the two countries also have similar cultures and interests including athletics, therefore creating a meeting point through coffee seems only natural.
We also tried Tomoca’s espresso and cappuccino, paired with a salted caramel brownie.
Amir says that they have no plans to turn it into a fast-casual eatery. The outlet has partnered with pastry vendors to complement the coffee such as Afghan House, The Daily Cafe Bistro, Bastard Bakers, and Pipedreams pastries.
“Tomoca’s business is focused fully on the coffee value-addition and coffee drinks lifestyle. This has been our model for the past six decades in Ethiopia and it will be the same in Kenya,” he says.
The coffee is served in clear glass cups and not the usual ceramic or porcelain cups. This is by design, Amir says.
“Glass holds the taste of the coffee. Ceramic and takeaway cups do not,” he says.
The double cappuccino is also served in a standard size cup with twice the hit of espresso, meaning more coffee rather than more milk and froth.
Amir says, for Ethiopians, it is more about the coffee than the milk, unlike in local coffee shops.
The most popular drinks in Tomoca Ethiopia include the Sprice and the Macchiato. Lattes and Cappuccinos are not a staple as they are in Kenya.
The Macchiato, at first glance, reminds me of a Latte only that it is served layered and you get to watch the coffee layer bleeding into the milk layer.
My order is medium strength. I stir the layer of foam, espresso, and steamed milk together before taking a sip.
The coffee hits you before mellowing down, making you want to have another sip, and another, and another. With the different beverages, we taste at Tomoca, the coffee has mellow afternotes, quite different from the slightly acidic notes of Kenyan coffee.
Ethiopian coffee is mainly Arabica coffee while a large proportion of what is consumed locally is the more acidic Robusta coffee.
Tomoca plans to create beverage blends with Kenyan, Rwandese, and Ethiopian coffee. If you are in the store early enough, you get to watch the master roaster freshly roast and package coffee beans and smell the coffee.