Having just won another National Barista Championship with Winston Thomas, we thought it a good time to reflect on the Origin team...
Origin Coffee Roasting
The people behind the magic
Images by Craig Kolesky
Origin. In a coffee context this word conjures up images of travelling to beautiful countries in between the tropics to discover coffee farms and the amazing people who nurture these magical cherries to their juiciest potential. In a South African context when someone mentions the word Origin, it can only mean Origin Coffee Roasting, still a fixture on Hudson Street and spreading throughout the country. They’ve bred an outrageous FOUR National Barista Champions and continue their pursuit of amazing coffee everyday. Winston Thomas is the current SA AeroPress Champion and will travel to Dublin to compete. The thing this team values more than anything, is the people behind the coffee and in that spirit, it is fitting that their story is told by the people themselves.
We shall begin at the beginning…
Founder and Owner, The Boss Man
How the heck did you end up in South Africa starting one of the first artisan coffee roasteries in the country in South Africa?
How did I end up in South Africa? There was a terrorist incident in Egypt so my holiday plans got changed at the last minute. Then there was a South African woman. And my plans for the two of us to travel through Central and South America - with our 1 year old son and German Shepherd – were derailed by my father’s unfortunate, sudden passing away.
A coffee roastery? Well I was frustrated with the lack of good coffee here from when I arrived in late ’97. Sometime in 2003 or so I had my first good cup of coffee ever here – at the Post House in Greyton (at the time David Donde and his wife’s hotel). One straw bale, mud and lime house and one very ill baby daughter later, and I ended up back in Cape Town full time. An artisan bakery project got derailed, but the people I was speaking to wanted us to roast coffee for them. Origin began…in a way by complete accident.
Who were your first employees and how did you choose them?
We really wanted to find unique individuals, we wanted to give people opportunities and I love diversity. Montreal where I am from (and Canada) is extremely multi-ethnic. I love that vibe and wanted to have people from all SA cultures, from all over Africa and the rest of the word working with us. Different cultures. Speaking different languages. We have had people from all over SA and also from Angola, Congo, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, Canada and so many other places.
Willem Pienaar installed our alarm system – No shopfitting had been done yet. The floor had bits of underfelt stuck to it. We gave him a little packet of coffee and he came back to buy more with his spare change. He was supposed to move to the UK, but ended up asking to work with us. He became our first barista, our 2nd roaster (I was the first), and SA’s first barista champion. He still works with me, but now up in Gauteng.
Jorge Alberto became my friend from when I first arrived in Cape Town and lived in Devil’s Peak. He worked at our neighbourhood Spar – when I met him he was buying and packing fruit & veg on the shelves. He was clearly special… he was friends with our family and all the regulars. I called him as soon as we opened Origin, but he was in Outdshoorn and I had to wait for about a year until he could join us. He was a barista, café manager, head roaster and now heads up coffee quality for us here in the Cape. Only recently did I found out that his grandfather grew coffee in Angola…
Jose Vilande came to us via a contact at Iziko I found who worked with refugees (my grandparents and father and uncles were refugees in Russia in WW 2). He became SA’s 2nd barista champ, later a barista trainer, and he now works at Truth.
Sandy Mgedezi was sent to us as part of an initiative by the Pick n Pay Foundation. She impressed us, we offered her a job, and she has been one of the anchors of our barista team ever since.
So many others over the years…
How do you feel the industry around you changed?
Well, we were perhaps the first of the new wave “artisan” roasteries in Cape Town. Now there are 13 (?) and counting in Central Cape Town alone! It was lonely at first. Now it’s feeling a bit crowded in these parts!
When we started and I called us “The Artisan Roasters of Africa,” I was told not to use “artisan” as in SA that meant a bricklayer, plumber or plasterer. HA!
When we started there was no recognition that there was such a thing as a professional barista. There were no barista championships. Since then we have trained over 2,000 baristas including 4 SA champions. SA baristas can now count themselves among the best in the world.
Also people didn‘t used to know what a good cup of coffee was. How much coffee has grown… How many great cafes are there in Cape Town now?
The people we have spoken to all say the same thing - that Origin is a place to learn and experiment with coffee, how do you remain inspired after all these years in the industry?
It’s all about people. Seeing people’s faces light up when they taste the best cup of coffee they have ever had, or taste an amazing coffee from a new origin that gives them a new idea of what is possible in coffee…
It’s about pushing boundaries – in coffee and café experience.
It’s about the ongoing growth in café culture, and how it contributes to a greater urban culture in our cities. Cape Town has always been great. Coffee and café culture make it even better.
It’s also about our growing team. Learning to be a better leader of my company and my team, which is hugely challenging. And helping each of them, to the degree that we as a coffee company can, to grow and live up to their potential.
You have always encouraged your baristas and trainers to compete in the SCASA competitions, and Origin has always represented strongly, why do you think it's important to compete?
Preparing for competition creates a sense of pride for baristas in their profession. It helps them to develop discipline and technical mastery, which then improves customer experience in our cafes.
It can lead to wonderful opportunities – look how it’s helped (ex) Origin people like Wayne and Lovejoy in their careers, or others like Ishan who is now at Starbucks SA.
What inspired the move to JHB, and how has it impacted on the team and the brand?
Our mission has always been to change the world of SA coffee and to bring them to the level of the best in the world.
In order to do that we need to engage with customers face-to-face and show them how good coffee can really be. While Cape Town has been a coffee leader, the big market and most of SA’s consumers, are in Gauteng.
We have been in Gauteng for many years already. We were invited to be part of the launch of the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein (we are still there), and shortly thereafter opened our roastery-café in Maboneng at Arts-on-Main.
What are the plans for the future of Origin Coffee Roasters?
As a roastery, we want to continue to find and roast the best speciality coffees in the world. We want to continue to deepen our learning and expertise at getting the best out of what farmers around the world can produce. We want to travel to many more origins worldwide, meet many more producers and find better ways to tell their stories and connect consumers to the deeper story and appreciation of the effort that went into the cups of coffee they love.
For SA coffee culture – The next level is about getting people to go from recognizing a good cup of coffee, to demanding the best cup of coffee possible. The best green (FARMER), the best roasting (ROASTER), and the best equipment and cup (BARISTA). We will do this by supplying more great venues with our coffee and training. We also need to pour more of our own coffee ourselves for more people in SA – it remains to be seen how we can best do that.
For baristas – To train better and better baristas, and hopefully contribute to a South African winning the World Barista Championship as soon as possible.
For our team – To grow the team and ourselves. To deepen our skills and knowledge. To push each other and work together for many years to come.
Can you tell us about one of your best moments on this journey?
10 years later… what can I say. So many great moments.
Winning those SA barista championships and other competition awards stand out – we were so proud of each of them.
My journeys to Bolivia and Rwanda to participate in Cup of Excellence, and other visits to producers in Brazil, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, but maybe even more so, the amazing experience Jorge had last year when he finally got to go to Brazil to visit and connect with many of the great farmers we buy from.
We asked some of the Origin family, past and present, to share their memories and experiences, they each interpreted this challenge in their own wonderful style.
Product Quality Manager, all around legend.
It all started with a daily routine at the local supermarket that added life to our neighborhood, back then year 2000/01, Joel and his family would stop by to buy the bread and the asparagus ha ha ha! He would spend about twenty minutes talking to this young immigrant with a few words of Portuguese in between. Through the art of capoeira and mutual relation of our exposure to Brazilian and other cultures, a bond was formed.
On the 5 January 2007, I joined Joel Singer at Origin Coffee Roasting. I honestly had no idea of the depths or nature of the business, neither was Joel Singer aware that my grandfather was a coffee grower. I walked into Origin and the aroma of roasted coffee and all the memories of my childhood the songs of hope and undying spirit came alive in me. I pictured an African woman in the field and I knew then that I would have no regrets in investing my life in this business and the culture of coffee.
It is now ten years later. I started pouring coffee shots, moved on to be a Barista, Café manager, Roaster, Head Roaster and now a Product Quality Manager. On my recent trip to Brazil, I experienced harvesting in 13 different farms! ORIGIN is COFFEE: A place of vibe, coffee connoisseurs, learners, aficionados, consumers, ARTISANS who care about the quality of coffee in the cup. Care is carried from the Farm to the Roastery to the Café to the end consumer.
I am honored to call myself an ORIGIN ORIGINAL.
The Champion Barista
I joined Origin beginning of July in 2009 and I worked there for 6 years. My first day at work was scary as this was all new to me. I started as the guy who mopped the floors, moved on to be the sculler runner and perfected the art of cleaning bathrooms. A very curious king of guy. I got a chance to make my first cup of coffee and I never looked back. I enjoyed working with everyone there but Jorge always wanted to put me in the spotlight to prove my worth, which I am grateful for. Joel Singer was also influential. I had the chance to work with Wayne Oberholzer (current SA Champ) and he helped me get involved with the coffee competitions. It was a rollercoaster ride in 2012 as I came second in the Regionals, got carried away and flopped at Nationals. After my first experience I had to regroup and promised myself that I was a champ and I did prove that in 2013. It was such an amazing experience and again thanks to Wayne for the sleepless nights we had. The trip to Australia was so amazing as it was my first time to fly internationally and make an AeroPress 36 000 feet up.
Head Roaster, the passionate scientist
Entering the buzzing cafe with CV in hand, and not knowing at all what I was getting myself into, I first noticed upbeat and progressive social interactions. Grinder noises and the thick smell of coffee hung in the background. I remember people talking about the science of coffee. This was very unusual to me at the time and grabbed my attention. Like an organism destined for greatness via evolution, Origin appeared to me as a large celestial object, which I inevitably started orbiting.
What I will never forget is having the opportunity and privilege of working with the champions and legends- Lovejoy Chirambasukwa and Wayne Oberholzer. These 'masters of extraction' have an unparalleled attention to detail and I would recommend to any young coffee professional to follow in their lead. I remember roasting their competition coffees like it was yesterday.
Over the last few years I have visited farms in Rwanda and Tanzania. I was an Observer judge in Rwanda in 2012 for the Cup of Excellence competition and by physically tasting all the coffees entered, was better able to help choose CoE coffees for Origin for that year. I also helped with selection of various lots from my trip to Tanzania in 2014. It was an invaluable experience and undoubtedly deepened my appreciation for coffee.
The ethos of Origin is one of seriousness and passion on all things coffee, from day one. The customers and staff alike were indeed discerned individuals, looking for something magical.
Supporting high quality producers helps enforce the progression and availability of high quality coffee. In my early days with Origin, this was quite clear.
I am the Head Roaster for Origin. I coordinate roastery operations;lead quality control sessions; Develop roast profiles and blends; help with the decision making process on green coffee purchases; Create and compile cup profiles for our selection of coffees and create the bag labels for them; I also do some staff trainings, public cuppings, blogging etc.
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Exclusive Interview: Bottomless Coffee Band
Wednesday, 28 June, 2017
An exclusive with The Bottomless Coffee Band
Este and Lourens Rabé are an amazing musical duo that takes their coffee very seriously. We chatted to them about finding the best places for coffee locally and abroad and their amazing versatility – they play 12 instruments between the two of them!
You've recently been on a whirlwind overseas tour. Tell us about your best coffee experiences?
One thing is for sure - we have beautiful coffee in South Africa. We are definitely spoilt with our young, yet very passionate industry. Our baristas are well trained and, especially in Cape Town, we have a concentration of really good coffee shops!
We recently toured in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, England and Scotland. It is very expensive to buy coffee in the countries where we went, but it was the one item we just simply stopped converting back to Rand. Drinking coffee is such a vital part of touring and experiencing the different places where you are. A cup of coffee in Belgium has a different personality than a cuppa in England. With that being said, it did end up in quite a search to find THAT cup. The first “pause, we are in coffee heaven” moment was at a quaint little place in Montmartre, Paris. By then we’d been on tour for almost a month. We were planning our day and we hit the “coffee shops nearby” button on Google Maps. MELALI COFFEE RIDERS popped up. We took the stroll there. Hidden behind light blue doors, in a little space that seems like just another entrance to a Parisian residence, stands Melali. The signage is on a small white banner at the entrance. It almost seems as if you have to be a local to know about it, and that is exactly how we like to tour. They roast their own beans (and they could explain this to us in English ;)). You could see the passion and dedication in every detail. And obviously the coffee tasted great. We lingered for a moment, and we could just imagine how writers and artists could pick a seat and soak in the atmosphere of Montmartre in this little piece of heaven all day long.
(Melali Coffee Riders - 10 Rue de la Fontaine du But, 75018 Paris, France)
Another spot that hit home was in Soho, London. The coffee shop is called TAP Coffee. We popped in at the YAMAHA music shop just down the road. Hearing our band’s name, the one shop assistant asked if we’ve had good coffee in London yet and pointed us to TAP Coffee. After stopping at a few other shops on our way, we found the same shop assistant at TAP on his afternoon break and enjoyed a perfectly brewed flat white with him.
(TAP Coffee - 193 Wardour Street, Soho, London)
Where was your best and most memorable gig on your overseas tour?
Every theatre and event has it’s own charm. Our latest tour was through Bethlehem to Pretoria, Secunda and Ermelo. It’s always special to play in the smaller towns. People are so hospitable and really go out of their way to make you feel welcome and appreciated. A special thing that happened on our last tour was that a thunderstorm followed us to every town where we went. At the start of every show it would start raining and continue throughout the entire show! Unfortunately it was these same storms that caused the flooding in Johannesburg, but in all the other towns there was celebration in the air because of the much-needed rain. The extra percussion from the thunder and the rain on the roof was quite awesome!
How often do you get asked about your band name?
EsteÌÂ: A lot! It is more fascinating to people than we thought it would be. We should consider making a short video with the explanation thereof. The short version is that Lourens and I fell in love while I was deep into rehearsals as a drama student at Stellenbosch. Coffee stops on our way to class was a given. He didn’t drink any hot drinks back then. He was immediately fascinated by coffee and the coffee shop culture. Eventually I converted him and now he is a bigger coffee snob than me. When he was approached to perform at an event with other friends from his residence, he asked me to join as the female vocalist. He called the group Bottomless Coffee and printed business cards just to make it look more professional. We got more enquiries after that performance. None of the initial seven members were interested in pursuing a weekend job as musicians and only Lourens and I were left. Bottomless Coffee Band was born. Today it is an atmospheric name. Coffee and coffee shops draw people together for conversation, inspiration and creativity and we hope that our music could do the same.
How have you evolved as a duo over the last few years?
Since that event we have added more and more instruments to sound like a full band even though we are only two people. We now play ±4 shows a week ranging from private events to wedding pre-drinks, festivals and theatres.
A year and a half ago, we were finally in the position to leave our day jobs (Lourens worked in Asset Management and I had a corporate theatre company) and pursue a career in the music industry full time. Lourens have also imported the Farmer Foot Drums from the USA. It was the first of its kind in South Africa and thus far the only one played by a South African band. This is a full drum kit operated by seven pedals. We now play 12 instruments between the two of us.
We have also released our debut album, Room With a View, in November 2014 and have since been on many national tours and one international tour.
We have also recently appointed a manager and roadie, Ruan van der Merwe. He has lifted so much of the admin weight off our shoulders in order for us to pay more attention to the creative side of things again. We make up a little power team between the three of us.
As independent musicians, we really want to contribute to the exciting times the South African music industry is in, by operating as professionally as possible. In the end it is just as much about the business as it is about the music and if you have the privilege to put a team together to pay enough attention to these two aspects, you can really do great work. We believe that the current resources and digital marketing world have created the perfect environment for independent musicians to really build careers in the music industry and we feel honoured to be alive in times like these!
We are in the process of recording our next album. If all goes well, it should be launched before July next year, so keep your eyes out for it.
What can an audience expect from a Bottomless Coffee Band show?
Energy, and a lot thereof! The show is just as much visually stimulating as it is musically. People love watching Lourens play the foot drums, guitar, harmonica and singing at the same time. We try and swop between instruments after every song, which is also fascinating for people to watch and listen to.
We tell the stories behind every song and at the end of every show we honour a few legends that have inspired us by playing a few “Bottomless Coffee Band-ified” covers! These legends include Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Creedence Clearwater Revival. We also have a special grand finale, which combines our different backgrounds into one song; Lourens’ rock background and my classical singing training. The genre is pretty much folk-rock with rock&roll, a love story here and there, a ballad or two and loads of musical skill and energy!
What is your favourite local coffee hangout and why?
We have a few! We tour a lot and we have definite stops on our way.
Maria’s in Graaff-Reinet. It is always hard to start something new in a small town, yet the people at Maria’s just took the chance and roast beautiful coffee in the heart of the Karoo. You can order and buy anything from a syphon to a pour over and it is situated in a lovely little quad with loads of character. It is named after the owner’s mother!
Coffeetalks CafeÌÂ in Bloemfontein. This tranquil hideaway is situated in Rayton on the Mizpah Lodge premises. The cafeÌÂ is a combination between mediterranean and vintage with old furniture, loads of books and old vinyls setting the vibe. The food is inspired by a passion for organic eating and they also serve the best freshly squeezed juices. They use Masterton’s Coffee, brewed to perfection!
Vintage Coffee in Pretoria. We love them, because they have the most beautiful hearts. With every cup of coffee you get a coin. There are a few boxes on a wall with a description of different charities. You can vote for the charity you want to support by putting your coin in the respective box. At the end of every month, they donate a part of their profit to the charity with the most coins.
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SA AeroPress Championship 2017 action
Thursday, 29 June, 2017
A large and excited crowd gathered at Espressolab on Sunday 2nd July 2017 for the Annual SA Aeropress Championships. In the end there could be only one, and it was Khan Chang from Uncle Bear Coffee Company who took the title and earned himself a place in the World Aeropress Champs to take place in Seoul in November.
Discover Great Coffee: The Great Free State Road Trip
Words by Melanie Winter
Amazing driver and travelling companion Ulrike Starke
We trekked from Durban to Bloemfontein via Harrismith then back through Clarens over a weekend, to see what the Free State coffee scene has to offer. I know what you’re thinking, really? The Free State? And my answer to you is: yes, you better believe it! Our travels were peppered with 70’s floral wallpaper in the Hobbit Boutique Hotel, a Currie Cup Final, four seasons in one afternoon driving along the N1, an amusing allergic reaction and the magnificent sandstone hills of the Golden Gate. Every location we visited had it’s own unique vibe and community and it was so refreshing to see unadulterated passion and damn, that uniquely South African scenery can’t be beat.
Dom’s with Love
Who would’ve guessed it?! We trundled into the bustling metropolis of Harrismith, only ever known to me as a halfway stop between Durban and Johannesburg with dodgy directions from Google leading us literally down a garden path. After a phone call to Dominique to correct Google’s errant ways we arrived at the shopping complex that is home to the humble and enchanting Dom’s with Love. Dominique Molete is pretty much an ecstatic bundle of enthusiasm and as the name of the café suggests, love. “One of the most important things to me here is service, I want each person to feel special and have the most amazing experience, my customers get my full attention!” A mother of five (FIVE!) she has realised her dream of owning a restaurant and café with the full support of her family and has quickly wiggled her way into the hearts of the locals. Mbuso served up a beautifully crafted double cappuccino and an excellent Americano for my vegan travelling companion. They use Dom’s Blend, specially put together by Highland Coffee Roastery (you’ll hear more about them in our Clarens leg of the trip!). We were beyond blown away by the hospitality afforded us and thoroughly enjoyed her eclectic food offering.
6 Rosepark Lifestyle centre, Hamilton Street
Harrismith Stereo Cafe
We spent the evening in the, shall we say, interesting Hobbit Boutique Hotel, a place with links to the house that J.R.R.Tolkien was born, quite an auspicious claim to fame! What I was more interested in was its location around the corner from Stereo Café where we intended to begin our exploration of Bloemfontein Coffee.
James Kilbourn owns one of the original Genio Roasters and it has been hard at work for many years now as James converts Bloem locals to a new way of thinking one delicious coffee at a time. He began by selling coffee at markets and they now have a lovely hole in the wall espresso bar and roastery in the Westdene area. James is thirsty for any information around coffee roasting and growing his craft and that is hugely evident in the time he takes to travel to meet other roasters and that he invests in educating his customers.His sincerity and love of music are endearing and entertaining in equal parts and this is a gem of a coffee spot to visit. Estian extracted some delicious coffees for us and I took a bag of Nicaraguan beans home with me.
60 Second Avenue, Westdene
By mid-morning it was sweltering and the streets were filling quickly with the blue and orange flags of the Bulls and Cheetahs supporters frothing for the afternoon’s Currie Cup final. Overwhelmed by the machismo bearing down around us we sought solace in the shady courtyard of Marmelade Café and Deli. They have recently switched roasters to Bloemfontein Coffee Roasting as Leani Hugo explains, “We wanted to support a local roastery and the team from Bloem Coffee Roasting have been very attentive to our needs.” A popular fixture on the Bloem coffee scene, Marmelade have a beautiful La Scala machine that sits front and centre as you walk in the door, a promise of good coffee to come, and we were not disappointed.
30 Louw Wepener Street
Bloemfontein Coffeetalks Café
Wikus Botha Jnr is an ambitious young man, but he’s not aiming for the usual rewards attached to a successful coffee business, he his happy just to provide the service of excellent coffee to their patrons. His family runs Mizpah Lodge in the outer reaches of Bloem and Ulli’s first comment was that it was like stepping across the world into a Mediterranean landscape and mindset. Wikus kindly invited us to Coffeetalks despite them being officially closed for the Sabbath and took us on a tour of the amazing, comfortable space they have created here. After doing a bit of travelling and experiencing good coffee abroad, Wikus made it his mission to bring great coffee home and found help and guidance from Masterton’s Coffee&Tea Specialists based in Port Elizabeth. Wikus Snr proudly tells us, “My son makes the best cappuccinos in town. Everyone says so!” This is such a relaxing environment that you can’t help but settle in to one of the many nooks and crannies while the vinyl plays. Wikus has also newly established a juice bar, which will go down a treat as the temperatures in the highlands rise. 6 Ray Champion Drive, Rayton
Jaru Coffee/Royal Roastery
Nestled in the food court surrounded by such South African classics as Spur and Steers, the location in the Mimosa Mall may not have appealed to me, but the beauty of being in such a bustling environment is the opportunity to reach a broad spectrum of people and the enthusiastic team at Jaru is up to the challenge! “We just fell in love with Coffee and everything it entails, so we decided to buy a second hand 2 group Espresso machine and we started this small little mobile stand for the love of it. But soon it just started to grow so fast that we decided to get a shop and we figured that a mall will be a great place with a lot of feet and then on 11 December 2015 we opened Jaru Coffee in Mimosa Mall, ” Janco Holtzhausen, one of the three owners of Jaru explains. A dainty yellow roaster in store powers Royal Roastery, the sister company and beans supplier to the café. Well-trained and super friendly staff makes Jaru an oasis of delicious coffee and good vibes. Food Court, Mimosa Mall
Bloemfontein Highland Coffee Roastery
It was an entertaining stay at the Golden Gate Hotel just outside of Clarens. There was an ‘incident’ just before we had arrived, blackened walls, fire blankets and four or fire extinguishers lying outside a room on the way to where we were staying. We giggled to ourselves as the porter assured us all was well and we settled in to appreciate our view of the illuminated mountain. In the morning we skipped the awful hotel coffee and headed straight into the hideaway magic of Clarens. The town has grown incredibly in popularity in the years since Chris Pefanis opened his roastery and he has a brand new spot on the town square corner. Chris is a fantastic character and approaches coffee with an almost zen-like happiness that rubs off on you as you enter the building. He really is just so happy to be where is he is and talks with great romance about watching the sunset over the mountains as he does his afternoon roasting with a beer from next-door Clarens Brewery in hand. The have just a acquired a beautiful, red La Spaziale 3 group machine to cope with the weekend crush and Gillie Mokoena, the barista is getting the hang of it to make sure their coffee maintains the same high standard we’ve come to expect of the Highland team. Cnr Market Street and Roos Street
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Coffee Magazine Minipresso NS deal: R1350 (saving of R300!)
Tuesday, 27 June, 2017
Coffee outdoors is a very romantic idea, just read all about it in the lastest issue of The Coffee Magazine in a story by Joe Marrocco of Cafe Imports. To celebrate coffee pretty much in any location, your office, the game reserve, your hotel room when you're away on business.
We're bringing you a deal to celebrate coffee on the move with the Minipresso NS that's compatible with Nespresso capsules with an amazing saving of R300! They normally go for R1650, but if you use the ZAPPER QR Code below, you get a R300 discount!! Easy peasy!!
WACACO MINIPRESSO NS - WAS R1650, now R1350!
Here's the romance:
Here's a nifty how to:
Please remember to keep your used capsules in your pack until you can bin them.
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Build Up to WCE All Stars: The Basics of espresso with Francesco Sanapo
An espresso is to coffee what the perfect béchamel sauce is to cooking. It seems simple enough at the outset but soon, you learn that there is much, much more to it than meets the eye.
Your first sip of espresso is likely to be bitter, so bitter in fact that your taste buds scream, “stop right there!” and send messages to your brain that espresso is always bitter and there will never be another flavour that you can discover in this particular method of brewing coffee. You may have had the same experience the first time you tried an olive when you were a child or with your first sip of whisky or red wine, before your palate was used to such things. Espresso can certainly be categorised in this acquired taste group and when you reach that point of appreciation, there’s no going back.
Your taste buds are introduced to a whole new spectrum of sweet and fruity and chocolate and acidity and the coffee brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans takes on a whole new meaning in your life. The rich viscosity of the intensely concentrated coffee capped with a luxurious crema becomes necessary to meaningful life. The Italians have got it right, training those taste buds from a young age, just ask Italian Barista Champion, Francesco Sanapo!
Basic Rules for an Espresso By Francesco Sanapo, Italian Barista Champion 2013
Preparing a good espresso is a real form of art. Still today I remember the first things that my father taught me: he always told me that when you prepare an espresso you have to concentrate and to respect all the rules, because even a small distraction can lead to serve an awful espresso. Today, 20 years after these teachings, I still hear my father's voice in my ears every time I'm about to prepare an espresso.
Telling my story is very easy because it has only one leading thread: coffee. For all my life I've had just one job: I've started in my family's bar and today I travel around the world to spread the coffee culture. I became a barista by working with my family in our bar in the South of Italy (in the region of Puglia), then I continued as a barista in Florence. Nowadays, I'm a consultant in the industry of coffee and I work for many companies and roasters; also, I've created an event dedicated to spreading coffee culture, which is called Barista&Farmer (for further info, visit www.baristafarmer.com ).
Being a barista today is very different from a few years ago: now, a barista can be a professionally recognized figure and has much more visibility, although we still haven't reached the same visibility that chefs have, but we'll get there. This is also because of the existence of the World Barista Championship with its various competitions that allowed baristas to grow and to get more visibility and respect.
Nowadays, the community of coffee lovers grows every day all throughout the world, as much as the exponential growth of the consumption of coffee; specialty coffee bars are more and more appreciated by final consumers and the coffee ritual is living a whole new life.
The amount of consumers who are quality-conscious and curious to know the characteristics of the different coffees is always increasing, as much as the amount of people who are willing to prepare a good espresso at home. For this reason, I'd like to use this opportunity to spread the knowledge on the basic rules for preparing an espresso for consumers and novice baristas.
Remember that no matter what class of home espresso machine you have, these simple tips can improve your end result. There are a few problems that every beginner experiences that I have tried to address here.
1. First of all you have to choose a good coffee: my advice is to buy coffees whose producers indicate clearly and precisely the origin and quality. You can't just say it's 100% arabica: it doesn't mean anything because it's like a wine producer who says that his wine is 100% made of grapes. Ask for more info about the product you're about to buy.
2. Buy a coffee that was roasted for espresso: generally, that means a medium roasting. Again, talk to your local roaster. Avoid buying highly roasted coffees (very dark ones), that tend to have oil on the surface of the bean and tend to give your espresso hints of rancid, but also avoid buying very clear roasts because your result will be an unbalanced, almost sour, espresso.
3. Buy coffee in beans and grind it just before using it. The aroma in your cup will be richer and your sense of smell will be delighted.
4. For a good extraction, you will have to find the correct proportion between grinding and dosing. Keep in mind that 20-30 milliliters (ml) of espresso requires an extraction which lasts about 20 to 30 seconds. Once you know this proportion, adjusting the grinding becomes easier, but I'll try to make it even easier for you.
5. In case of the extraction of the espresso (on average 20-30 ml) lasting only 10 seconds (technically, this error is called “under extraction” and it presents a light crema, fading and light in color, with a very poor taste), what you have to do is making a finer grinding, so the water will find a more compact obstacle. This will allow you to increase the time needed for the water to pass through the coffee, thus lengthening the time of infusion.
6. In case of the extraction of the espresso (on average 20-30 ml) only being obtained in 50 seconds (an error technically called “Over-extracted espresso”, with a dark crema often together with a white spot, plus the taste will present hints of gum, coal and peaks of bitterness), what you should do in this case is increase the size of the ground parts of coffee, which will cause a decrease of the amount of time spent by the water inside the coffee.
7. As I said earlier, a 20-30 ml espresso is obtained in 20-30 seconds. In the cup, you will find a fine and elastic crema that stretches as you tilt the cup, with a hazel colour and red stripes on the surface (technically called “tiger skin”).
I really hope that together, we can all spread the quality coffee culture all throughout the world. Drinking a good coffee helps us in living a better life.
On the 2nd of July the SA AeroPress Competition will be hosted by EspressoLab at the Old Biscuit Mill.
These are the contestants that were drawn from the AeroPress cup once all entries were in! Well done! It's going to be an amazing competition!
Rob Temlett Independent
Khan Chang Uncle Bear Coffee Company
Paolo Panicco PVT
Michael MacDonald Origin
Stevo Kühn Royal Roastery
Jean-Pierre Blignaut Royal Roastery
Fanie Botes Industrial Coffee Works
Steve Evans Independent
Zakhele Sibanda Origin
Timothy Porter Independent
Cleo Pokpas Uncle Bear Coffee
Dayle Visser Tribe Coffee
Sa'ad Lahri Independent
Chad Burton Independent
Lydia Oyier Espresso Lab
Ofatsa Kamandani Espresso Lab
Blessing Mbvirwi Espresso Lab
Shewaan Khan Independent
Tell us about what people can expect at the South African AeroPress Competition.
Our aim is to put a fun less formal event than the usual coffee competitions. This is also something the organisers of the WAC (World AeroPress Championship) really encourages, to not take it too serious, just have fun brewing some great coffee together. For that reason we also wanted to encourage independent coffee enthusiasts to register as this is one of few competitions where they can compete, and we were thrilled to have so many enter and compete. Apart for the competition rounds we will have an ongoing auction through out the event with some awesome lots sold off. A years membership at the Riverclub golf club, a weekend away at the Old Mac Daddy, an escape game for 5 at Hint Hunt, Bonavita scales and coffee brewers, Brewista kettles, and of course lots more coffee equipment. So it should be a great event to attend, not just for the competitors but the attendees will also have a chance to bid on all these amazing things. All the proceeds of the auction will go towards sending the winner to compete in the World Championship in Seoul, South Korea, so its a win win situation for everyone.
Why, in your opinion, is the AeroPress such a successful piece of brewing equipment?
It’s potentially the most versatile brewing device, with endless brew recipe options. You can follow the standard operating suggestions in the brew manual, however you can choose to freestyle it with brewing the coffee with add ons, like a metal filter, brewing it inverted, with longer or shorter brew times, the options are endless. The other bonus is that it’s a very travel friendly device, leading to avid coffee geeks brewing it outdoors, indoors and even at high altitude, starting a trend of the AeroPress Mile High Club.
What is the compulsory competition coffee?
All competitors will be using a washed process Caturra from Huila, Colombia, processed by Alirio Muños. It’s a fruit forward coffee with a driven citric acidity and smooth rounded body with soft brown sugary sweetness. We wanted to have the same coffee for everyone as we feel that it gives an even playing field for all competitors. The judging will then be based on the brewing method/technique rather than the coffee.
Tell us about your esteemed panel of judges.
It was important to us to have a varied mix of judges. It came natural to us to contact Winston Thomas as he is the reigning South African AeroPress champion, apart form being a great guy. He also recently won the South African Barista championship, so who better to help us judge the competition. It was also important for us to include at least one woman as the coffee industry is very male dominated, and someone not from within the coffee industry, a “neutral” person if you will. We found that in Annemarie Robertson, who just won the first edition of SABC 3 - Top Chef, and head chef at Open Door until recently. It was also a given to have Renato Correia, our roaster to be apart of the judging team as he has many years or experience tasting coffee both locally and world wide.
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