There’s something about the sound and smell of a café that is incredibly soothing and conducive to focused work. It’s a place to socialise, or be alone, to work, or to relax, to network, or hide out… Coffee shops are a haven for work-from-home entrepreneurs and freelancers – giving us a place to go where we can spend time in the company of others (even though they might be strangers) and feel the buzz of life (and work) happening around us.
There are a lot of unspoken rules about working from a café though, and customer etiquette isn’t always considered. To support these spaces we all value so much, here a just a few things you can do to stay in the good graces of café owners and fellow coffee connoisseurs…
Show your support
Your local café may feel like your office away from home, but it’s a business like any other – it’s best not to take advantage of their hospitality by ordering one cup of coffee and then spending the next 7 hours drinking water. Generally, you should be ordering something every two hours or so, and that should probably include food if you’re there during the breakfast or lunch rush. Remember, they’re giving you a free workspace and Wi-Fi, along with the social energy that makes cafés such a great place to work. They rely on paying customers to keep them in business – show your support for your fellow entrepreneurs and business owners by making your work worth their while.
Even if you didn’t order much, your waitron is still keeping an eye on you, making themselves available when you need something. A good tip shows your thanks and appreciation, and ensures you’re welcomed back the next time you visit.
You might love your taste in music, but there’s no guarantee that the other customers will – wearing headphones will give you that nice background buzz, as well as the focus you need to get things done. Plus, it gives you a little privacy to watch webinars or cat videos in peace.
Use your inside voice
A lot of people take calls in coffee shops, but it can get a little out of hand when everyone’s shouting at the person on the other end of the line. The rule of thumb is always to take it outside or try to keep your voice down. You also don’t want people listening in on your conversation – it might break some non-disclosure agreements or privacy policies.
Make sure you sit close to a plug point if you need to charge your devices – you don’t want long cords tripping people up – especially when there are hot beverages on the move. Even better, arrive with your devices fully-charged so that you’re not at the mercy of available plug points.
With great Wi-Fi comes great responsibility
Not all coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi, so when you find one that does, treat it like gold. Unfortunately, that means you shouldn’t be streaming Netflix or downloading all five seasons of Breaking Bad. The Wi-Fi has to serve everyone, so respect their bandwidth limits and use it for email, Google, and digging way too deeply into the Facebook profiles of your high school enemies.
There are only so many tables and chairs in a coffee shop or café – if it’s just you and your laptop, leave the bigger tables to the bigger groups. It’s tempting to spread out, especially if you arrived during a quiet period, but rather than taking up too much space and getting the evil eye from other customers, find a compact spot away from the action – you’re less likely to be asked to move.
Treat the café owners and staff with kindness and courtesy, and you’ll find you receive it back in spades. A good customer will always get great service.
Have we missed any ground rules for the daily grind? Share yours in the comments!
Do you choose to reuse?
With calls to institute a tax on disposable coffee cups, the UK is shining a spotlight on the environmental impact of ‘coffee to go’. Apparently, 2.5 billion single-use cups are thrown away every year in the UK – and that’s not even 3% of the 100 billion disposable cups thrown away every year worldwide. That’s a huge amount of waste for a daily caffeine fix...
UK MPs hope the levy will encourage people to turn to reusable alternatives rather than adding to the mountain of waste, and some European countries are looking to follow suit. The reasons are two-fold. While some single-use cups can be recycled, the reality is that most of the time, no-one goes out of their way to find a recycling bin. And then what most people don’t know is that even when you do, disposable cups are incredibly difficult to recycle.
The recycling problem
They may look like paper, but most ‘paper’ cups are lined with polyethylene plastic to make the cups ‘coffee-proof’ – which complicates the recycling process. The plastic component is near impossible to separate from the paper, and requires a specialised recycling facility – which is why less than 1% of the UK’s discarded paper cups actually end up being recycled. And why most of this waste ends up in landfill sites or the ocean. And the paper portion isn’t much better – trees are being felled for an Americano on the go. Seems a little wasteful.
The problem may seem insurmountable – literally, it would be impossible to climb the mountain of billions and trillions of throwaway cups – but there are eco-friendly alternatives if you’re wanting to make a change. Of course, there are always the classics like a good thermos or flask, but conscientious coffee drinkers can also turn to brands like KeepCup or Ecoffee Cup for washable and reusable options that make a difference with every cup of coffee you drink.
The KeepCup (originally from Australia) lasts for three years, and can then be recycled along with the rest of your recycling at home (no complications or difficulties). Their big selling point? Since they launched in 2009, KeepCup users have diverted ± 3.5 billion disposable cups from landfill. You may think your daily takeaway coffee doesn’t have an impact, but you are genuinely saving the world with every sip. KeepCup claim that the environmental cost breaks even after 15 uses – after that, you’re saving water, trees and energy. All in a day’s work (or a few days, depending on how many cups you average per day).
Check out their full range at keepcup.com.
The Ecoffee Cup is made from fast growing, naturally organic, sustainable bamboo and stakes its claim as being BPA, phthalate, and animal product-free. It should last you a good few years, and then it’s biodegradable when you do decide to part ways. Best of all, each Cup is styled like a piece of art, which is just perfect for the artistry and effort that baristas put into their work.
Check out their full range at ecoffeecup.co.za.
So, is it time to ditch the disposables and say no to single-use? It’s tempting to think that every cup of coffee you drink is making a difference – your caffeine fix rescues you from the doldrums of your day-to-day, and you get to pay it forward to the earth. Win-win.
We have been so thrilled to see the entries for our incredible competition with African Bush Camps and Travel Designer pour in. We thought we would give you a sneak peek into the amazing coffee adventures people are having out there! We have loved reading them, keep them coming!
My first gypsy coffee
By Cyan Brown
It was a cold June morning. I was 21 and convinced of my own invincibility and thus decided to give in to my spontaneous urge to join a group of friends travelling to India in eight days. I wasn’t entirely sure where they were going in India, but the last minute decision was spurred on by the fact I had a saved a little bit of money intended for travel through a small part time job and really needed an adventure to celebrate reaching halfway through medical school without losing my sanity.
The visa arrived with only a few hours to spare. The administration clerk that handed it over also happened to be the recipient of a most affectionate hug and flurried words of gratitude for my mini miracle in the embassy. I had just finished my final surgery exam of the semester, still in a daze with my visa in hand and scantily packed backpack, I rushed to the airport. The others had left that morning and I was left reading my Indian travel guide alone on the benches of the Mumbai airport in the early hours of the morning whilst waiting for my connecting flight with only a screaming child and dodgy looking man as company on the hard, steel airport bench.
I eventually reached Delhi and the familiar faces I loved a few hours later. Nothing could have prepared me for the sweltering heat and kaleidoscope of culture that was Delhi, but I intrinsically knew I didn’t want to be prepared for that. I wanted to come to India with an open mind, a light backpack, a keenness to understand these peoples’ context and the desire to embrace rather than judge. Many foreigners travel in India, few actually truly experience it. Our group fell into the latter. We slept in all sorts of places in Delhi and Mumbai, used only public transport, chatted with locals, explored temples, ate only traditional food, did everything on a budget and made the most of this infusion of culture.
The next part of the trip was the adventure stretch. After landing in war-torn Kashmir and being welcomed by machine guns and military personnel (the border conflict with Pakistan still rages) we found a local who organized some Royal Ensfield motorbikes for us. It was time to meet the Himalayan Mountain Range. I clung tightly to the torso of my friend, Daniel, who was driving (not particularly reassuringly, I might add) this very flimsy motorbike up winding roads covered in patches with thin layers of ice. Many prayers, bug splatters and nervous giggles later we arrived at a beautiful village. The old ruins were not far off in the distance and the hill was dotted with small tents and people hunching over the fires. We wandered down to the river to behold a wonder of gushing water that served as the life source to the tiny village. The locals were friendly and we played some cricket with the young boys.
This population were known as gypsies in this region, people who lived off of the land. They had a mysterious charm about them and were hospitable to our group. One of the locals we had met in Delhi had arranged with a distant relative that we stay in one of the only small houses in the village that night. The family of three barely spoke English but warmly showed us the small shed we would sleep in. All eight of us piled in, head to toe and got cosy under blankets that smelt distinctively of a stable. I didn’t sleep at all, but I didn’t even mind, we were in the Himalayas! In the morning my adrenaline rush for the day came from watching our hostess slaughter a chicken right in front of me for our breakfast and pluck all the feathers from its lifeless body before popping it in a large cooking pot. Then the magic happened. I was handed a tiny cup, and without even looking at the contents took a sip fully expecting it to be the chai tea that had been our standard beverage for the past while. Instead the taste of glorious coffee laced my lips and sent a small shudder of happiness right into the core of my belly. Ahhhh, a small piece of heaven in my morning beverage and my surroundings. Life was good, very good.
We embraced the rest of the trip wholeheartedly and continued being faced with completely new paradigms. The one cup of coffee I had was the only local coffee I tasted, but left an impression of note. I came back changed. To face such abject poverty, overwhelming beauty, potential, culture and difference all at once makes one re-evaluate one’s frame of reference. I look back now (older, more mature, having finally become a doctor and having gained new respect for my mortality) and have listened to people tell me of the dangers that could have been , the huge risks that we took, the things that could have gone wrong but didn’t and I am filled with an overwhelming sense of “ Let’s do it again” because true adventure does not call you within the realms of your comfort zone and India is not experienced fully unless wholeheartedly embraced.
In the Summer Edition of The Coffee Magazine, Dawn Jorgensen contributed our cover story on the intrepid coffee adventures of Travel Designer, Ozzy Yerlikaya and as it turns out, Dawn is an intrepid traveller herself, with many stories to tell. We caught up with her to hear some of the stories and to get advice from this travel pro.
An interview with Dawn Jorgensen, The Incidental Tourist
Where in the world did you have your most memorable coffee experience? Tell us about it.
It was likely a turning point for me both personally and as a traveller. I was just 18 years old and on a one year student exchange program to Israel, spending some time in the Negev desert. As a fresh faced rather protected girl out of the Free State, coffee had always come in a tin and mostly comprised of chicory. We served it with milk and sugar before breakfast, and often at around 4pm. It was not a ritual, but had always been something the family enjoyed together.
Then there I was in the Middle East, remote with my guide and a few fellow students being invited into the shade of the tent by a nomadic Bedouin family. ‘Do you want Turkish coffee or mint tea’ we were asked through our interpreter. Most of us opted for coffee and we watched the ritual of boiling and serving the thick black liquid being performed.
The Bedouin style of drinking coffee and more importantly sharing it with guests is at the cultural heart of the hospitable Bedouin and one of their way of welcoming strangers. I was handed a small cup that took three sips to empty, leaving some muddy sediment at the bottom. When offered a second, I instantly said shukraan and put my cup forward for the top up. Coffee would never be the same again.
What is your local cafe hangout?
Given how much I travel, when I’m home I indulge in good coffee that I make with a French press first thing in the morning, and again after my morning walk. Although I spend a lot of time in Pringle Bay where my parents live and I always go to Simply Coffee with them to linger and chat to friends I’ve made there over the years, it certainly is a happy place.
If you could offer one piece of travel advice for people about to set off on an adventure, what would it be?
Go with an open mind, leave your inhibitions behind and always talk to strangers. That, and be gracious, grateful to be there and respectful to the environment you find yourself in, and the people who live there.
Do you have an all-time favourite travel destination?
This is such a difficult one, as everywhere I visit I feel I belong. Although Italy, Madagascar, Thailand and Morocco are among my current favourites.
What are you most looking forward to in 2018?
From a travel perspective I’m looking forward to returning to Lisbon in late April for a few weeks of living like a local. I am just back from an eight day solo trip where I stayed in a rental apartment in the Alfama district of the Old City. It was hevenly and something about the cobbled streets, history of rebirth, the colourful tiles, friendly people, delicious coffee and pasteis de nata is calling for my return.
Other than that, there is a visit to Thailand on the cards and numerous smaller retreats to local break away destinations such as McGregor, Paternoster and Pringle Bay to look forward, as well as a safari being planned. South African travel should never be overlooked, we live in such a beautfiul country.
Beyond my beloved travel, 2018 feels like a turning point as I turn 50 and look forward to writing up my many travel experiences and how they have led to my personal evolution to an ever more conscious living person. I plan to start working on a book, take long beach walks with my dogs and regroup in preparation for the next exciting chapter of my life.
How can we be more responsible and respectful travellers?
Over the past decades as the world became more accessible, the increase in tourism numbers has had an unavoidably negative impact on the environment, and many tourists are ever more aware of this. It is important to be present wherever you are, respectful and aware of your surrounds, be they urban or wilderness, the people hosting you and the insight that they so generously offer into their worlds.
Among the green travel trends to adopt are staycations, with many travellers choosing to stay local for their holidays. This has boosted local economies and is popular with those preferring to avoid the time and expense – let alone carbon footprint, of flights. Private islands, off the grid walking trails and remote community run game lodges are the current darlings of sustainable travel.
Being selective in your choice of accommodation. Look to family run businesses with a strong eco feel, or for a Fair Trade in Tourism endorsement, which ensures that environmental, economic and social values are being upheld. Get to the core of responsible tourism by eating locally sourced food, in turn supporting resident farmers and creating job opportunities for the community, while getting a real taste of the homegrown cuisine.
An issue that’s close to my heart is animal rights in tourism. Gone are the days when elephant back riding or petting lion cubs was acceptable, hard work by global activists as well as documentaries like Blood Lions have created a newfound awareness with the simple message of ‘hands off our wildlife’. Animals are not there for our entertainment, think before you engage in one of those activities.
Travel is a privilege and we need to be gracious guests in the places we visit.
What is your view on visiting the ‘tourist sights’? Is there a right way and a wrong way to approach them? And is there a particular sight from your travels that you would say is worth any amount of queuing?
The iconic attractions in the cities and countries around the world are that for a reason. Be it Table Mountain in Cape Town, the Colosseum in Rome or the Louvre in Paris. Don’t be too cool to visit them or you will be missing out. Personally I prefer to travel out of season, when you are guaranteed smaller queues, better prices and more interaction with the local people, even if the weather is on the chilly side – there’s coffee to warm you up, right?
Most offer the option of buying tickets in advance, which allows you to join a fast tracked queue. Some guided tours arrange easy access for their groups, and I remember my guide walking me straight into Vatican City, past a hundred disgruntled, as he’d made an appointment for our tour. Always carry water, a sun hat or rain jacket and take something to read, or simply people watch and chat with those around you, it will help pass the time.
Although I would line up all day to visit the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Blue Mosque in Istanbul and to climb the narrow stairs to the top of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the magnificent Duomo in Florecne. Sometimes, simply put, it’s worth it.
What’s the big deal about Burundi?
Photography by Kristy Carlson
We explore three different perspectives on fast growing coffee origin, Burundi, focusing on one region of farmers that have a special connection to South Africa. For you, the consumer, this journey from coffee farm to roaster may answer some questions on why you should happily pay more for certain coffees.
The Producers: Long Miles Coffee Project, Burundi
Ben and Kristy Carlson are the founders of Long Miles Coffee Project in Burundi. They may be American by birth, but they are South African at heart. In Burundi, they produce coffee in collaboration with 4,500 smallholding coffee farmers. While Ben and Kristy have received a fair amount of positive feedback around the world for their efforts in Burundi and the quality of their coffees, they don’t feel like they have reached their full potential yet. Seven years ago these displaced Americans were preparing to move to Burundi from Durban, South Africa. This is a fraction of their story in their own words.
“We spent a decade living in South Africa and during that time we claimed it as home. Even though we were in our early twenties when we moved to Durban, we feel like that is where we grew up in a way. We still have our roots in South Africa and feel very connected to its cultures and its people. Our relationships in SA continue to be among the deepest ones we have in our lives. South Africa was one of our launching points into coffee and living there helped prepare us for eventually transitioning to life in Burundi. When we moved to Durban as newlyweds in 2001 there wasn’t much of a coffee culture. You could get a very large milky cappuccino or an over roasted stale bean and that was about it.
As the South African specialty coffee scene began to rise, we were there and got really excited about what we were seeing. Opening a speciality coffee destination in Durban was one of our first ventures. It wasn’t open long, but we learned huge lessons from owning a café that we still draw on today. Our involvement with coffee grew into consultancies that allowed us to contribute to the initiation of the South African barista championships. Working with the emerging barista profession gave us friendships that we still appreciate today.
Seeing the development of the South African coffee scene from its infancy and now working with the speciality coffee community in South Africa as a producer is really special for us.
When we began in Burundi, it didn’t take us long to realise that if we weren’t focused on quality, we were not going to make an impact. Working on quality brings out the nuances and the beauty in Burundi coffee. We produce better coffee that costs more, and that allows us to build valuable relationships with roasters. Without this we cannot run our business or make a significant difference in farmers lives and in the nation of Burundi.
As we experienced life alongside farmers in our first years in Burundi, we realized they were often being treated unfairly and were not receiving premiums for their coffee. We discovered that the washing station was a place that could become a catalyst for change. We built Bukeye, and then a year later we built Heza, our second washing station. We believe physical infrastructure can be a catalyst for change. You need the washing station building for six weeks to process coffee, but throughout the year, the change resides in our team, in our scouts that constantly talk to farmers about their farming practices and methodologies. They are Long Miles more than the buildings at the washing stations are.
Speciality coffee is worth the investment. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of money to produce great coffee. We understand that it takes an element of risk to buy coffee if you are a roaster. It is challenging for many South African roasters to consider their profit margins and then buy specialty coffees. Please support the ones that do, because they are up to something special.
Buying specialty coffee is the only way to develop further as a coffee culture in South Africa and it is the only way to truly support farmers. Leaning on the excuse of people not willing to pay more than R20 a cup has to be abolished. It is the R20 Cappuccino that is pushing farmers further into poverty. There is no other way than through exposure and telling the story of coffee that captivates your audience. When a coffee is tasted, and its beauty matches its story, you can become a pioneer in the South African specialty community. It’s a scary leap, but we believe you’ll discover it’s worth it.
“You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”, André Gide.
We would suggest that roasters structure their business in a way that makes room for specialty coffee. What that means is that you have to contract to buying coffee ahead of time. You have to believe enough in this coffee, in the people that produced it and in your importer to commit to coffee in advance. And you cannot back out when the coffee arrives.
We believe that South Africa roasters can lead this change. It is your continent, it is your people, and your place in the world. If anyone can lead this charge, it is South Africans.”
An Importer: Grant Harris, Specialty Coffee Exchange, South Africa
What is the philosophy of Specialty Coffee Exchange?
As a small coffee importer, we don’t offer the traditional coffees, we source unique specialty lots, continuously striving to find variety and sustainable quality through direct trade and relationships at origin. Our offering is in origin bags or 20kg boxes for micro to commercial roasters, giving roasters the option to purchase a selection of beans in small batch quantities.
How has the South African market changed in terms of demand for specialty coffee in the last few years?
We have a core of dedicated specialty roasters around the country that have influenced the industry hugely, generating a growing demand for not only specialty and microlots, but also driving the demand for origin variety and higher grade greens across the industry. I think our partner roasters enjoy roasting and selling our coffees, they are great cups with amazing origins.
What makes the relationship with LMCP successful?
THEIR COFFEE! And Ben and the Long Miles team of course! We have had incredible greens from LMCP the past two seasons: peaberry, naturals, honey process, red honey and lets not forget the Cup of Excellence. We are discussing the next season or current harvest with LMCP and year on year their coffees get better and better, an incredible success story in Burundian and African Specialty.
What is the reception you have received for the coffees coming from LMCP from roasters?
Our relationships with partner roasters is what drives the LMCP beans in SA. We are going into our third season with Long Miles (ready to freight Jan 2018) , already discussing requirements with our roasters of what they would like to sample and contract into the new year. Planning season to season with LMCP and our partner roasters is what specialty coffee is all about.
What is the price per kg when it lands in SA?
We have beans such as the Community Coffee Collective Kibira @R 79.50/kg to Long Miles Special Reserve Microlots of peaberry, naturals and red honey @R130-190/kg.
A Roaster: Buck Berk, Coffee Mob, New York City
What convinced you to engage with a green coffee producer like Long Miles Coffee Project?
I opened Coffee Mob in 2013. At that time I had no plans to roast our own coffee and was purchasing roasted coffee from a local roaster. After being open for a couple of years and finding my coffee legs, I decided to take a trip to a fantastic coffee farm in Colombia, La Palma y el Tucan http://lapalmayeltucan.com/site/. My experiences at origin, meeting farmers and understanding some of their plight further motivated me to learn more about coffee and what I could do to help improve their lives. It was then I decided to start sourcing and roasting. Soon after this experience, in 2015, I partook in the Specialty Coffee Association of America Expo in Seattle. I sat in on a lecture given by Ben Carlson of Long Miles Coffee. Hearing him speak passionately about the importance of improving the quality of coffee in Burundi, and what that translated to in regards to improving the lives of Burundi Farmers further struck my heart chords. Afterwards I introduced myself and our friendship has been developing nicely over these first couple of years of my roasting career.
Has the coffee from LMCP changed over the years? What have the effects of good processing and best agronomy practice meant to the flavour in the cup?
We are entering our third season with LMCP. I’ve definitely noticed a rise in the quality of the coffee. Mostly due to the fact that very little defects are found in the beans which was a major concern when LMCP first starting building washing stations as one way to help improve quality. I really enjoy the profile of peaberry coffee and last harvest I requested peaberry heirloom bourbon from one of the newer washing stations at Nkonge Hill. Ben and I thought it would be fun to process the “peas” utilizing three different methods, washed, honey and natural. It was amazing to roast and brew these coffees side by side and enjoy the different nuances attributed by each process. A rainbow of flavors were found ranging from cherry, lemon, blueberry, rose-petal, and brown sugar.
How has your average consumer’s palate changed? Do you think they’re more willing to try new things? (Then again, the education process never really ends, does it?)
Our average customer is pretty savvy if I do say so myself, especially since we started roasting our own coffee. They expect prolific coffee and love good contrasting variety. We are very transparent with our customers about new and exciting coffees that we are roasting. They are always willing to try new things because we have built a lot of trust with them over the years. For example. Recently I received a very small amount of rare coffee from a producer in Yemen called Rayyan Coffee. (rayyancoffee.com) I happened to be making my first pour-over of it when someone asked what I was making, when I said it was a coffee from Yemen, everyones ears pricked up and suddenly everyone wanted to try it!
What has been your favourite LMCP lot so far and what was the first thought that popped into your head when you tasted it? (When I tasted the Kibira from last years harvest as an espresso, all I could think was STRAWBERRIES!!! Lots of exclamation points because it was so intense!)
My favourite coffee so far from LMCP was a natural process peaberry from Nkonge Hill, when I first tasted it there was such a great mixture of sweet fruits that all I could think about was this old fashioned chewing gum called “Fruit Stripe.” It’s sugary sweet and you get blasts of watermelon and cherry, followed by notes of lemon.