Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Akamwani: A traditional welcome gesture in Kagera, Tanzania

A guest to a home in Kagera region will normally receive the traditional snack of coffee beans, known as akamwani in the Haya dialect.

Akamwani is made from Robusta coffee beans and is served to the visitor immediately after the exchange of greetings. Robusta coffee beans are smaller compared to Arabica coffee beans.

When coffee is almost mature but is still green in color it is harvested and washed, and mixed with special herbs to augment its aroma. The mixing of these herbs is known in the Haya dialect as akachumba mwani. The mix is then boiled in a pot for about eight hours and then dried in the shade.

Akamwani was traditionally used in various social events, such as during ceremonies for joining two friends in a covenant that transforms their friendship into a family bond, or at the conclusion of a mourning period.

Both the outer shell and the bean itself can be eaten although I found it easier to chew the relatively softer bean.

Traditionally it was taboo for children and those living with their parents to eat akamwani. Children were warned that if they ate the snack their parents would die. The more probable reason for this taboo is that because coffee induces insomnia it would prevent children from sleeping and also prevent their parents from freely engaging in acts whose effect was to produce more offspring.

The traditional Haya house, or mshonge, consisted of a single thatched-roof round building with a single entrance, a central cooking space, and various sleeping compartments made of straw or wicker partitions for the parents and female children. The male children slept in the open spaces around the mshonge.

Parents seeking privacy in the mshonge could only get that privacy when the children were asleep.

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