Art & CultureSlideshow

Tryst Addis: a Recent Returnee Contributes to the Rise of Addis Ababa’s Café Scene

Far from the usual, on a busy street located in the Olympia neighborhood of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tryst Addis has become the local flavor.

Pitching in on a recent rise of a café culture across the city, Tryst Addis throws in its specialty flavor – resembling no other in town.

Bearing the hallmark of an artsy space for everyday people, lately, its popularity seems to be hosting more than what the space can hold.

But it’s no wonder; the affordable price along with the sociably vibrant environment explains it all.

On this one sun scorching Addis afternoon – sometime between when the summertime temperature had reached its peak and the sun was almost ready to hide in its bunker – a packed house of assorted age and kind were sipping coffee while others were cooling off with a cold beer.

The space had an electrifying vibe to it – a tone freely accommodated by the owner.

On any given day, you’ll find the owner Gobezie ‘Aya’ Lemma on time welcoming his customers or preparing a meticulously crafted macchiato – a charismatically cool host keenly wearing multiple hats.

A diligent worker, Aya with his wife Sara Terefa by his side holding up half, takes on multiple roles: barista maestro, waiter, cook, busboy and a warm-spirited host.

Born Gobezie Lemma and better known to his friends as Aya, the Ethiopian-American is an entrepreneur and artist: a recent returnee from the diaspora.

Aya, prior to moving to Ethiopia, for years invested his time in the hospitality industry in Washington D.C. In fact, it’s because of a long and trustworthy working relationship established with his then employee – owner of Tryst in D.C. – that he got the blessing of using the company’s trademark, Tryst.

Tryst Addis operates independently creating a destination spot with a hybrid flavor while embracing the essence of Addis Ababa.

Returnees using the skills and experiences attained abroad

12378051_654386921370578_1941628264018997314_oIn recent years, encouraged by Africa’s strong economic growth and business opportunities together with the prevailing “Africa rising” narrative and further promoted by African leaders who regularly call on them to “come home”, a vast number of the African Diaspora have returned ‘home’.

The migration is not only justified on the basis of economics but a patriotic move as well. Many of the returnees are using the skills and experiences they attained aboard to be part of and identify with Africa’s progress – contribute towards building and leading in their home country.

Aya’s journey fits into this narrative.

Assimilating seamlessly into his home country’s business culture, that in some ways lends to a frequently packed house, he seems to be at ease yet eager to contribute towards building and sharing his 20+ years of skills and experiences attained in the US. Everyday, inching towards what he believes to be the need to refine and contemporize Addis Ababa’s coffee culture.

Aya says while he appreciates the traditional Ethiopian coffee culture, he’s committed to introduce to his people and country what he claims, for the most part, different than the local custom.

“More than tradition, I want people to see coffee brewing as an artful craft and drinking coffee as a delicacy. See it for what the world has made out of what we produce here in our home country; our economic mainstay. I want people to enjoy and appreciate the café culture,” he says.

What’s more, he wants people to be open and free to enter his café with a book or newspaper – even if not a coffee connoisseur to be open to indulge in Tryst Addis’ finely prepared blended coffee with perhaps a tasty light bite or, something healthy while relaxing with a good read.

But book or no book, in less than a year the café has accustomed itself to its peak hours: breakfast, lunch and after work hours.

The aesthetically curated café with its modern stylish interior – classic style armchairs, vintage small wooden tables and, fine paintings and photographic works decorating the wall – has become a place for the everyday man.

By and large, packed with returnees from the diaspora, moments at Tryst Addis tend to render services like gourmet sandwich lunches, breakfast meetings, drinks, discussions and real human connections that cannot hold back mirth.

No wonder Tryst Addis speaks contemporary yet advocates for a space free of WIFI.

If you’re visiting Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and want something ‘different’, of artsy quality – finely prepared coffee or perhaps satisfy your palate with some gourmet sandwiches, tasty light bite or a mouth watering curry goat and rice meal, be sure to look up Tryst Addis.

Photo credits: Desta Keremela Photography

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