Winston Thomas is on the road! The road to Amsterdam and the World Barista Championships 2018!
It seems like only yesterday that our National Champion was on stage in Seoul at his debut WBC. And now there are only a few days left until his next global performance and guess what, he is FIRST in the entire programme! Talk about setting the bar high! Winston is sure to wow the judges who will be fresh and ready to take in all the info in his set.
You can catch it live on the World Barista Championship website. His time slot is 9.15am on Wednesday 20th, there is no time difference between here and Amsterdam, and as he is first there likely won't be any delays, so be glued to your laptops from 9am to make sure you don't miss it!
He's got an amazing coffee, he's feeling good and he is determined make South Africa proud (we're proud already Winston!).
The team section of the competition also makes it really interesting. Winston is part of Team Brew. It's a very strong team and we'll be cheering each of them on. The higher their collective scores, the more chance Winston has of being part of the All Stars program which is a huge deal! Last year Martin Shabaya of Kenya qualified for the semi-finals through this method, making him the first African barista in the semi-finals!
"Up for grabs for the winning team are some great prizes, and the chance to participate in upcoming WCE All-Stars features. Along with these team prizes, the highest ranking team member who has not already qualified for semi-finals will win a spot as the sixteenth WBC semi-finalist."
If you haven't heard of Red Espresso, then where have you been? The Red Cappuccino is a firm favourite on South African cafe menus. So you may know the brand but do you know about the raw product, the famous rooibos tea that is so proudly South African. We chatted to Pete and Monique Ethelston about the farmers behind this precious crop and what goes into getting the final product.
Carl, Pete and Monique: The Brains Trust behind Red Espresso
Tell us a little about where rooibos tea grows?
Rooibos tea is a waist-high shrub with tiny yellow flowers that is classed as fynbos and part of the Cape Floral Kingdom. It grows in the Cederberg Mountains about four hours north of Cape Town…and nowhere else in the world! The Cederberg is a rugged and remote spot with incredible hiking and climbing and a whole bunch of San rock art. In fact, the San were the first to discover the delicious, healing tea made from the rooibos plant. It gets its name (meaning “red bush” in English) from the fact that its fine, needle-like green leaves turn a rich red colour once cut and allowed to dry in the sun.
What is so special about this indigenous South African plant that we all love!
Most South Africans have grown up on rooibos and know that it is caffeine-free and good to drink before bed or when you’re feeling unwell. But there’s more to it than that. In recent decades it has become increasingly popular all over the world…thanks to its naturally sweet taste and the fact that it’s loaded with antioxidants that help combat stress, allergies and insomnia and also fight the ‘free radicals’ that can cause premature ageing, heart disease and cancer.
Red Espresso – with its patented grind and espresso method of preparation, just like coffee – contains 10 times more antioxidants than regular rooibos!!
What kind of growing conditions are optimal for rooibos?
Rooibos is a tough, hardy plant that is born to live in the rocky soils and harsh climate (temperatures hit 50ËšC in summer and drop well below zero in winter!) of the Cederberg region. The clever little plant makes up for lack of rainfall with a three-metre long taproot that seeks out ground water.
Is there a specific kind of science, a "rooibos agronomy" that has developed over the years in maximising the flavour, the output or the quality of the tea?
Not all rooibos is created equal. Much like coffee (and wine grapes for that matter), rooibos which grows at high-altitude and in especially harsh, low-rainfall corners of the Cederberg produces stronger-tasting tea. At Red Espresso we only use high-altitude rooibos. The remote location of our tea lands makes mechanisation impossible, so our tea is grown wild, with no pesticides and irrigation. The biggest threat to our tea lands comes from baboons, porcupines and klipspringers!
Leaving fynbos corridors between our tea lands doesn’t just give us the highest biodiversity scores in the industry, it also assists pollination. Away from the farms, the special science that we’ve developed to maximize Red Espresso’s flavour and health benefits lies in the patented grind that has been painstakingly perfected over 13 years to provide optimal espresso extraction and consistent quality on all coffee appliances. Rooibos is so tough that we have to replace our blades every ton!
What are some of the challenges facing tea growers in our country? Is there anything that we, as tea and coffee professionals and consumers can do to help?
Like most of the Cape, the Cederberg has been hit hard by the drought – for the past four years, rooibos tea harvests have been a lot lower than normal…Especially on smaller farms at higher altitudes.
Another challenge facing the industry is that most rooibos tea is sold in bulk which leaves the farmers at the mercy of the industry price: when there is an oversupply their price drops substantially.
We buck the trend by working directly with our farmers and adding all value to our products in South Africa. This means we are able to offer our farmers price consistency…a massive boost in a very unpredictable industry.
What you can do to help, is to be more conscious of the rooibos tea brands that you support and demand to know the full journey of their tea from crop to cup. Change needs to be driven by consumers buying tea that is produced according to Fairtrade principles. This will go a long way towards fixing some of the problems in the industry.
Rooibos is the key ingredient in Red Espresso. Tell us about your relationship to the tea farmers…Do you have any special anecdotes?
Red Espresso has been dealing with the same single-estate, third generation farmers since we launched in 2005. We offer them price consistency and in return they give us unwavering quality. What started off as a business relationship has blossomed into a real, heartfelt friendship: most of our business meetings involve lambchops and Pinotage! We’ve watched as the farmer’s sons have become more and more involved in the business…And they’ve looked on as our daughters have grown from babies into teenagers.
Four years ago, we started working with previously-unemployed farmers in Wuppertal – home to some of the best rooibos growing conditions on the planet. We’ve given these subsistence farmers seed, loaned them equipment and shared our farming and business knowledge with them. Already we’ve changed their lives (they’re earning 10 times more than they ever have) and more and more farmers are coming on board every year. It isn’t just great for them (one of our subsistence farmers recently replaced his donkey cart with a Hilux!) it’s also helped us to secure a new, sustainable source of top notch tea.
What insights can you give our readers after all these years of working so closely with the farmers ?
We’re lucky to have really got to know a corner of South Africa that very few people experience. Leopards roam wild, there’s no hospital or corner café and no cell phone reception...Power outages can last for days (maybe not so unusual in South Africa anymore!) and flash-floods and snowstorms can cut the valley off entirely.
The farmers, who grow tea in the same way their forefathers have done for centuries, are a different breed. They’re hardworking, resourceful (’n boer maak ’n plan!) and we’ve learnt that our honour and our handshakes mean far more to them than a piece of paper ever could.
What are the factors consumers should be aware of when they choose their tea products? Do things like sustainability, ethical sourcing, fair / direct trade pricing for growers exist in the tea industry?
The coffee industry is more developed than the rooibos tea industry when it comes to understanding the full journey a product takes from crop to cup. Most rooibos tea brands are not transparent about traceability from crop to cup and their quality can vary greatly. Blending tea from different estates and bulking it up with substandard product is common practice. There also is no industry grading for rooibos tea that consumers can use as an indicator of quality.
At Red Espresso, we follow the principles of sustainability, ethical-sourcing and Fairtrade pricing and pride ourselves on full traceability from crop to cup. All our tea comes from single estates and is never blended. We’re working hard to change the rooibos industry for the better and to make a real difference to the lives of the farmers and farmworkers we work with. Being pioneers/innovators isn’t easy, but we’re passionate about helping to bring about the change that is so sorely needed.
We recently had the opportunity to taste a Yemeni coffee at Maruyama Coffee in Japan. We do not over-exaggerate when we say it was one of the best coffees we have ever tasted. This is not a story about that amazing coffee, in fact a whole book has been written on the adventures of that coffee (Port of Mokha), this takes a look back at the history of Yemeni coffee and their unconventional methods...
History whispers that coffee has its origins in Ethiopia, but some of the best tasting coffee in the world comes from another country entirely. With 1200 years of coffee history, Yemen is home to the holy grail of coffee beans. The original Mokha. Which isn’t actually a bean, but the port from which the beans were shipped. With more than 3000 years of written history, some 1200 years of coffee production, and being the first country to cultivate coffee properly, Yemen has evolved as one of the earth’s most incredible coffee producing regions. It is home to the bean that every serious coffee connoisseur wants to taste, that aficionados and boutique roasters want to source, that importers and investors want a piece of, and that coffee lovers on the slight-up-and-up, lean forward in their chairs to talk about. Yemeni Coffee. Why is it so good? And where can we get some? Such is the start of a fascinating tale…
The Thirsty Child and the Old Soul
Coffee is traditionally known as the ‘child’ crop of agriculture, meaning it’s incredibly high maintenance. The plants need attention, they need care, maintenance, and investment. They also need water, the right amount of shade, and a ‘perfect range’ of temperatures to produce effectively.
Except for the plants in Yemen.
The Yemeni plant has developed ways to survive in extreme environmental conditions that no other coffee plant would. Yemen is hot, dry, and harsh. And yet, the Yemen coffee plant lives. It is true, the Yemeni plant still requires attention, and suffers under strained versions of its own unique climactic or environmental conditions (which is what caused the first drop in the availability of Yemeni coffee – similar to current circumstances in Tanzania, farmers were unable to keep up with the effects of climate change on their struggling crops and so began to replace their coffee plants with khat/qat), but the Yemeni plant is older in its ways, more practiced and wise. Where other coffee plants would perish, the Yemeni plant survives. And yet how?
“Unique root systems…What we have are secluded plants sitting in one of the most drought stressed areas of the world, that have slowly adapted over time and are producing fruit under extreme conditions”, says Alessandro Craparo, research scientist and founder of Science of Coffee. The result? A plant, essentially using every last drop of energy to produce fruit. The further result? “The most incredible, concentrated flavours,” says Craparo (who tasted Yemeni coffee at a conference in Ethiopia in 2010). “It’s as if the plant is squeezing every last little drop into getting these cherries out.” Think, the shiraz of coffee – heavy, deep, blueberry and wine tones; earthy, rich and from the word on the street, unforgettable.
Taste and The Ingredients of Holy
Taste does not come from the plant alone, but is greatly influenced by processing: milling, washing, drying. Yemeni coffee is also unique in this way. The beans are not washed. They are dried over an extended period with the fruit on, and then milled by a mortar and pestle process. Drying the beans with the fruit on infuses a depth of flavor into the bean that would not be brought out otherwise. The bean then reflects more truly to the region from which it came. Plant evolution, root systems, drying, milling – and specific climactic conditions – are all ingredients that contribute to making the Holy Grail of coffee. But now, where can you get it?
The Seven Day Journey
Basically, the first answer to that question is…you can’t. At least, not at the moment. High demand, limited supply, and now most significantly, war in Yemen, have created a situation where access to Yemeni coffee has become nearly impossible. While industry professionals, importers, roasters, and clued up connoisseurs are literally salivating with patient urgency for an opportunity to sample Yemeni coffee, the chances of doing so right now, are pretty much zero. Which is why the story of the Seven Day Journey got so much attention.
In recent years, a concerted effort toward rehabilitation and resurgence of the Yemen coffee industry has been implemented. Enormous amounts of money, effort, and well organized programs on the ground (see www.MaxiInfo.com, USAID, FeedTheFuture, and Coffee Quality Institute/CQI) are literally changing the face and potential future of the specialty-grade coffee industry in Yemen – plants are being cultivated, climate specific agronomy techniques perfected, farmer education programs implemented, and exporter relationships initiated. The Seven Day Journey is the story of three exporters escaping the escalating civil war that surrounded them in Yemen (bombs were actually dropping), and their weeklong journey - by foot, car, plane, and boat – to the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) 2015 conference in Seattle. “Their mission,” says research journalist, Nick Brown, “was to get approximately 100kgs of Yemen’s finest green coffee to Seattle, part of a larger journey to reintroduce the country’s specialty-grade coffees to the world.” Exporters Andrew Nicholson (Rayyan Coffee), Mokhtar Alkhanshali (Mocha Mill) and Shabbir Al-Ezzi (Al-Ezzi Industries) wanted to bring to light, for everyone, what was waiting and being produced in Yemen. And they succeeded. Resembling refugees themselves, the men arrived in Seattle, green beans in hand and wowed what has gone down as the most attended SCAA conference in the history of the event. Everyone wanted to know about Yemen coffee. The conference and industry responded as expected – with deeply bowed appreciation, gratitude, and fascination for the work being done on the ground.
Climate Analogues and Your Chances (A Case Study for the World)
Do not despair. For work is being done. While the war might prevent us from easily accessing Yemeni coffee, it is available and there are people on the ground in Yemen doing their utmost to revitalize the world’s oldest and most magnificent coffee industry, to enrich the global coffee experience. And if tasting Yemen’s coffee is temporarily impossible, take comfort in the fact that scientists, using climate analogues – or comparison statistics - are looking to Yemen and her Ingredients of Holy to find the secret to survival of the coffee industry as a whole, under mounting pressures of climate change. Yemen’s coffee plants, children with old souls, may hold the secret to saving plants dying in other regions from increased temperatures and decreased rainfall.
In the meantime, drink up. And watch as the rest of this fascinating tale unfolds…
Mokha-Java – the original mokha-java was comprised of beans from Yemen accidentally mixed with beans from the Indonesian island of Java. Sailors transporting Yemeni beans from port Mokha mixed the two during transport and one of coffees finest blends was born.
Words by Iain and Mel.
A few Editions ago we ran a call-out on the Coffee Magazine cover that read "Coffee takes you places". Well in 2018 so far, that has certainly rung true. We visited Melbourne & Sydney, then London, Istanbul (read about it in the June/July issue coming out soon!) and finally, Japan.
Japan is one of those places that you hear people talk about as a bit of an enigma. As South Africans, we feel we know a bit about Japan, mainly because they have such amazing manufacturing and cultural exports... like sushi, karate, so many popular motor vehicle brands, electronics, Godzilla...it's a very long list! So actually having visited and experienced it, what can we say about Japan and their coffee culture?
Did someone say Godzilla?
Cold Coffee in Japan is huge. In fact on every menu board, every item lists hot or cold as an option. We're talking cold brew, espresso over ice, nitro, cappuccinnos, cortados and lattes over ice, usually with a pump of something sweet to go with them all. By our count, there were way more cold coffees served than hot ones. This might be because Japan is coming out of a pretty cold winter and embracing the onset of summer, but in Japan coffee is not a hot beverage. It is a beverage served hot, cold, neat, on the rocks, mixed with milk, syrups, icecream or booze, in equal proportion.
This is an average 7/11 supermarket fridge. Most of that is coffee.
The water filtration systems in Japan are like badges of honour crossed with an abstract art installation. They're like "Yeah those are our water filters up there stuck on the wall - check 'em out" (But in Japanese accompanied with a full bow from the waist) They are damn proud of their water filtration and they certainly don't care to hide them under the counter or away from the eye.
This is Lattest, an all female barista crew. Check out the water filtration on the wall! Mizuki Shida, the barista pouring in this photo, is a celebrity after she went on reality TV in japan!
This is something we can learn a lot from. The Japanese are huge on Seasonal drinks. If there is a reason to shake up the menu, they do it. Summer's coming - let's invent a new beverage - try out the California Latte from any one of the 11 Streamer Stores - it's like you just took a sip of Venice Beach. They are so creative and so quick to build hype around a new seasonal beverage it pushes sales up of those menu items like crazy. One of the streamer stores took the California Latte to the next level and called it the Blue Crush Latte - their selling point? It's BLUE, and it;s a California Latte, but ONLY available from their Yokohama Waterfront surf-inspired retail store. Get on this train South Africa - it's a winner.
Taking Seasonal drinks to the next level... meet the Blue Crush Latte! (Note, both hot and cold versions!)
Vending Machine Coffee
This might be because Japanese people are incredibly polite, well mannered and socially advanced, therefore vandalism is non-existant or it might be because they have a huge commuter culture of people traveling by foot that makes this viable, but there are literally hundreds of thousands of coffee vending machines all over Japan. They sell, again, cold coffee in cans, bottles and various other mixes - right on the street through the vending machine. You can get a coffee 24/7 by just walking onto the street and popping some change into the machine. Sorted.
This is one of hundreds of thousands of your average coffee vending machines.
Encouragement to be Entrepreneurial
This isn't something Cafe owners in SA want to hear, but in Japan its a big trend for staff to go off and start their own thing. Like SA, the coffee family is smallish and tight knit. But unlike SA, the cafe Owners are keen for the footprint of coffee to spread even further - so young baristas are encouraged to spread their wings and start their own shops. It's not surprising that Japan do so well economically where knowledge is shared, business is nurtured and competition encouraged.
This is Kurasu Coffee in Kyoto. We went there on a day trip and met these very cool young coffee entrepreneurs. Notice the diversity of offerings.. cold brew on the counter, cortado and two pourovers on the go!
What can we learn from Japan? A lot really. If we are to grow our coffee market, grow our margins, win over new customers and expand the economic impact of coffee, then even just focusing on the above 5 areas will have a significant impact!
And if you ever get the opportunity to go to Japan - take it! It's a travel destination that will stay with you forever.
Is it possible even? We know, it's the worst.
What does your morning routine look like? Are you a ‘get up and go’ morning person, or a ‘don’t speak to me yet’ slow riser? Now that we’re heading into winter, it’s getting harder to get out of bed with anything resembling enthusiasm, so here are some tips for how to be more productive in the mornings – for those of us who require coffee before we start feeling vaguely human!
*Disclaimer: We know parents are scoffing at this article, we realise your little humans make you super productive in the mornings. We hope coffee helps a tad.
Above all else, always keep good coffee in the house.
That sinking feeling when you realise there are no good beans in the house. No, I have no idea what that feels like, I never let that happen. Whether you need to pop in to your favourite local roastery on your way home from work or order beans online from the amazing companies that do such things, don't be left without your favourite form of caffeine in the house. A good coffee to start the morning makes all the difference.
Prepare for the morning…the night before
If you can get into the habit of preparing the night before, you’ll encounter less obstacles the next morning when you’re tired and have trouble making decisions. If you’ve already laid out your clothes for the day, sorted your kids' school stuff, know what you’re going to have for breakfast, set out everything you need for your first coffee, and made a list of the day’s ‘to do’ tasks, you don’t have to be firing on all cylinders and yet you’ll already have achieved half of what you need to get done. When you start your day productively, the rest of it will usually fall in line.
Say no to screen time
You might wake up early, but if you generally find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Facebook and before you know it, 30 minutes have passed, this one’s for you! When you wake up, force yourself not to pick up your cellphone. Your phone is quicksand! If you open your email, you’ll be sucked into the vacuum of tasks and to do’s. Don’t procrastinate starting your morning by falling into a black hole of social media and work worries. You’ll be far more productive if you set a time that you’re allowed to pick up your phone again, and then stick to it.
Reward yourself for not pressing the snooze button
You start your day on the back foot if you’re pressing snooze for five more minutes…every five minutes. So, set one alarm, make sure it’s across the room so that you have to physically get up, and then head straight for the kitchen. If you’ve prepped your coffee routine the night before, everything should be ready and waiting so that your morning caffeine kick doesn’t take much to get going.
While you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, enjoy the quiet time and appreciate those few minutes of having nothing to do but wait. Then, when you’ve got your coffee in hand, reward yourself for not hitting snooze by taking the time to enjoy drinking it. You’ll carry that moment of calm and relaxation with you through the rest of the day.
Read or write something
Either spend 10-15 minutes reading something – preferably a good book and not your emails – or writing down your thoughts. Getting your thoughts down on paper can help to clear your mind of any worries so that you’re not starting the day feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes referred to as ‘morning pages’, these notes are just for you – to get your thoughts in order. Both the act of writing and reading can be considered creative, and it’s said that satisfying your creative side can reduce stress – definitely a good way to start the day.
What are your top tips for a morning routine that fosters a more productive day?
An ocean dwelling surfer thrust into the Namib desert with a film crew on assignment, finding coffee in the most unlikely places and learning to deal without it.
Words By John McCarthy
The water was cold and there was a slight current pulling me downstream towards the sea, but my body reveled in the exercise and I still managed to beat the ferry on the crossing.
I’d driven the trusty Land Cruiser production vehicle onto the ferry at Fielsdrif and then for a spot of morning exercise decided to swim across the Orange River into Namibia. Invigorated and refreshed I arrived in Namibia with one thing on my mind. Coffee.
As is customary when I find myself in a different county I have three fundamental priorities. I won’t get into the details of the other two now, but high on that list is getting my caffeine fix.
My travelling companions were what I loosely refer to as coffee peasants. Stefan, PJ and Harry were more than satisfied to start the day with a cup of Frisco or the like and they couldn’t understand my quest to find real coffee.
When working closely and travelling extensively with other people you quickly pick up on their habits and rituals. To start the day, Stefan would always roll a cigarette while PJ brewed up whatever intolerable brew it was he carried with him. Instant coffee, two sugars and ‘melk’, along with nicotine, surely the power behind the South African film industry? Sipping his sweet milky Frisco and blowing plumes of blue smoke straight up at the heavens, the intense thirty-year old camera operator would pace restlessly around the Land Cruiser. PJ followed his every move. Six months into quitting, the fifty-something producer/director lusted hard for the nicotine that Stefan was pulling deep into his lungs. Young Harry, the sound guy, had yet to develop any significant addictions and jovially greeted each day happy to go with the flow in a way only a twenty-year old on his first real adventure can do.
My escape from South Africa was well made. Like a flock of Gollum’s from Lord of The Rings, the inhabitants of Port Nolloth all seem to be infected with an obsession with the little sparkling stones, all the while pretending that they aren’t hungry for diamonds. For such a small town the number of dealers, smugglers, divers and cops is ridiculous. They literally trip over each other in the local supermarket. A lot of people might have got rich on diamonds in Port Nolloth, but I doubt anyone ever found real caffeine satisfaction there, it is a bloody coffee wilderness.
While the vast beauty and emptiness of the Namibian Richtersveldt kept me entertained, it wasn’t exactly bo-chic coffee shop central. By the time I arrived in Luderitz I was Jonesing hard. Unlike young Harry, the sound guy, I’ve had plenty of time to develop a basket load of addictions and caffeine sits right up there amongst the best and worse of them. The depravation was fuelling a storm in my head and I was starting to think mean, nasty and unprintable thoughts.
The ancient German architecture and old streets seem to grow out of the black rock in the Bay that Bartholomew Diaz discovered hundreds of years ago. He named it Angra Pequena or ‘Little Bay’ after taking refuge from a winter gale there. As we drove down the main street in the little town, unbelievably right there on the corner was a coffee shop named ‘Diaz’.
Serendipity, co-incidence, call it what you will, but after what seems like a lifetime working from coffee shops I’ve developed a sixth sense for venues that serve good coffee and I had a very good feeling about Diaz Coffee Shop, tagline: Coffees with Attitude.
It turns out I wasn’t wrong. The friendly and very creative baristas were a breath of fresh air. The coffee was full bodied and delicious, the milk not too hot or too cold and the latte art incredible. Stefan paced restlessly outside pulling hard on his rolo. PJ scowled at the price of the coffee and watched Stefan as he inhaled and exhaled with exaggerated indifference. Harry couldn’t hide his astonishment at the art on his drink or the smooth velvety texture of the way it slid down his throat. There was a certain satisfaction in watching Harry lose his coffee virginity properly for the first time. When we re-emerged into the Namibian sunlight fifteen minutes later, the world was a much better place.
Luderitz was our jump off point for the desert, which was the whole purpose of us filming in Namibia. The Soft Namib is said to be the oldest desert in the world. We obtained special permission and a guide to take us into the most remote areas of the Spiergebeite or ‘forbidden area’. No roads, no sign of mankind, the travel and driving was heavy going. The two Land Cruisers earned their keep in those dunes. The 4.2-liter diesel and the 4.5-liter petrol engine, which was a beast of a machine, worked together to gain us access, but also retain our lifeline to the outside. PJ was relentless, as hard as we drove the machines; he drove us to get the shot. We were up in the dark, worked all day and collapsed in a stupor after a simple meal in the dark. The water we had was brackish and consequently anything we cooked (home brew coffee included) tasted bad. Most of the time we were too tired to care. The nighttime temperatures in the desert plummeted and I slept fully clothed hunkered down in my sleeping bag with my boots on! The work was hard but the pictures were astonishing and for the first time on the trip PJ actually smiled. Adrift on a sea of monstrous dunes we explored and filmed the secrets of the desert. The grit of that sand sank into the fabric of our clothes our beards and our skin. I became used to the sensation of it grinding between my teeth. In the afternoons when the wind blew there was no escaping it. The harder the conditions, the more beautiful the pictures and the happier PJ became. His scowling observation of Stefan was replaced by an irrepressible grin, besides Stefan didn’t have time to smoke because anywhere you pointed a camera was a shot. If he wasn’t shooting he was trying to clean or get the sand out of the cameras. The weight fell off us. Harry’s cherubic rosy-faced cheeks were blackened by the sun, wind and sand of the Namibian desert, while all the time PJ became happier and more cheerful. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. All too soon it seemed we were headed back towards civilization. Getting back to civilization involved an entire day of driving through the dunes alone, then a further 800km on dirt roads the next day where we saw only three cars the whole day.
It was with mixed feelings that I arrived in Swakopmund. The desert had certainly woven its spell on me, but the prospect of a hot shower, followed by cold beer, good coffee and some surfing also sounded pretty good. Swakop is a cultural and sensual oasis in the wilderness; it is also the adventure capital of Namibia. With the day off from the hectic filming schedule I sauntered into town looking for coffee and then surf, in that order.
As luck would have it I wouldn’t have to stroll far before I stumbled across Slowtown Coffee Roasters. What a score! Dennis De Wet is the owner manager and he is a surfer. He happily dialed me into the local surf options. His primary business is supplying other Namibian Coffee shops from his recently relocated roastery. His own coffee shop is young, energetic and friendly, just like it’s owner. It is a hangout for locals and tourists alike and the coffee was delicious. I ordered a take-away cappuccino but the vibe was so cool and Dennis so informative and friendly I ended up drinking it in the store, while shooting the breeze. Why does coffee always taste better out of paper take away cups? After my sojourn in the desert it was heavenly to indulge my epicurean tastes again. Grabbing a bag of beans on the way out, I left Dennis’ store flying high on the good stuff, which in his case comes from South America.
I’m prone to falling in love in coffee shops and Slowtown was no exception. In my brief visit there I realized I’d fallen in love with one of the baristas, several of the patrons and quite a bit of the Namibian landscape in general. It’s amazing stuff, coffee and the desert does funny things to a man…
48 hours in Swakopmund: A local’s guide
By Dennis de Wet of Slowtown Coffee Roasters
TripAdvisor is the go-to for travellers across the globe. So a high rating is really important for local cafes.
There are hundreds of great cafés to choose from in South Africa, which makes compiling a ‘top 10’ list almost impossible. So, we’ve put together a selection of TripAdvisor’s finest coffee spots – those with a review rating of 4.5 or higher who also received a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. The Certificate of Excellence celebrates businesses that have consistently earned glowing reviews in the last year. And in no particular order…
Highland Coffee Roastery
Market Street, Clarens
“Vibey venue with great service and mountain views to boot” – Praveen Dwarika
Highland Coffee seems to be the perfect place to relax with a locally roasted coffee (and a croissant!) while enjoying the spectacular views that Clarens has to offer. This coffee shop on the corner of the town square is said to be warm and welcoming, and the staff go out of their way to provide good service. “We can’t get enough” is a frequent comment, and Highland’s coffee was even referred to as on par with Paris, Vienna and Prague according to one traveller! High praise indeed.
Terbodore Coffee Roasters
87 Old Main Road, Curry’s Post, Howick
“I have been fortunate enough to experience Terbodore’s wonderful food, setting and coffee more times than I can remember.” – Sam H.
According to reviews, it’s worth a drive just to enjoy the aroma of roasting coffee, the Great Danes who wander the property (who are also the Terbodore mascots), and the food that draws people in droves. A booking is a necessity because the restaurant is so popular – forget dropping in and expecting a table on a busy weekend! Reviewers love the ambience that Terbodore have created, and it sounds especially cozy in winter, when you can expect a roaring fire.
Origin Coffee Roasting
28 Hudson Street, De Waterkant, Cape Town
“Watching the siphons and aero presses going is lots of fun. The baristas really know their stuff.” – Yvette W.
Origin is apparently THE place to go for breakfast if you’re staying nearby, and reviewers highly recommend the eggs benedict. With fast and friendly service and an extensive coffee menu, Origin is a favourite amongst coffee-loving locals and foreigners alike. The coffee variety is as broad as the brewing methods on offer, and customers love the interior and the atmosphere that Origin has created.
African Roots Coffee
6 Lagoon Drive, The Pearls, Umhlanga Rocks
“Amazing quality organic and artisanal food paired with the best coffee in Africa (single origin beans responsibly sourced from African countries).” – Julian A.
With 100% Arabica, single origin coffee, responsibly sourced only from this continent, African Roots Coffee is making a name for itself. Reviewers cannot recommend it enough, and love the coffee on offer – from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Zambia and Kenya. Customers have a hard time leaving without purchasing a bag of beans or ground coffee to take home with them. You can while away the time in the relaxed setting, enjoying the jazz music and exceptional service, making it a firm favourite amongst customers.
Truth Coffee Roasting
36 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town City Centre
“Interesting artifacts, incredible grinding machine, moody music and great coffee” – Stephen C.
If you’re looking for a quirky ambience to go with your great coffee, look no further. According to reviewers, Truth offers a different way to drink coffee. With the staff in steampunk attire and a dark interior like something out of a Jules Verne science fiction novel, the atmosphere is almost as popular as the coffee. “Best coffee ever” comes up frequently in the reviews, and apparently you can’t go wrong with the Croque Monsieur.
There are MANY more highly recommended cafés to visit according to TripAdvisor. Make sure you check out the best coffee places nearest you!