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Set within the lush Thogoto neighbourhood is a hidden gem in coffee 254. 

I happened into it courtesy of my wife’s ogling of everything that comes up on social media. 

You know, as a last ditch mechanism to reduce my screen time and manage time better, I uninstalled social media accounts from my phone except LinkedIn (which I treat as a networking and jobs site than a social media platform) and twitter ( I am yet to come to terms with calling it X). But for coffee 254, my wife was scrolling through Facebook (I hear it may also have been baptised Meta- whatever with the new nomenclature since covid -19!). 

The proprietor had posted on the social media site about how he reclaimed a dump site to set up a pocket friendly ambient winding down place. 

It is to your right as you head westward towards Thogoto Teachers College from Thogoto market. You drive up the slope across the elevated stretch overpassing the dual Southern bypass. To your left are a few semi-permanent structures that speak of a hurried convenient settlement that contrast the upper middle-class estate l a few kilometres ahead, called Gikambura. If your eyes wander farther to the south west, they will rest on a canopy of a compact forest. Stretch your imagination beyond your eyes’ horizon and you are in the northern extent of the Karen suburbs that starts at the Karen end, locally corrupted to ‘Karinde’.

The first time I had driven over the southern bypass, I stopped and turned back, wondering why Coffee 254 was claimed to be in Thogoto, yet I was already past Thogoto and headed to Gikambura. Nowhere I had looked resembled a reclaimed dumping site. So, I had turned back and called it a day. In theatre the next day, I had asked one of the medical interns if they knew about the place. It was one of those cool-down conversations when my surgery questions have been met by a string of ‘I don’t remembers’ and ‘I will read about it’s. 

“Do you also reside in Karen?” I had asked, referring to the name given to one of the hospital staff quarters. The others include Dandora and Rehab. 

“Nope. I have rented in Thogoto market,” she had answered prompting me to imagine that being the only coffee place it must be popular with new inhabitants of the neighbourhood seeking to find early areas to connect them to the historic neighbourhood that also boasts of the Alliance High School (the I went to alliance craze never stops) and the first Building of the church of Scotland which has since been condoned off as a national heritage site. Thogoto itself is a corruption of the word “Scotland” from the “church of Scotland”. I always imagine it being proffered by a toothless elder chewing on a hot Irish potato. And then the crumbled up phonetic took a life of its own. Well, I don’t know what to say of “Kangubiri” -prounced “Kangufiri” – in Murang’a county towards Nyeri, born of the final statement on releasing people from the colonial concentration camps – Can go free. For whatever its worth, Thogoto came before Kangubiri. Or as we say in politically hushed tones, the gun followed the bible. When the Church of Scotland missionaries, having braved the man eaters of Tsavo and the plaques, settled in the current Thogoto area of Kikuyu, it was decades before the British colonial government took over running of Kenya then bearing a company title (get history reference before you quote me). Seems the recent political slip of the tongue of calling the country a shareholding company is a form of neo-colonialism that we are not calling out enough. 


Southern Bypass as seen from the Thogoto Overpass.

Anyway, my theatre day ended and another day came for me to drive over the slope across the Southern bypass, this time not in spirited pursuit of Coffee 254. But then I happened on it. It was hiding in plain sight. To the right. I turned on the indicator and made a 90-degree right turn to access the driveway into the convenience store set up that hosts the premises. The Facebook post did not say that there was a laundry shop and a posho mill sharing the same block. I strolled around then drove back. I had found it! 

“Maybe we can go and have coffee at that Coffee 254 place. I hear it’s really dope,” my wife had been the quintessential salesperson she is, taking about the place out of blog and a few google maps images like she had known it for ages.  Now here I was, armed with real time data and lived experience of having stepped my two feet on the cabro paved veranda of the establishment. She would not hear the end of it. 

Then, she beat me to another detail: Did you meet the proprietor? Remember Mr Karuga? Remember? He was featured on top 100 most influential Kenyans. Remember? 

My eyes rolled: I had not met him. I had just eyeballed some pastries behind the glass panel of the pastry shelves. How could I have met him? Wait. How does he look like? 

“That’s him. We should go say hi”, she nudged me. It was several weeks if not months after. We had come to the place for an evening midweek coffee. Me still dressed in the relics of officialdom- full suit safe for the missing half coat of the three-piece. Those times of the day when you are happy at not having dressed down while still a little uneasy that you have not loosened up and freshened up when the rest of humanity is appropriately dressed down. The rest of the humanity included my wife who was still enjoying season two of her maternity leave. She was still trying to discover her circadian rhythm. In that period when waking up with the rest of the household seemed a workable solution until the body reminded her that the previous night, at 2am, while the rest of the world was in deep sleep, she was fully awake, breastfeeding and changing diapers and having additional hours of insomnia. As such, to hell with waking up with the rest of the household. Better to follow the routine of the little one- sleep when he sleeps and eat just before he eats (sorry, suckles), otherwise I understand the episode of suckling can leave one dehydrated and dizzy. 

When we drove into the same spot I had parked earlier, I pointed out to her the laundry shop and then the posho mill. She could send a boda guy to buy groundnut and sweet potato flour for porridge. We would love it. We walked past the front part then took three or so steps of stairs, making our way into the back house which seemed like the real establishment. 


Entrance to Coffee 254 as seen at night

Coffee tables were set to accommodate two people mostly. To the left is a row of tables, patronized to a good percentage. Farther ahead is a secluded manager’s office which can double up as space to let for a bigger group. To the far right is the kitchen and staff working area. Then to the immediate right is a secluded area made of small Makuti partitions and two tables. What caught my attention is the bookshelf at the corner. I quickly flipped through a few of the books displayed and settled on the memoirs of Israel Burale. The front page bears the author’s autograph to the proprietor.  How cool! The adjacent wall also speaks highly of book influence, holding display bookcases of a few books including Lupita Nyong’o’s children’s book Sulwe which my daughter would incessantly want to carry home when we made a second visit. There’s also a newspaper cutting featuring Mr Karuga the founder with his famous quote -“ukulima sio ushamba”. 

“That’s him, we should really go say hi,” she nudged some more. At first I thought, ‘how do we say hi to a dude stuck on the wall with glue’ as I looked at his picture, holding tightly to a bunch of kales like a parent holding to a neonate- just lightly enough not to uncomfortably squeeze the baby but tightly enough to avoid the baby sliding and falling down. 

It is when she continued, “when he is done with the client” that I looked past the window. He was seated on the green swing bench outside. In that adjoining area between the two rooms of the coffee house, the space that serves as overlfow customer parking but which he is decorating and landscaping as additional outdoor sitting area. There are pebbles laid over some muddy corner while potted travellers palms have started creating a picture of the final envisioned green space. He was tall and dark, and was wearing a corporate branded T shirt and a white head cap, the type I wear in theatre when asking those questions that elicit ‘I don’t remember’ and ‘I will read about it’; only that surgeons wear green or blue ones while chefs and kitchen staff wear white ones. He knew his side in this color dichotomy. The cap was sliding back, revealing a clean shaven head. 

“Hi. You must me Karuga. I follow you on social media,” I wonder how such an opening gambit scores in the marketing and business development circles. But it seemed to work here. My wife did the talking while he did the listening and the occasional replies with an animated detail here and there. I did the standing there and listening. He spoke about his passion for coffee and for books, and his new place in Westlands (second branch). He spoke about how the coffee they made here was local- picked from local farms and roasted by his barristers. His love for travelling. How his penchant for local coffee made him not bring Ethiopian coffee when he travelled. I felt bad to hear this. 

“You don’t have decaf,” I observed when I got a chance to speak. Nowadays I am wont to take decaffeinated coffee anytime past 2pm to ensure I don’t have caffeine in my system by bedtime. I thought we were done after the profuse “congratulations on having such a place where some of us who are new in the hood can actually sit and have coffee”. But then we (okay, my wife and Mr Karuga) spoke about goat milk and how it is liked by lactating mothers for some medicinal and nutritional value and how it is good for lactose intolerant people. My wife is both, I am the latter. We would plan to buy some goat milk in future. 

Then the conversation about books came up. Mr Karuga loves to read. When he finishes a book, he places it on the shelf for any interested customers to imbibe. 

“He is an author, you should get his book,” she was now bringing her marketing game to the evening. As more people streamed in past us, my full suit made me look like a visitor who was just enquiring on something and stepping out shortly. Or a regulatory inspector of sorts. 

“That is great. I am actually looking for something to read during my upcoming long flight,” he enthused at the proposal. 

We exchanged numbers and I assured Mr Karuga that he could send someone to pick a signed copy from the office. He made sure to do this the next day and sent me a message: “Good morning. I’ll be coming by 11:30am. Thanks” 

A few hours later, in between my surgeries, I got his confirmation text: “Thanks I’ve received the book.”

That was much it. Some time passed and we finally found ourselves driving into coffee 254 with our 3-year-old on another evening. 

“I want cake. No, I want to watch on a tablet. Ah, now I want to sit on your laps…,” she kept on and on and on. We were unfazed by the few glances thrown our way by many a couple.  We knew they were only emanating from those descendants of Adam and Eve who are yet to have toddler as their descendant. We ordered our coffees. Because of the business of the evening, it took a few minutes longer for the waitress to deliver our order, meaning my daughter was on the verge of tantrums by the time the fries came in. We managed to squeeze our way to the secluded area with the bookshelf. 

Realizing that her request “I want Sulwe” was constantly met with a cold “no mama, Sulwe is stuck on the wall”, she opted to ‘read’ Steve Covey! A few pages and we were ready to distract with the fries. Adjacent to us was a couple. The lady was engrossed in a book, flipping pages, while the man finished on his beverage and snacks, occasionally peeping at his phone. 

At first, I didn’t see my book, “The Chronicle of a Village Surgeon” on display. 

Ni kama bado hajamaliza kusoma“, I told my wife, referring to the possibility that Mr Karuga was yet to be done with the book so that he could put it on display. It would have been utterly flattering to see your book displayed at a random place you went for coffee. I really don’t know what I would do with that information anyway. Maybe savor in the moment and enjoy the little dopamine surge before I was brought back to the reality of the 42 days of January-Zakayo edition. 

I had ordered black house coffee with caramel syrup for sweetener. My wife ordered a double cappuccino with canderel sweetener. There was no lactose free milk for us. And today goat milk was not on offer. In fact, the reason we had stopped here was to purchase goat milk enroute from an evening drive to Rusingiti, another Kikuyu appropriation of… guess what?… Lucy Gate. 

It is my challenge so far in most coffee places, the lactose free milk unavailability, the decaf coffee unavailability. But anyway, last time I spoke about decaf everyone laughed at me and told me that I was not qualified to address a gathering of coffee takers. My attempt at rationalizing the caffeine levels and the Cyclic AMP and how it affects our adenosine levels and keeps our brains alert etc had been met by the stares of ‘that’s why we take coffee’!

I am yet to find that perfect blend in the coffee the way I like it. Maybe I will try arabica next round, if it’s available. And goat milk too, to make for white coffee for the lactose intolerant. I will hope to also rent out that manager’s office and just have a coffee meeting of three pax or so. You will be amazed at the price of the coffee and other edibles. Awesomely affordable. When the landscaped outdoor area comes to life, it will be perfect for sunny late afternoon coffee after a slow drive, probably with one of the books to read. 


The Chronicles of a Village Surgeon is seen shelved in the left column at Coffee 254

Back to the couple next to us. I kept wondering what the lady was reading, so I kept sneaking a glance at the direction of the table. Something looked familiar- either the layout on the opened page or the outline of the headings (I must confess some of the chapter headings are so long) or the font. I gleaned further, finally realizing that she was on one of the chapters of ‘The Chronicles’. I quickly alerted my wife to the discovery then moved on. I was really struggling with my coffee on this occasion, and to manage the new demand of “carry me”, I flung the little one onto my flank and strolled to the service counter, answering ‘muffin’, ‘cake’…. to her incessant and repetitive “and what is this?” probing. The couple was on their feet when we came back to our table.

“Did you enjoy the read? ” my wife was now engaging the lady who was shelving back the book and making her way out. 

“I loved it!” she replied. 

“I know the author!” she announced with a tinge of pride as I walked in on them. She pointed the lady to my direction, making the all-important revelation to the reader. I was a tad uneasy now. I felt for the gentleman, ignored for tens of minutes while the lady finished the chapter she was reading, and now completely in the outskirts of this conversation between the two ladies, their guns now all trained on me.

It was the third time I was hearing the approval of the book based on its short chapters. A colleague had told me that it was easy to squeeze ten minutes before bedtime to finish a chapter, and here this lady was confirming the same. She had pleaded with her partner to give her some time to finish the chapter since it was short, wishing it was possible to borrow the book and read it from home. Well, now that it wasn’t, she would frequently visit Coffee 254 to read a chapter or two each time until she was done. 

“You can pick it on Nuria Store, they deliver to your doorstep,” I insisted on giving her other ideas, “or you can pass by the office and I will have an autographed copy for you.” 

“I am always fascinated with medicine. I am the only one who didn’t take medicine among my siblings,” she said as we exchanged contacts. She has not reached out for an autographed copy yet. She may be making the trips and reading Karuga’s copy, or she has picked a copy from Nuria store. 

Here is a big thank you to Karuga for setting this place up. I will autograph a copy of my second book as soon as I am done publishing. Then I will influence him to have some decaf coffee for my evenings. And probably lactose free milk too, besides the goat milk.

ENJOY COFFEE AND A GOOD READ AT THIS GEM IN THOGOTO cropped aruyaru removebg preview 700x208

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About the Author

Dr. Stanley Aruyaru

Dr. Aruyaru is a Consultant General and Laparoscopic Surgeon and a Healthcare Manager. He has solid experience in managing busy surgical units and leading clinical teams to deliver in the lines of quality health provision and evidence based surgical practice.


  1. I loved the read. It’s fascinating and I know the place quite well coz it’s within my neighbourhood.
    Of Coffee 254, the soothing allure blended with the calming aura of natural surroundings redolent of opulence gives the idea of a man well-travelled and a business idea well-executed.

    PS: Please lobby for us the lactose intolerants.

  2. What an amazing piece to wake up to.

    Of course I know Cofffe 254😊,their Hibiscus tea is to die for.

    Can’t wait to read your upcoming book.

  3. My autographed copy is still with me. I keep reading, re-reading the chapters once in a while. Coffee 254, will visit soon, it is in my current neighborhood.

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