We chatted to Susan and Pieter of Bayhound Coffee Works in Polokwane!
What was it like starting your business and how did you get into coffee?
Starting a coffee business was one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done. We had fallen in love with coffee culture and the idea of creating some kind of hub for this culture to exist in Polokwane made us giddy. What led up to it was moving here and being devastated to find that there weren’t any roasteries or specialty coffee shops for 100s of kms around, so we felt that we had no choice but to take matters into our own hands. We started small, roasting from home and brewing out of a trailer, but where there is determination and conviction there is surely a way, and we grew organically over the last three years to having a small café and also a container brew bar and roastery as well as two mobile coffee wagons. And then there’s the joke version we have about being forced to start dealing to support our (legal) drug habit.
What is the ethos of your business?
We believe in roasting and making good coffee well, without the pretentiousness. We like to keep it down to earth, simple and real. We like to do our bit to only buy ethical coffee and create awareness around it, and source our goods from other local small businesses. Most of all, we believe business is about relationships, hence our version of the common quip, business is not business.
Tell us what makes your cafe space special to you?
Almost everything in our spaces Pieter and I either made ourselves or with the help of friends and family, and that includes our roaster! It’s original and it’s us, our blood sweat and tears, our vision. Pieter spent three solid months converting our 12m container into a coffee bar and a roastery—single handedly, just a man and his angle grinder and welder. Nothing has ever come easy, maybe that’s why it’s so special. And then of course, the people that frequent those spaces. Almost all of the friends we made since moving to Polokwane started out as customers, and now it often feels like it’s more their place than ours! Their toddlers draw pictures on our chalkboard menus, some customers want to get behind the espresso machine and make their own coffee, and we love that.
What do you love most about being in the coffee industry?
I mean, the people! And then the science. I got my degree in biochemistry before getting distracted by coffee, and so the coffee bar is my laboratory. Coffee is a field of study by itself and the knowledge to be gained is boundless, limited only by your own interest. I love formulas, and so I love creating brew recipes and geeking out over fancy new equipment. I’m currently lusting after a TDS meter to measure the percentage of actual coffee particles in the espresso. It helps find that sweet spot when exploring a new bean and also helps maintain the all important consistency we strive for.
How important are regulars to the fabric of day cafe life?
If you use the analogy of café life being fabric, then regulars are the threads. They’re everything, they are the ones that give café life meaning, because you get to know them, get to share in their lives, celebrating their wins with them and mourning their sorrows with them. Some of our regulars have been through some harrowing things and it has felt good to be able to offer some sort of comfort through what we do. As Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory says, when people are upset the cultural convention is to bring them a hot beverage.
Name one menu item that we would never expect or have heard of before - a uniquely Bayhound creation! (food or beverage)
We’ve actually just created a new one for Winter! We’ve created a fusion of our golden latte made from our own blend of spices, and our Nutella latte. It’s amazing, the flavours of coffee, chocolate, hazelnut, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon all working together to retrieve the feeling of being in front of a fire on a cold evening with a book. We’re calling it The Golden Retriever. Have you noticed we love dogs yet? We even have something for your dog on our menu, it’s called the Brakkie Brew. Warm chicken stock topped with milk foam. They go crazy for it.
Can people still get coffee from you during lockdown?
Yes! They can order off our menu via Uber Eats, and our beans are available to order. They can pop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll arrange.
What have you learned about yourselves and others that you didn’t know before this pandemic?
Well one thing is we learned that we needed a break! We would never have taken 5 weeks off in any other circumstance, as I’m sure most people wouldn’t have. We have to take our blessings where we find them. We learned that we really love gardening, and started a huge veggie garden. We learned that the people we thought were good and kind, are even more good and kind in tough times than in easy times. It’s beautiful to see people looking after each other the way they are right now.
What would you like to all everyone in your community at this moment?
First, thank you to everyone who has continued to get their coffee from us! Times are tough right now, but when this is all over we will still be here and we cannot wait to have everyone back, physically in the shop so we can hear your stories, have those conversations, hear how you’re doing, have coffee together and go forward together as a greater community beyond shop walls.