Interview: Earthen Coffee Roastery

Friday, 11 August, 2017
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How did you get into the baking and coffee business? Tell us a little bit about your journey.

For us processing and making coffee is not a job, it is a way of living,of doing what we really love. We always had a passion for coffee.The tipping point came in 2012 around a camp fire, when hand roasted coffee was offered to us from a pan.Bitter ,strong ,a bit rough but full of freshness and flavor. This cup inspired us to learn more about coffee and become involved in the alchemy behind the bean.The desire to learn more and more has continued.
As for breakfast there is no way better than starting the day with in-house baked naturally leavened sourdough bread on a “Horizon" breakfast with 2 poached eggs.

What roaster do you have?
Has Garanti drum roaster- Our beloved " ROOSTER"

What is your favourite coffee at the moment?

There is no favourite. It is about how we feel at the moment. Each coffee is unique in its experience and extraction. The “Earthen" houseblend with its velvet mouthfeel,complex, earthy, rich with smooth chocolate expression is remarkable. We love the Sipi RFA Uganda con panna.
Each day we awakened to a new flavour - a never ending taste exploration inspired and passionate about what we do.

What have you learned about people’s coffee drinking habits through running this business?

People have a desire to learn.Their natural habit without tasting is to initially use sugar.When they taste good coffee they are surprised by its natural sweetness.

What has been your biggest challenge?
To teach people how to prepare coffee correctly. Using traditional values with modern technology continually learning about each coffee beans character and do each bean the true justice that it deserves. Not to get totally consumed in the journey and maintain balance.

Give us 5 adjectives that perfectly describe Earthen.

a lifestyle

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Review: What I Know About Running Coffee Shops

Thursday, 10 August, 2017
I have had the distinct privilege of visiting 3fe in Dublin, Ireland and meeting the lovely Colin Harmon. You would be hard pressed to find a more humble success story than this Irish gentleman. So it follows then that the book is written in the same manner: humble, self-deprecating and caring.

What I Know About Running Coffee Shops (WIKARCS)

I am a very tactile person and so when the box arrived and I ripped off the plastic of our copy, I was immediately in love with the cover. As Iain said, "It feels like a book that my grandmother would have on her shelf." It is hard cover and textured and 3FE red and I just love running my fingers over it. It has that nostalgic feel of reading an old classic curled up on the couch.

But enough about the aesthetics, what of the content?

This is not a complicated book. It is a book of personal experience and it is told with no airs and graces.
I love that.

In his introduction, this line stood out to me about the pull of owning a cafe:
"Many of these people I've met have never run a business before and have no experience in cafes, but have become determined to leave their existing careers behind and open their own coffee business. It's very difficult to be successful in the hospitality industry - and doing it without any experience is next to impossible - but there's something about coffee that draws people in."

We come across people on a daily basis who think it will be easy to pull off such a task. I urge all of them to read this book first. At the end of the day, a coffee business is a hospitality business and so many people forget that. You don't have a business without keeping your customers (and staff) happy, no matter how good your coffee is. If you've ever been in the service industry you will immediately relate to some of the struggles that Colin has faced in the process of building 3FE.

The book is very thoughtfully structured offering practical tips and drawings for beginners and only very briefly touches on the coffee itself through the lens of improving service rather than how you should brew your coffee.

And really it's the little things in WIKARCS, like how the amount of sunlight you can get in your shop should be important to you when choosing a location, because sunlight effects people's mental health, and the struggle of maintaining a clean toilet, that just really can't be learned through any other means than trial and error and some hard graft.

An insightful study into how people use the cafe space that all who read it will benefit from, whether you're a customer, a cafe owner or a person with a coffee dream.

Highly, highly recommended. 

We brought 40 copies into SA, all of which have sold. If you comment below to say you would like a copy, perhaps we can bring in another shipment.

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BeSpoke brew: Coffee and mountain-biking

Friday, 11 August, 2017

Words: Jazz Kuschke
Photos: Kolesky/Nikon/Lexar

Originally published in Issue 15 of The Coffee Magazine

The ‘coffee ride’ is more than a mountain-biking tradition. It is key part of the culture of what is a lifestyle rather than a sport, really. “The intricate relationship coffee has with cycling,” explains James Reid, who wears the stripes of South African titles in both cross-country and marathon disciplines, “is deeply rooted in the ability of caffeine to improve your energy levels and mental alertness before and during a ride.”

Cyclists are a technical, particular bunch. And they’re as picky about their coffee as they are about their photochromic eyewear, sock length or the pressure to which their tyres are pumped. Not many a ride is started without – at the very least – a single shot of freshly brewed espresso. Few are finished without a café stop. (Standing their carbon steed at just the right angle to show its best features at the curb-side table is all important, of course). Hard to believe then that caffeine (otherwise known as: 3G6A5W338E) was on the Olympic banned substance list less than 30 years ago. A recent study suggests up to three quarters of the world’s elite athletes use it for its benefits. Many go as far as to travel with their own coffee machines. However, to assume its ergogenic properties (enhances speed and stamina) is the sole reason for the love affair, would be to misunderstand the relationship.

“It becomes a destination thing,” muses Reid. “When you live in a beautiful place like Stellenbosch or Cape Town, it represents the break between monotony and a ‘pick-me-up’ that inevitably becomes habitual,” he says, highlighting how many mountain-biking destinations and trail parks now have ‘home’ coffee shops, places such as The Dairy Shed at Contermanskloof (pictured above).

To keep the wheels rolling
“We've got some pretty good evidence that caffeine can improve endurance performance by reducing fatigue and your perception of effort,” explains Adrian Penzhorn, head (registered) dietician and sport scientist at Food For Sport ( “Simply put, it makes exercise feel easier to do,” he says. “It may also have a small benefit on how your body uses fat as a fuel during exercise. Most studies use caffeine in pill or powder form but a recent study suggested that coffee can be just as good,” he says.

According to Penzhorn, caffeine content varies significantly depending on the type of bean, the roast and the method of brewing, however. “An average espresso provides about 100mg of caffeine, most studies use 200-300mg to show a benefit. So a single shot from your local barrister is halfway there,” he says.

To maximise this benefit and to give his body a chance to recover from the stimulation caffeine provides, Reid likes to stay away from coffee completely during his off-season. Tough, he admits, fortunately a pro bike rider has a very short ‘off’ season. “During a normal training week, I start the morning with a short black with a splash of milk,” he says. “Only if I’m doing a longer day (three hours plus) then I’ll have a coffee mid ride. You also don’t want to have too much caffeine during the morning and not be able to sleep after lunch (a crucial part of the pro cyclist’s training regime), so it's a fine balance.”

For Matthys Beukes, who, with teammate Gert Heyns, dominated the 2015 Cape Pioneer Trek, a brutal six-day stage race, coffee is more of a daily must-have. Even in the off season.

For the love
“Coffee choice depends largely on the weather for me,” says the man from George. “I enjoy a nice cappuccino after training on a cold and rainy day. If it’s a bit warmer I’ll go Americano and, most of the time, mid-ride there’s nothing that an espresso can’t cure,” Beukes says.

So important is coffee to his daily routine that he doesn’t go to sleep at night before making sure he has enough stock for the following day. “Nothing worse than waking up and realising I’ve got only enough beans for a single shot!” he says.

“Upon visiting Italy earlier this year I realised that the coffee ride we all took to here has been part of their culture for almost as long as they’ve been riding bikes,” he says, before summing up perhaps the crux of why it is so cool. “The coffee ride almost levels the playing field in a way… It is something every bike rider can do and look good doing it.”

Fast Facts

Adrian Penzhorn, registered dietician and sport scientist from Food For Sport ( delivers (some surprising) insights on caffeine as sports supplement:
- Caffeine can improve endurance performance by 3-4% and work rate by 7-10% at moderate doses. 
- Most research uses 300-400 mg to show performance benefits. 
- There are no benefits at higher doses and some people may experience unwanted side-effects. 
- Caffeine does not negatively effect hydration status.
- In combination with a high carbohydrate recovery meal caffeine may assist restoring muscle glycogen (carbohydrate stores). 
- Caffeine content of brewed coffee can vary from 15-240 mg per serving. 
- Robusta beans have the highest caffeine content. 
- The darker the roast the lower the caffeine content. 
- The fresher the grind the higher the caffeine content. 
- And the longer the brew the higher the caffeine content of the drink i.e. Immersion brews like a plunger (4-5min contact time) will have more caffeine than an espresso (Under 30 seconds contact time)

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Cafe of the Week: Flava Club

Tuesday, 1 August, 2017
Heading against the crush of early morning traffic to get into town we drove into KwaMashu, just north of Durban looking for a colourful landmark:

And were greeted by this face:

Hello Jabu! And hello Flava Club Coffee!

We were served excellent cortados (beans roasted by Lineage Coffee) while we chatted to Jabu and Brett about their involvement in our upcoming Barista Education Scholarships. The regular customers popped past to get their daily fix. The vibe is relaxed. There is a lot of hope around this development, Big Box Co., very reasonable rental for local entrepreneurs to start up their dream businesses! Flava Club keeps things simple and does it really well. We wish them all the best as they continue to grow the coffee drinking community.

We can't wait to go back!

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Interview with Trevor Fitz: Gauteng Barista Champion 2017

Tuesday, 1 August, 2017

So Trevor, you don’t work in coffee, what’s your day job?

No, I do not work in coffee funny enough. As a Company, we deal mostly with corporate strategy, training and communication. My role in all of that is basically a project management type of role. I make sure all the different elements of a project are being done and that we are staying on top of operations and costs. However, I also manage the Video and Multimedia side of the business as well.

How did you get into making coffee?
My journey in coffee started a long time back, when I was actually told by my doctor at the age of 16 that in order to manage my chronic migraines i need to drink coffee daily. I tested this theory out, and it actually worked. So from that day on, I made every effort to learn how to make coffee properly and in the process of learning, I developed a passion for all the in and outs of coffee until eventually i found that i just couldn't learn enough. And nothing has changed since then.

When did you decide you would like to try your hand at the SCASA competition level?
Well that was largely Nkulu’s (Khulekani Mpala) influence. He joined the barista championships in 2016 where he emerged as the regional champion, shortly after competing he told me that I should join because of how much I would learn and how much better it would make me as a Barista. So I convinced myself it was a good idea and started experimenting.

Tell us about the coffee you used and the theme for your set.
The coffee that I used for my competition was a Burundi bean roasted by Bean There (who were kind enough to sponsor them for me). The theme for my set was experiencing coffee, and how adding different ingredients changes that experience.

Who was your support team and who would you like to thank?
I would like to thank Nkulu for his help and support, I ran many ideas and coffees passed him. I would also like to thank Claire, who helped me on many weekends and evenings to practice, and had to hear my set 100 times. The 2 of them, as well as Kobus, Leon, Dayna and Ella also endured tasting many signature drink fails. And of course my parents and sister who helped my buy and clean all my gear. Which all helped me prepare.

What is your favourite way to make coffee at home?
Chemex… I love Chemex! It’s what I make the most at home.

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LAUNCH: Selati Sugar's Barista of the Month

Friday, 28 July, 2017

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POLL: Are reusable capsules the answer to the unsustainable capsule phenomenon?

Friday, 28 July, 2017
Let's have a second of real talk here. Capsules are here to stay. They're not going to disappear any time soon. The convenience and consistency is just too attractive in modern life. It's so easy. Espresso instantly, no thinking required!

But they are pretty disastrous for the environment. So what are the alternatives. Biodegradable capsules? These have varying degrees of success in compost heaps and landfills. And then are the reusable option, like the Coffee Duck Ethical Pods. Said to be reusable up to 100 times. That's certainly an improvement on single use. But then there's the question of convenience. You can't just pop it in hatch groggy and bleary eyed in the morning as you stumble into your kitchen. You'll have to grind your beans and pack your capsule or at the very least scoop up some pre-ground goodness into your capsule.

We think that it's worth the effort and we've just received some Coffee Duck product so we'll soon be able to tell if the flavour holds up. The question is, will this sustainable idea catch on? What do you think?

Would you use a reusable capsule?
Yes, without a doubt.
Maybe, but it seems like a lot of effort.
No, what's the point of capsules without the convenience.
Do Quizzes

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Interview with Big Wave legend, Twiggy Baker

Friday, 28 July, 2017
Surfing has been on our minds a lot lately, what with it being Winter and having just watched the pros get absolutely barrelled at the Corona Jbay Open. And then we remembered we had this interview with Mr Grant Twiggy Baker and we thought you might enjoy it...

Frank Solomon (right) free-falls on a 25ft Dungeons bomb, while Twiggy (left) gets in wider on the shoulder. ©Cestari

Your surfing style has been described as energetic and aggressive, does this have anything to do with the amount of coffee you drink?

Haha, to be honest I don’t drink that much coffee and am mostly a Tea totaler but if I need a lift off at 5am in the morning with a big day ahead I’ll have a mug of the good stuff for sure.

You spend a lot of time in Hawaii, a place that grows some of the most sought after coffee in the world. What makes these islands special for you? And have you tasted Kona coffee?!

Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing and one of the most magical areas on earth, from Kauai in the North to Maui in the South I’m smitten by the Islands and yes, the Kona coffee as with most things indigenous is amazing.

What’s your morning ritual, coffee before or after surfing? Or both ;)
If I’m drinking coffee I’ll save it for one early cup a day, good old filter pot.

Twig, you and your (other!) partner in crime, Reg McDonald have paddled into the Beverage and Food Wave in a big way! First Aces n Spades, then Village Idiot and now SurferRosa. We have a few questions about this! Firstly, what made you guys trade surfboards for tables?

Reg is a master at the Restaurant / Bar business with experience in running and owning establishments around the World including famous places in Hollywood like the National and Tokyo. So when he decided to return home to South Africa and needed a financial partner it was a no brainer for me to join him.

Have your friendships and surfing helped your business?

Yes for sure, the old age saying of “its not what but who you know” is even more important in this game and if it wasn’t for the support of our friends we wouldn’t be successful.

Do you serve decent coffee at any of the above, even though getting shit-faced is probaly the primary beverage focus?

Haha, yes, we are well known for our excellent coffee at The Village Idiot but in the end people come to drink and have a good time.

What’s the best coffee you’ve ever tasted?  
In San Francisco there’s this little place in the city that Grant Washburn takes me to that will blow your mind!

The Coffee Industry are missing having Kate around at the barista competitions! How is the new family? Will Billi chase waves, boys or tables?

My family is amazing and we are having the time of our lives right now! Its to soon to gauge what Billi will be interested in and whatever she chooses we will support here 100%.

On a surfing note, you’re the BWWChamp! What did it feel like tearing down the face of the Nazare wave that clinched you the Big Wave World Title 2016/2017?
Being the Champ feels great and its a vindication of all the time, effort and money I put into the sport over the past 15 years. Its only a title and in the end doesn’t mean that much in the big picture but its a good stepping stone to a strong future for my family.

What has been your greatest professional achievement so far, which win meant the most to you?

I think my involvement in my families Orphanage ( is something I’m proud of. What my Mom Joan and Dad Tich have done on that hill in Inanda is something truly special.

Twiggy gets his fair share of tube time! ©Craig Kolesky

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