Kahawa Chungu – Authentic Kenyan Bitter Coffee

Kahawa Chungu, Bitter Coffee

Each time I think of Kahawa chungu or best known as Bitter coffee, the first thing that runs into my mind is the story of a Thousand and one Nights!

It all started a few months ago, after I finished reading “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. This was the 3rd time I was reading this book, and each time the story becomes more and more interesting! It is like I cannot get enough of it! I wonder if this is just me, or, this also happens to other people when they find their favorite Authors and can’t get enough of their stories?

Anyway, after I finished the book, I wanted to read something totally different. So I got myself a novel, which is set in Kenya in the early 1917 called “Green City In The Sun” by Barbara Wood. After reading a quarter of it, I got bored since to be honest, I could not get Things Fall Apart out of my mind!

Then one afternoon, as I was going through my Library, I came across “Alfu Lela U Lela au Siku Elfu Moja Na Moja” famously known as – A Thousand and One Nights! – I had gotten this book as a present once and hadn’t read it though I knew almost all the stories. What made me feel like “relieved” to have found it was that it is in Kiswahili! I immediately started reading it that evening.

Alfu lela u lela

Since then, my childhood memories started emerging one after the other on how my Late Uncle (R.I.P) used to narrate us all this one-of-a-kind folk tales. My favorite one (and still is) is the one of Aladdin and the magic light. He would make himself a cup of Kahawa Chungu and we would seat around him to listen as he narrated. I believe if he were alive today, he would be a master storyteller.

Coffee and Book

Kahawa Chungu featured foto

Kahawa Chungu is a specialty of the Kenyan Coast cuisine mostly preserved for old men. Due to its bitter intense flavor, full body and pleasant aroma with notes of cardamom and cinnamon, this concentrated black coffee from freshly grounded Kenyan Coffee beans, is traditionally brewed over a charcoal stove in tall brass kettles reminiscent of the ancient Arabic World.

Sitting on low benches on the humid streets of the coastal region, elderly Men sip hot kahawa chungu from miniature ceramic cups while playing Chess. Kahawa Chungu is traditionaly accompanied by Haluwa (A type of dense, sweet confection) or Dates.

Kahawa Chungu
As days passed by, my mind and fingers started burning to make Kahawa Chungu recipe and post it here. At last, I grinded my Kenyan coffee beans and below is the recipe.



3 tablespoons freshly ground coffee beans

1 cup of cold water Seeds of 3 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick


In a saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil

Reduce heat and maintain at a low boil for 10-15 minutes

Pour through a strainer into a coffeepot and serve hot with Haluwa or Dates

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