Words by Meegan Rourke-McGill
Café culture might have originated in Europe, but, as we recently discovered on a trip through the Swiss and French Alps, coffee culture is still slow going outside of the city centres. It was an unexpected ‘surprise’ to discover that proximity to Italy does not guarantee a good coffee!
Out in the mountain towns of both Switzerland and France, the ‘specialty’ coffee scene is scarce. Order a coffee from a café, and you’re likely to get coffee at the press of a button – from either an industrial automated machine or a single-portion Nespresso pod. While coffee capsules are nothing if not consistent, they just don’t hit the spot when you’re used to the flavour of artfully roasted, freshly ground and brewed beans…
We hit the jackpot with MAME in Zurich, run by two Swiss Barista Champions, Emi Fukahori and Mathieu Theis. Emi is a master of her craft, and the coffee was truly exceptional.
Don’t order a cappuccino
Coffee in France on the other hand has a reputation for being particularly terrible (outside of Paris). I couldn’t bring myself to believe the rumours, but after receiving a watered-down milky coffee with a thin layer of airy froth on top (supposedly a cappuccino), I was inclined to agree. You can learn from my mistake though – don’t order a cappuccino. This will result in a weak, flavourless cup of disappointment. Make sure you order un café crème – the French version of an espresso with foamed milk.
Apparently, the story behind France’s lacklustre coffee dates back to its colonial history. Coffee from the former French colonies was cheap, and mostly Robusta, hence the bitter taste that the French are now accustomed to. Fortunately for us in France, we had a moka pot and Lavazza drip coffee to tide us over until our return to South Africa and its remarkably advanced specialty coffee culture!
The wonderful thing about travelling though is that you learn so much about different places, people, and cultures. Being a stranger in a foreign country forces you to try new things and expand your comfort zones. For example, I tried the Swiss Alpine version of Mac ‘n Cheese – Älpermagronen. I was surprised to find diced potatoes amidst my macaroni, and a bowl of applesauce on the side. It was…unusual! Travelling does also teach you to appreciate the creature comforts of home though – like a French Press, single origin Arabica beans, and good old South African mac ‘n cheese.
What France lacks in coffee, they make up for in Crémant de Savoie (sparkling wine) and sorbet.
When you can’t find coffee, you have to get creative.
Words by David Donde
As the representatives of the sharp end of coffee we have an obligation. Perhaps it is more of a duty? A duty to justify the prices we charge for coffee by delivering a cup worthy of its price. A duty to pay our baristas fairly. A duty to give those baristas a career path. A duty to enable that career path by offering them training. A duty to buy coffee that can fulfill the obligation in that cup offered to our loyal patrons. A duty to learn how to roast as well as humanly possible. A duty to buy green coffees worthy of the Herculean effort that will follow. A duty to pay fair prices to the grower. A duty to grow coffees worthy of a fair price. A duty as a business owner to learn how to do all those things.
This is is the value chain. And you, Customer, are breaking it. You are being unfair. You are compromising your duty. Every time you buy a cup of coffee and complain about the price, you force the Cafè to think about lowering its pricing. To evaluate where it can cut corners. Can we pay our baristas less? Can we eliminate training? Can we avoid growing our business for a while? Can we buy cheaper coffee? Can we avoid hiring? Can we squeeze our roaster for a lower price?
Cafe owner, every time you complain about the price of your coffee you are incentivizing your roaster to pay less to their roasting team. To cut quality control standards or practices. Discouraging their opportunities to employ. Forcing them to buy coffees on price rather than quality. To buy down. To prize efficiency over quality.
Roasters, your compromises on purchasing are forcing farmers to champion quantity over quality. To cut corners. To refuse shoes and education to their children. To hold them back from economic freedom.
Go to the average “great” cafe and see their coffee offered for ten or twenty percent more than a bottled water. How does that respect the coffee; the barista; the roaster; the grower? Is your coffee only a little better than your water? Then fair enough. Is it representative of the effort of all of those people who brought that amazing coffee from seed to cup? Then respect the difference. Respect the value. Charge fairly. Charge appropriately.
Coffee, like wine, deserves a spread of pricing. Cheap for average; pricey for the good stuff and expensive for the experiences.
This is fair, no? This builds a culture. This builds an economy. This is part of a dream of emancipation that coffee can and should help deliver.
Cafes charging fairly will be able to pay baristas fairly. A good barista should not be earning a small percentage more than minimum wage. A good barista should be able to be a meaningful contributor to his lifestyle, his family and his community. Charge more and you will need to pay more to keep your barista. And this is good. Your barista will spend more in the community; allowing the coffee price to be afforded by the community. This is building an economy. We can’t shrink our way to greatness.
Smaller cafes shouldn’t be intimidated by the pricing of the large franchises and charge a bit less. They should show up the larger operations with a better offer and thus justify a higher price and loyalty.
Big dogs with big footprints, start having the value in the cup improve. Let your customers understand the value of quality by your team understanding that value has two sides to its coin. Price and quality. That quality deserves to be easy to taste. Try it with special offerings. But don’t cheat. Buy great coffees. Dare to really try going up the quality ladder. Dare to offer a coffee that doesn’t just cost more for a premium. But tangibly tastes better. Is different. Is worth charging a lot more for. Respect your clientele. They aren’t as dumb as your board’s demographic presentations suggest. They aren’t data points, they are individuals Those that care about quality and think about what they drink will get it. And respect you for it. Give them credit for being able to enjoy the finer things in life.
But damn you if you charge more and don’t produce something better.
Damn you if you don’t pay staff fairly from the increased profits.
Damn you if you do this and don’t insist on buying better coffee
Damn you if you aren’t prepared to pay more for better.
There are two scenarious. R22 for a double flat white. R20 for the water. Minimum wage. Buying from the lowest convenient bidder. Commodity grade coffee from farmers on the poverty line. Mass unemployment. A South Africa with low economic confidence.
Or or we can charge and enjoy paying upwards of R40, still leaving us with one of the cheapest speciality coffee offerings in the world. Paying our baristas fairly. Hiring more staff. Paying for better coffee. Allowing the better farmers to charge more, allowing them to further improve their economies and offerings. We in the coffee industry get to wear a badge of pride in what we do on our lapels. We are not hiding from shame at our known mediocrity. It is easier to defend high prices when your practices are uncompromising. The shame of misrepresenting or cheating or cost cutting are removed from the tightly shut closet doors of our guilty consciences. We step into the light of the upward spiral. Of customers slapping down a fair price with a smile in expectation of a mindfully enjoyed cup of the pinnacle of our geeky craft, basking in the full knowledge of the good being done all the way down the value chain. People paid to care are paying others to care. Each cup of coffee making a positive difference to every community. The coffee drinkers. The cafe owners. The baristas. The logistics teams. The roasteries. The coffee roasters. The trainers. The green bean buyers. The coffee farmers. And maybe even the environment. Maslow’s pyramid can only have a healthy effect on that.
We we can either support a downward spiral or an upwards climb. Everything is connected. We are either choosing to be part of the solution or part of the problem.
Still want a discount on that coffee?
Deliver on your duty. Ask for better. Demand better.
We couldn't be more happy with how Creative Coffee Week turned out. It was terrifying and we were very nervous that we wouldn't be able to get the right coffee people together, but in the end it worked out alright. In fact, it worked out better than we could have have ever hoped. The sessions were stimulating, the debate was robust and the sharing was open and relaxed. It was the moments in between the Workshops where we could look around and see people interacting and learning from each other that confirmed that, for us, it was a success, as our SA Barista Champion Winston Thomas would say, it was a "self-defined success." We are extremely grateful to the coffee professionals who travelled from across the country to be in Durban, the people made it and will continue to help this platform grow.
For stories and adventures from the week direct from the people who were there, look up #CreativeCoffeeWeek on social media.
We also launched SA's first roasting competition, A Shot in the Dark, with Genio Roasters and Speciality Coffee Exchange. Bringing 12 Roasters from across the country together to discuss technique and stories from behind their roasters was a truly special moment. The trailer by D4 Productions is below and we look forward to the full documentary which will drop in the next week or so!
We've had a lot of fun at the first two Breezey Masters regionals! Well done to Eugene of the Oyster Box for taking the KZN Breezey Masters title and to Kyria Sasa of Starbucks for winning the JHB title. The scores have been super close and with only 1 more regional to go there's everything to play for: a trip to Melbourne to compete at the global Breezey Masters Final! That's pretty cool!
KZN Winner, Euguene and Marcus Peil, Blue Diamond Almonds SA
The Coffee Magazine Awards ceremony is only days away and the nominations are out! The CMAs will be handed out at the Creative Coffee Week's Gala Dinner presented by Selati on Saturday 29th July at the Ushaka Aquarium with the who's who of the Coffee Industry, Local and National Government and Business leaders attending.
This is the Coffee Magazine Awards :) The lists were nominated by our team. This is just the beginning of building a platform that inspires and celebrates the South African coffee industry. We look forward to seeing how it grows and evolves with collaboration, new categories and future nominees in the coming years.
Dedication to Education Award
This awards is handed out to the person or company who has dedicated their time to coffee education.
Carol Corlett - Sevenoaks Trading - Green Bean training and Q Graders 2018 courses.
Johnson Sehoro and Lizaan Alberts – Ciro: Deaf Barista training programme 2017/18.
Shaun Aupiais – Red Band Barista Academy and ongoing training in E Cape.
Lani Snyman – Ciro Beverage Solutions: Unisa Barista skills course, SCA and AST training in SA.
Jaco De Wit – Roast Republic: Barista Business Incubator Project
David Basset – Woza Coffee - Empowering unemployed people through coffee.
Best Cafe Design
The spaces created for coffee add equally to the experience of enjoying that coffee. These are the nominees for the best designed Cafe spaces in South Africa:
Big Dog café by Terbodore - Franschoek
Naked Coffee – Sandton City
Deluxe Coffee Works Roastery - Buitenkant
Industrial Coffee Works - Centurion
Truth Coffee - Buitenkant st
Father Coffee - Rosebank
Excellence in Coffee Award.
This Coffee Professional strives for and achieves excellence in their chosen area of the Coffee Production Chain. They are innovative, are recognized as a leadership figure in their field and are constantly inspiring others around them.
Donovan McLagan - Urban Espress
Jonathan Robinson – Bean There
Ishan Natalie – Starbucks
David Donde – Truth Coffee
Cuth Bland – Bean There
Charlie Denison – Cultivar Coffee
Neil Maree – Genio Roasters
Best New Cafe
Café’s are meeting places, they are spaces of community, business meetings, collaborations and first dates. We see new Café’s opening every month and the standard is increasing year on year – from better equipment, higher quality beverages, better service, to choice of design and outfitting, to creative seating, flow and ambience. Great toilets and bathrooms, and a fitting menu. Most off all though the criteria for this was based on the Café that opened in the last 24 months that has created something special where before it there was nothing. The nominees are:
Ground Coffee House – Hilton
Skyline Coffee - Durban
Dear Maria – Bedfordview
Flynn Coffee - Johannesburg
Pauline’s – Sea Point
Best New Roastery
This category seeks to recognize Roasteries that have opened in the last 3 years and are gaining reputations as up and coming in the South African scene
Pause Coffee - Wilderness, E Cape
Alchemy Coffee – Welgemoed, WCape
Faba Roastery – Bloemfontein, Free State
Humble Roasting Co – Durban, KZN
Thirdspace - Fourways
Citizen Coffee Roastery – Wynberg, CT
Tulip Coffee – Hermanus, W Cape
Best Alternative Brewing Experience
Aeropress, Chemex, Siphon or V60 pour-over to name a few! These are the nominees for the best alternative brewing experience in South Africa for 2018:
Travel Designer – Cape Town
EspressoLab Microroastery– Cape Town
Origin Coffee Roasting – Cape Town
Father Coffee - Rosebank
Vintage - Centurion
Barista Trainer of the Year
These nominees are the very best Barista Trainers in the land. They teach and inspire, they train and they serve. They impart wisdom learned from thousands of hours behind the espresso machine and their subject matter is technique, science, aesthetic and service.
Bilbo Steyn - Starbucks
Ishan Natalie - Starbucks
Khulekani Mpala - Wiesenhof Coffee
Shaun Aupiais - Famous Brands
Wency Masawi - Nino's
Johnson Sehoro - for Ciro Beverage Solutions
Coffee Personality of the Year
These coffee professionals approach whatever they do with optimism, effervescence and inspiration. They fly the flag of the coffee community high and get involved in all areas, remaining wonderful throughout.
Angeline McLagan - Urban Espress
Chad Whitby - Colombo Coffee
Nicodemus Nabakwe - Sevenoaks Trading
Sihle Magubane - Sihle's Brew
Harry Mole - TriBeCa
Mike Chizeya - Micoffee
Coffee Team of the Year
The Coffee Team of the Year award recognizes that it is people that make a coffee company great – From the Owners who create a happy, respectful and creative ethos, to the staff who live the brand daily. The successful team is one in which all the people in the space from the lowest to the highest uphold the same values and consistently serve with excellence and are rewarded well for doing so.
Bean There Coffee Company
Colombo Coffee & Tea
Cafe of the Year
This award goes to the establishment that has consistently created an amazing cafe experience for its patrons, serves great coffee and food, with excellent service, has great ambience, design and most importantly, a loyal community of patrons.
Starlings - Newlands
Krust Café – George
Truth – Cape Town
Pablo Eggs-go-bar – Melville
Coffeeberry – PMB
Urban Espress – PE
Jason’s - Greenpoint
Roastery of the Year
The nominees in this category are the Roasteries in South Africa that have forged the path for speciality coffee in SA. They continue to push the boundaries of coffee roasting by sourcing the best coffees, investing in the latest technology, by collaborating, sharing and engaging with the global roasting community, by educating, informing and inspiring their customers – wholesale and retail and finally, by putting the highest quality coffee into the market that can make South Africa stand amongst the best coffee roasters in the world.
The nominees are:
Rock & Roller
Origin Coffee Roasting
Barista of the Year
Barista of the year is not limited to competitive coffee competitions but is the barista all-rounder. He/she is the barista who epitomizes what it means to understand, to respect and to serve amazing coffee experiences. They are masters of extraction, technique and technical understanding, but most of all they cherish that it’s not just about the coffee served, but in the serving.
Nigel Kamhanda – Infood Jbay
Simnikiwe Mhkize - Rosetta
Winston Thomas - Independent
Ken Machenge - Tribe
Innocent Chakanyuka – Truth
Lydia Oyier - EspressoLab