by Iain Evans
"I didn't choose coffee, coffee chose me"
Deon Erwee was in middle management for a giant pharmaceutical company who found himself squeezed out of a job and a career when coffee changed his life. Deon met Gary Hay, who at the time had a been roasting beans in KZN for a while, Initially based in Bothas Hill at The Fainting Goat, and was excited at the prospect of what was happening in coffee culture in SA. Deon worked full time in the roastery and later bought into the business when Gary moved to Cape Town to expand his own operation under Gourmet Coffee Roasters, Deon agreed to run the KZN business under the name The Coffee Merchant.
Deon pulls a shot to test his latest roast profile.
"It was small to start. We did everything ourselves, by hand. We slowly grew the business and brought it here - to Durban North in 2009" says Deon. He's quick to stress that The Coffee Merchant is NOT a coffee shop, although the factory has a beautifully laid out cafe vibe.
The Coffee Merchant's very cool roastery in Glen Anil, Durban North.
"We sell beans to the public and sell beans to the trade, but our philosophy is simple: Everything is roasted on demand and we aim to have our beans delivered and consumed within 5-7 days. We believe in getting the timing right"
Innocent getting another roast on the go.
The Coffee Merchant stocks some premium shops in the Durban trade like Cafe 99, Delicious in La Lucia & Windemere, The Little Italian in the Pavilion and Cafe Jiran.
"More and more consumers are opting for the truly fresh option. If you buy from your local roastery, you get it fresh and you get up to 45% of the taste, aroma, flavor" says Deon
"We create espresso flavours for espresso machines"
"We bring in 11- 15 types of beans from Nicagragua, El Salvador, Peru, Brazil, Zambia, Colombia, Eithiopia, Tanzania, and Malawi.
Innocent: "I've done around 3000 roasts, and I've only burnt 3!"
"Our profile with the blends is 100% arabica unwashed coffee as a base and we stack on that. We aim for an espresso that can cut through the milk in a cappuccino, as that's what most of our clients want for their customers"
"The Flavoured coffees are there for the people who like plungers and filter machines…but the main focus of The Coffee Merchant is to create espresso flavors for espresso machines"
A final word…"The recession was good to us - It made people look at local roasters instead of the corporates"
+27 (0)31 569 1412
+27 (0)76 285 1967
+27 (0)31 564 7946
The Coffee Merchant
80 Rinaldo Road
KwaZulu Natal, South Africa