Image of a Java House branch taken at night. PIc from @Javalove

10 Years of Java House

As I walked into Java house Shell Lugogo I noticed the big white signboard at the entrance where different patrons had appended their signatures and love notes. A decade is a huge milestone for any business, especially in Uganda. Various reports published in the past do not speak Uganda fairly in running and growing businesses beyond their third year. But this brand which has morphed severally since 1999 when it was founded in Kenya, has learnt how to stay afloat even amidst intense waves. That said, doing business in Uganda can humble you. Things kwa ground are far from things kwa paperwork. You need some oomph to run the long mile. 

There are lots of things to admire about Java House. It is one brand that does not impose itself on you. I guess it is the reason we could be surprised the brand is already celebrating 10 years. This red smiley emoji of a sun brand is confident in its existence that it runs its course in its lane. Quite a different approach in an ad-driven clickbait market, especially for the nature of their business. 

7 am is a good time to check out Java House especially Shell Lugogo and Acacia Place as different clients dash in to pick up their coffee on the go. Some are armed with trendy thermal mugs and others proudly carry their takeaway cups. Ten years later, no coffee cafe has a better takeaway cup than Java House. One whose lid tightly grips the cup and you are not worried about your coffee spilling on your clothes, especially on an early morning. 

“African coffee triple takeaway,” says one. “Double Cappuccino, two spoons of sugar. Single. Takeaway.” And the etc of that kind. Of course, it is only standard procedure that you side-eye anyone taking their coffee with sugar but that is Ugandans exercising their human rights. The orders keep coming as the grinder riots in a jocund demonstration crashing coffee beans with an aroma that warms up and brings life to the heart. 

Coffee has been here with us for years. Traditional coffee-consuming communities would use pestle and mortar as their grinder. The practice remains in several households upcountry. They crash those beans with a lot of love every sip of it is a lifetime memory etched on the heart. 

But I digress. 

Java House has been boldly staring at our faces like their mega art pieces in different locations. I have grown to notice familiar faces who have been fellow sojourners. From the days of Village Mall Bugolobi, Imperial Mall Entebbe,  Grand Imperial Hotel, Acacia Place, Shell Jinja and Total Kira Road, the one that never lasted, Java Love has always been in the air. 

The one thing that will always see me return to Java is not the minimalism in their concept of light or the consistency in their coffee formula but how the service team takes centre position by their duty stations and not in your face. In a competitive service world where restaurants always overwhelm their patrons with a lot of uncalled attention, I am fine with their service on call and the confidence that my ears are not about to be shuttered by random birthday shenanigans.

In the rush for the self-styled no-agenda abrupt meetings, Java House comes to mind. It always works. To know that you have a place you can have that meeting. 

When it comes to us who never step into the office, we pay our rent on that brown upholstery as you unknowingly grow to sing along to the Sauti Sol music that is the never-changing playlist year in, year out. 

… in the beginning 

Java started so well with the different branches opening up in the various neighbourhoods. We had something good going on in Entebbe but lo and behold the conversation had an unannounced end when we returned from the first lockdown only to find the chairs turned upside down on top of tables and the doors locked never to be opened again. The soft light of those backcloth-fashioned lampstands was to be off forever. 

A similar story goes for the Grand Imperial Hotel branch which was the go-to place for all meetings in the middle of town. Village Mall was a love that never lived to see the investment of time and effort. A relationship quickly abandoned. Total Kira Road was only an eye’s blink before it closed. 

But love stayed on at Acacia Place, or it still does. Shell Lugogo remains the assembly ground for Kampala’s hustlers. The place where you hold that meeting with only one item on the agenda. The place where the smudge film on your cold Coca-Cola glass wears out as you are still punching in endlessly on your keyboard. It is that place where you stop by the entrance and make the head search for where the person you are meeting is seated or where to sit. However, nothing beats the experience of stopping over at the Shell Jinja branch. It is the long-awaited comma along Uganda’s eastern travelogue. 

As they celebrate 10 years of this office on the go, one can only hope that Java House will consider it in their heart of hearts to return the love to Entebbe. They didn’t have to disappear in the night like thieves. Also, they should give us more cookies. Ten years later, there is no need to serve just one cookie.  I am not a foodie, I have no idea what they look out for in their reviews. I will leave that to them. I wonder where this red brand will be opening up next; Mbarara? Kasese? Or Gulu? Only time will tell. But first things first, return to Entebbe, please. 

2 thoughts on “10 Years of Java House

  1. The one at Shell Jinja is an Oasis. Especially when you are coming from up up country and are looking for a certain kind of meal.

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