An unusually cold spell that has gripped Kenya since last month has spurred business for small traders, especially those selling tea, coffee and roasted maize.
The traders are having a busy time and laughing all the way to the bank even as Kenyans complain of the cold spell that started late May and would continue until August, longer by one month, according to the Meteorological Department.
June and July are usually cold months in Kenya, with the cold weather initially hitting Nairobi in particular.
However, this year the cold weather has engulfed most parts of the country, with temperatures falling to 3 degrees Celsius in some areas.
In the capital Nairobi, business is booming for coffee and tea hawkers. The number of traders engaging in the trade has risen sharply at market places, bus parks and on the streets.
The traders, mainly women, sell the beverages in portable kettles and small plastic cups at 0.10 U.S. dollars each.
At Muthurwa, a food and clothes market on the outskirts of the central business district, traders are drinking up to five cups a day to keep themselves warmer.
“This weather is good for business,” Mercy Njeri, who sells coffee at the busy market, said on Wednesday. “Demand for the drink is high because people want to stay warm,” she said.
During the warm weather, Njeri would sell the drink early morning from 5am to 8am and take a break until after 5 p.m. But with the cold, the business is throughout the day.
“We take the drink to their stalls since the traders cannot move. Some of us sell tea, others coffee but the cost is the same,” she said, noting that the number of people engaging in the trade has doubled since June.
Njeri, who makes the drink by warming water and adding the beverage she buys from supermarkets in sachets, is currently selling up to 200 cups a day, up from less than 100 during the other periods.
The trade is also booming at adjacent markets namely Wakulima, Burma and Gikomba, where food, clothes, shoes and furniture, among other items, are sold.
Besides traders at the markets, motorbike taxi riders are also consuming the beverages in copious amounts handing the hawkers business. Demand for the drinks among the riders is higher because of the nature of their work.
“I cannot do without coffee this time because riding in the cold is torturous. We then work until late into the night where temperatures fall significantly,” said Bernard Sakwa, a motorbike rider in Kayole on the east of Nairobi. Sakwa drinks at least four coffee cups a day, some on credit.
Maize roasters are equally reaping big, with majority opening their businesses as early as 8am as opposed to 4pm on normal days.
A piece of roasted maize is currently going for up to 0.40 dollars from 0.25 dollars, thanks to huge demand.
“I now roast up to 100 pieces of maize every day and they are all consumed. I open my business from 9am to 8pm because of high demand during this cold weather,” said Solomon Munyivya.
However, not only small businesses are reaping. Coffee shops, eateries and hotels in the capital Nairobi are recording booming businesses as Kenyans flock there for beverages and food to stay warm, especially early morning and evening.
So full are the coffee shops that it has become increasingly hard to get space for a drink during the peak hours.
Nutritionist Margaret Mwenje noted that during the cold weather, the body requires plenty of food and drinks to generate heat for one to stay warm.
“Drinking beverages helps to keep the body warmer and thus fend off diseases like flu or coughs,” she said.