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The kinkeliba cart: Congo Republic's roving tea center

The kinkeliba cart: Congo Republic's roving tea center

Republic of the Congo

Breakfast is an important meal highly recommended by nutritionists. It’s the first meal of the day. Its composition largely depends on a person’s daily schedule. It would surely vary for the school child, the sedentary worker, the office worker and the market woman etc.

But for most residents of Congo’s commercial capital Pointe-Noire, breakfast could be on the go as they head to work and it could be ready in less than five minutes.

Yes, breakfast on two wheels, usually manned by young Senegalese men who push their tea carts along the road. The Kinkeliba tea sellers serve it hot not just in the mornings but at all times of the day.

I meet Salif Sumaila, a 23-year-old Senegalese pushing his cart on the busy streets of Pointe Noire’s city center (Centre Ville), incidentally, it is right in front of a highly popular café where people are seated, sipping coffee as they chat.

Those seated are not Sumaila’s target. His clients are usually on the move but in need of a quick fix, a fix Sumaila and several of his colleagues offer on the main streets and street corners. Asked what his cart typically serves, he said: “we (my brothers and I) serve Kinkeliba, lipton and coffee.”

What is kinkeliba?

The Palm Tree Tea website defines it as one of the most popular of the bush teas popular in Senegal and across Francophone West Africa. Kinkeliba (Seh-Haw in Wolof) has healing properties and higher antioxidant levels than Green tea.

The leaves of this shrub – when dried and boiled – produce a strong, earthy-tasting tea which is mineral-rich and caffeine-free.

A peek inside the Kinkeliba cart.

A typical Kenkeliba cart contains two or three vacuum flasks almost always filled with hot water. Also in there are boxes of tea bags and cans of coffee with sachets of powdered milk hanging loosely on the sides.

Atop the cart are containers with sugar and also packets of cigarettes which serve as a side business. Then there are the plastic cups in which the “mixtures” once ready, are served to customers for FCFA 100.

One cannot but admire the rather adept manner in which the Kinkeliba operators juggle tea/coffee from one cup to the other in order to give a good mix of the components. They seem to have mastered the juggling of tea from cups and for that, a customer can admire their almost flawless effort.

The sad narrative, however, is that, because the Kinkeliba cart is almost always on the move, as one sips his or her coffee on the street corner or heading to their workplace, the empty plastic cup is tossed over somewhere as there are few refuse collection points (if there are any)

Beyond mornings, the cart rolls on

But the Kenkeliba rolls on long after the morning. The sellers continue their business through brunch, lunch time and to the evenings serving patrons juicy mixes as they roam with their carts.

Usually when darkness begins to fall and Pointe-Noire is awashed with fluorescent light, some Kenkeliba operators station their carts at strategic corners or junctions awaiting last minute clients who might be in need of a final sip for the day.

Soon after, the Kenkeliba heads home after the days service. Set to rest and be back on the streets the next day soon as the cock crows.

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