You went to the World Barista Champs in 2012 in Vienna, how much did that experience shift your ideas about coffee?
I think I always had an idea of what was out there. But to see the competition upfront, too meet with other professionals and hearing that they face the same challenges as us, makes all the work a little easier. I also realized... Hmm I can travel the world through coffee. SCORE!!
What have you been up to since then? You took a break from competition?
Yeah I really knuckled down at Origin
at the time, but a lot of personal issues started to take over my life and started to look at a few new avenues. I then got the opportunity to work with the Cowboys from Deluxe
on their overseas projects. How could I turn down the opportunity to live and work in Mauritius, Reunion and the Maldives. Hell I got to do some awesome things! Free diving with a 6M whaleshark comes to mind...
Getting to teach people overseas about roasting, making coffee. Engaging with the clients and chefs alike. But then the itchy feet started to get the best of me. I met an amazing woman in Mauritius. Who just so happens to be British and live and work in the UK. For a while I was doing Skype interviews for coffee companies in the UK, followed by a trip to the UK to get to see the amazing coffee culture there. However through visa issues and seeing a gap in the SA market, I decided to focus on a company based in SA, with international aspirations.
Then came Portland Project?
Yeah... It had been something "brewing" for a while. Look, we don't do anything really different from most other coffee companies in South Africa. However what we have done is segmenting our offering. Coffee, training and equipment. With the ability to sell each part independent of each other. We have the knowledge and flexibility to help any coffee solution.
I want to bring together all the best parts from all the companies I have worked with. Creating the ability to give the best possible solution. Also to dive a little more into beer and other passion "projects".
Why do you think competition is important and relevant?
I always like to look at it in the same sense of the car industry. F1, the old stuff not this stupid turbo stuff, pushed the pinnacle of car technology. That then filtered to the "lower" tiers of the industry.
Now in coffee, it allows a bit of a creative release for the baristas, as well as bringing new talent through the ranks. But it also allows for machine manufacturers access to these creative minds. The Nuova Simonelli T3
and Climapro's come to mind. As well as the gorgeous Black Eagle. These are the "brain children" of some of the industries best and brightest coffee minds.
In a local sense, we look at the upliftment of local talent. Salaries are slowly getting better for baristas. Great coffee companies are finally getting some well deserved recognition. I'm excited to see what the next few years hold for it.
What is in your cup right now that you can't get enough of?
Ooh... Riots Valve IPA
... Oh you meant coffee... Well now, it's currently my competition coffee. But more Valve later!
Loving my Central American coffee's! There is just so much sweetness in a lot of them!
Follow Wayne's journey on his blog: The Portland Project