By Leila Parina
It’s an ordinary afternoon in Suva city, with school students flooding towards the bus stand and window shopping. Car horns honk as drivers speed through the city or are stuck in traffic. Shop owners prepare to close up while market vendors call out to passers-by in a bid to sell their final goods for the day. As the sun sets, the chaotic scenes from town slowly die down. The bus stand slowly empties, the last shop closes, and the last dalo is sold. A deep orange glow encompasses the city as two young women stride to a quiet corner of town.
It is 5.45 pm this Wednesday afternoon, and Ani Nata and Atelini are the first customers to arrive at Arabian Coffee Break, a quiet little coffee shop by day and a relaxing kava bar by night. Ani and Atelini are regulars at the bar and very loyal to the establishment. They often come with fellow work colleagues or friends. “I like coming here because of the atmosphere and even though it’s a long walking distance from work, I wouldn’t replace this kava bar with another. The staff are good and always accommodating and the kava is top notch”, says Atelini.
“The location is good, and I like the kava here, it is nice and clean,” Ani adds.
The secret to the “top notch kava” is the process in which it is served. Eremasi Seavula, is a frontliner at the café and is in charge of food, beverages and customer service. He explains that their kava is made from yaqona sourced from a farm in Saqani, Vanua Levu. “We just pound the yaqona, it turns into powder and from that powder we mix the grog”.
Like many other small businesses, Arabian Coffee Break struggled through the pandemic in Fiji. The business lost many hours because of the restrictions in 2021. They lost many customers and it was a struggle to operate. Once the government started removing restrictions, they slowly started getting back on their feet. The restaurant accepts sit-down patrons, and orders for cakes and takeaways.
The small business owned by Abdul and Fariza Shiraz started as a café and carwash. The carwash closed in June, and in November, the kava bar was added. There are plans for a liquor bar to be added to the growing business.
Arabian Coffee Break mainly attracts workers, as it sits in the heart of Suva’s CBD. “We have customers from the Reserve Bank, BSP, and even the police here…the people that are nearby,” says Eremasi.
The outdoor area is spacious and set with tables, chairs and an umbrella to each. There is a canopy that covers the inner area of the bar which has more seating areas, a TV and a billiard table. Music is often playing when a game is not on TV. “I love it here because they allow you to play your own music, you can just connect your Bluetooth to the speaker and enjoy your music,” says Analeti. “We also watch the Drua [rugby] games here.” Analeti and Mereani are both sharing a tanoa filled with kava and they also have a soft drink on the side as a ‘chaser’. As the sun sets and the darkness rises, many more kava enthusiasts come in to share a bowl, talanoa, listen to music, and watch a game or two on the TV set.
This article first appeared in the April issue of Islands Business magazine.