Neo could be described as a continuation of the story that the Bourbon Coffee chain introduced to the country a decade ago; the story of Gourmet Rwandan coffee.
And like Bourbon, the café strives to embody a modern and vibrant approach to celebrating the country’s coffee heritage. Perhaps the only difference is that Neo cuts a more sublime image, generally avoiding the “fast food-restaurant” tag. At Neo, it’s all about the coffee, and it’s hard to imagine someone walking into the place without a coffee-related agenda in mind.
It’s located behind the big white building across the road from the Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, in Kacyiru.
They have a very modestly sized, almost discreet street sign, so the first thing I expected was of an establishment that is sure of itself. We gathered that the Neo is a Tswana word that means “gift”, prompting speculation that the owners hail from Botswana, but that was not the case as it’s locally owned by a large coffee investment company as its sole retail outlet in the country.
We further learnt that the Café boasts three more outlets, all situated in Lagos, Nigeria, and that sell strictly Rwandan coffee.
The café actually sits in an open space covered by a tiled roof, and this is teamed with the coffee-themed interior décor of furniture, brick walls, and a rugged stone floor.
On a hot Thursday midmorning, I sneaked from work to try the café’s favorite milk-based beverage, the cappuccino. It was a good feeling as I reclined into my seat and watched as the barrister fixed my drink from scratch, right at the counter.
It took about five minutes to arrive, and upon embarking on my cup, it proved to be the ultimate balance of foam and the aroma of Gourmet Rwandan Coffee. Price tag was Rwf 2,000, and I saw no reason to complain.
Looking around to adjacent tables, the crowd I saw was not any different from the typical coffee crowd anywhere–well-paid corporate, the business types, expats, and the usual trend-seeking local crowd simply on a mission to partake of the new coffee culture in a free Wi-Fi zone.
The manager, Che, a young Rwandan who honed his barrister skills in Canada, would later comment that they do strictly Rwandan coffee, further adding: “We felt our countrymen and women hadn’t been offered the chance to savor some of the best home-grown coffee, so here’s a chance.”
Should you wish for a bite, be sure of a range of options, including sandwiches (ham, cheese, and chicken, the veggie wrap, and banana bread, at Rwf700.
Their hot drinks include; latte, French press, African coffee, African black tea, ranging from the Rwf1,200 mark, to 2,000 for the African coffee. They also do espressos, iced drinks, and fruit blends.