Mel and I were wondering what you guys wanted to get out of this brand spanking New Year known as 2022!
So what better way than to simply ask you, our wonderful coffee-crazy readers, so that we can get to know what you really like, don't like, would / would NOT drink and how you like your coffee :) There are also some fun poll questions, because, well we all like to dream - so a special prize for the best answer to number 10, and we'll randomly draw a winner from the rest of the responses and announce it next week in the newsletter.
Ok, here goes... Happy 2022 everybody!
Iain & Mel.
"Are you Gatvol?!"
This is the question asked on arrival at Gatvol Coffee, a funky, converted old VW that is home to a tiny cafe. And the playful, fun, hospitality-forward experience only gets better from there.
Tucked at the foot of a lovely, tropical jungle on the property of boutique hotel, Beside Still Waters, you feel a bit like you've stepped into another universe. Mary-anne at the lovely bar area, where I set up to work, welcomed me like an old friend and made a big effort to make sure I was comfortable and looked after. I am a sucker for excellent service and though it's unscientific, I really think it makes the coffee (&later a sneaky beer!) taste better! There are boardgames and couches and lots of exciting things to see for kids of all ages.
Owner of Gatvol, Caleb Vandersteen, comes from a hospitality background, having worked at the hotel for 4 years before setting up this coffee concept and he says it has hit the ground running! With support from Coastal Coffee they have come up with a fantastic blend and really the location is a sublime hideaway of green magic. Caleb has a lot of energy (coffee helps!) and has lots of plans for events in this great space so keep an eye on their Instagram for fun activities in the future.
Well done for creating a lovely haven of coffee away from a busy world!
Helpful note! Park on the verge outside as inside parkings are understandably reserved for the hotel guests.
I don't know if any of you are also MasterChef fans, but there was recently an episode on chocolate and it got me thinking about this great article we published in Issue 35. I learned so much!
Who among you can honestly say that you don’t love chocolate? That there has never been a moment when you were astounded by the melting of smooth and creamy chocolate on your tongue? We were recently given an education on some of the finer points of chocolate-making and starting a new brand by one the trailblazers of the coffee world, David Donde. Delve deeper with us into a world we very much take for granted, picking our favourites excitedly from the sweet aisle and never wondering how they got there. Fear not! We’re not looking to lessen your enjoyment of this divine substance, rather we hope to inspire you to support small, local chocolatiers as we have always done in coffee. Always be curious!
Words by David Donde
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the writer of The Little Prince once said “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
This is the essence of minimalism. We live in an age where our overindulgent consumerism is literally destroying us. Whether we will die from our bad habits or from habitat destruction is a dystopian race to the bottom. Is there another way? I believe there is. Joy isn’t about more. Joy is about flavour and comfort. About being, about the now. If indulging in joy now has a future price, your joy is diminished. A path that embraces both ethics and flavour, that is what I am after.
I have been called a sugar nazi to my face on more than one occasion. Coffee without sugar was a point to be made. In a time before we understood the Sugar Pandemic affecting our health and the health of our children. Talking of pandemics, our beloved cafe, Truth Coffee here in Cape Town, South Africa, has been severely affected by shutdowns and loss of tourism. Our people have suffered. Making payroll every month has been a challenge. For months on end distributing ALL of our gross profits to the team equally, to keep their families fed was a choice we made willingly. While neighbourhood cafes have been kept buoyant through these times, a central city attraction like ours has had few ups and many huge downs.
So what does an entrepreneur do? Looks at the challenges and seeks opportunity. Yes, we could have pivoted and become a grocery store, but that isn’t our purpose. It wouldn’t have fed our philosophy, and without philosophy, there is no purpose, and a business without purpose may as well not exist, in my opinion. So we navel-gaze, and we look at what drives us, at what we excel in. Roasting, learning, making flavour(s) and who are we? What is the team? Who is the team? And we realise, we have an unexplored opportunity: chocolate.
A confession from a self-confessed foodie: I have always hated dark chocolate. There it is, out in public now. Use it against me at will. I want that joy of an illicit easter egg that also echoes the joy of foodie indulgence. What Tony’s Chocolonely* has done for ethics, and To’ak Chocolate** has done for concept, I want both of those in one world. So the question we asked was, could we do for chocolate, what we have done for coffee: flavour not bitterness. Is chocolate naturally dry and bitter, or is that the fault of sloppy processing?
We chatted to the experts and, in a few words, we are told not to bother. “Just do what everyone else does, buy a good enough wholesale chocolate and melt it and call it yours. Making Bean-to-Bar chocolate well is too hard.” Challenge accepted.
The old adage I was once told by an Australian Barista, still holds true, she said, “You can’t polish a turd.” Basically, start with good green coffee, or in our case, cacao (the chocolate equivalent of green coffee beans). Finding great coffee is simple (this century anyway), you find a great matchmaker that you can trust and you order samples based on flavour notes, varietal, farm and origin. We tried to apply the same process with cacao. It did not go well.
“What flavour notes do the various cacao beans you offer have?” you politely ask. “Excuse me?” is the reply.
Ok, deep breath, we can do this. “Varietals?” you ask. “Huh?” is the heady response.
Ok, let’s try another tack. “Any great origins available?” “Yes,” they exuberantly offer, “want some Madagascar? Madagascar is the best you know.”
Well, from our experience, it isn’t. We tried a lot of cacao. A lot. There are some amazing origins, but the best we have tested so far is from São Tomé and Príncipe. And we bought a load of it. It is a tiny island country off the West Coast of Africa almost directly on the equator.
On a personal note, the story of São Tomé shocked me to my core. In 1470, the Portuguese decided to grow sugar cane on this island off of the west coast of Africa. So what did they do? They took 2000 Jewish kids under the age of 8 as slaves. I did not know this modern legacy of slavery of my people, but we are making this chocolate in memory of them.
There are dozens of cacao varietals. And the heritage stuff is where it is at. Sadly the modern hybrids are a disaster! They may yield many times more per hectare and are way less work to maintain, but in my opinion, they taste like they belong in the dump. Unlike coffee, if a heritage tree is pollinated by a hybrid, then funky, big, high yield pods ensue, which is not a good thing. Cross-pollination is a real problem. But we do love the Forasteros for the record. A faster growing and more vigorous varietal than other common types, the Forastero cacao tree is widely used by the chocolate industry, producing 80% of the world’s cacao bean supply. While many claim that Forastero is inferior in quality and taste to its siblings, others argue that the flavour of the Forastero is actually quite delectable and that it is only less valued because of its abundance. And of course, finding heritage Forastero is key. The lack of bad chocolate varietals on the island is my number one reason for using cacao from São Tomé. But ultimately it comes down to terroir, which impacts on flavour. In testing and tasting, it was the hands-down clear winner by the proverbial country mile!
Farming is hard. Always. Cacao farming is no different. There are many different styles of farmers, from large estates to small-holder co-operatives. As with coffee, the models are mixed, with farmers, co-ops and collectives finding ways to process the cacao beans once the pods are picked from the trees. Processing is vital and makes a huge difference in what styles of fermentation are adopted, as with coffee. We of course will always favour smallholders and wild grown, over mass-produced, except for the worthy exceptions! We have not found the exception in cacao yet, but in coffee, a great example is Daterra, a large coffee estate, or agribusiness if you will, yet it behaves like a family business, and produces quality that belies its huge size.
Chocolate is stuck in the equivalent of second-wave coffee (maybe not even that). We see the opportunity to follow our Coffee journey and make an impact on the world. We can get through to “Third Wave” chocolate quickly with our experience through coffee. Not by additives and junk, but by treating it as food should be treated. Buying amazing agricultural products and understanding flavour development. Making use of the Maillard process to allow the joy in the beans to shine through without resorting to horrible additives to mask hideous flavours that shouldn’t have found their way into the product in the first place. I am happy to report that we have our first two-ingredient chocolate, which contains only Cacao and Milk, and it is creamy, sweet and delicious.
There are many parallels between coffee and chocolate, from agriculture to varietals to heritage. Processing to the point of roasting is very similar indeed. However, from then on chocolate is different.
A word of warning, what seems a simple journey of making chocolate did take a highly skilled team about a year to pull off. Learning to roast cacao was the same and we use our coffee roaster, but the stages and rates of change in the process are utterly different. As with any artisan roasting, the bean needs to speak. Forcing a roasting process on a different terroir, varietal or farm doesn’t work. It is, however the age-old story, maximise Maillard (caramelisation of flavour) while minimising pyrolysis (burning, the leading cause of bitterness). I need to stress how hard it is to do this right, both in coffee and chocolate. Then once you get the roasting right, the true learning curve on chocolate making begins. Learning to shell without losing good material, conching and melanging, and learning the various crystalline structures that can happen in chocolate (nearly ten and most of them ruin the chocolate!). Cacao gets its “shell” stripped after roasting, and then conched or melanged, which means ground to a paste, then to a liquid, usually with sugar (we leave the sugar out in our special process). What is conching you ask? A conching machine provides heat and motion via a series of paddles or rotors which keep the chocolate molten and always moving over a heated base for the desired time. The time varies depending on the result the chocolate maker is looking for. Conching not only breaks down the particulate matter of cacao into bits so tiny your palate cannot detect them it also enrobes every little morsel in a perfect coating of cocoa butter. It then gets tempered, which means we alter the crystalline structure through heating and cooling. This process stabilises the chocolate so you can manipulate it and mould into shapes and cools as the chocolate we know and love. It also gives the chocolate a smooth and glossy finish.
The process is a long one from bean to bar and the more we know, the better choices we can make. And so, in taking an opportunity in the midst of chaos, we are down to two ingredients, Cacao and Milk, and we get our first taste of the beginnings of perfection, enough to bring a little hope to a prince?
*Tony’s Chocolonely is a fair trade chocolate company based out of the Netherlands, founded by an investigative reporter who was shocked to discover that slavery still exists to this day in the cacao industry in West Africa (where 70% of all cacao is grown). According to their website, the name came about because “he tried to discuss this with several chocolate companies. When they declined, Teun decided to make his own slave free chocolate bars. He felt very lonely in his battle against slavery in the chocolate industry, so he called his company 'Tony's Chocolonely’.”
**To’ak Chocolate was born from a rainforest conservation project that co-founder Jerry Toth started in Ecuador in 2007. Through his nonprofit foundation Third Millennium Alliance (TMA), he helped create the Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve, which currently protects over 560 hectares (1,400 acres) of tropical forest along the coastal mountain range. It was here that he began cultivating cacao trees and making chocolate by hand in a thatched bamboo house secluded in the middle of the forest. To’ak’s mission is to transform the way that the world experiences dark chocolate, elevating its making and tasting onto the level of vintage wine and aged whisky.
We have built it! That was a long intro to our new venture, Minimalist Chocolate
As I write this our first batch is completely sold out! I wanted to create childhood chocolate joy. While I can’t clearly explain that, I know it when I get it. And we nailed it. We are still learning. The funky fruit notes in some chocolate is something worth exploring for sure, but our main objective for now, is to get to chocolatey chocolate, if that makes sense?
Minimalist’s distinctive packaging features cut-outs that demonstrate that sometimes cutting out the unnecessary can yield beautiful results in the slab. Minimalist’s classic chocolate bars are crafted from just cacao and milk, making for an after-taste and creamy texture that are seriously more-ish. We also have a second chocolate in final development which should have launched by the time you read this. This one is for you, the vegans and lactose intolerant, made with 60% Cacao and OatM*lk in collaboration with our sister project, oaternative.com. Our extended product selection also offers something for the sweet tooth. Bon Bons come in five irresistible flavours: hazelnut, salted caramel, Truth coffee, dulce de leche and Christmas cake, for some sugared decadence at its finest. Chocolate gift boxes are available in batches of 5 bon-bons.
We are presently raising capital to take the micro-brand global, protecting the welfare of our team well into the future. Myself and Minimalist co-founder Ken Walton have identified experts and those who share their passion to bring the project to life, and the team, from roasters and chocolatiers to chefs and cocktail bartenders, they’ve all become a part of the delicious result.
We are doing this project out of love for what we do, love for our people, and of course, love for chocolate. The intention is to sell this chocolate globally, and we hope that all of our friends in coffee are prepared to stock this chocolate in their cafes?
Chocolate without crap in it. That tastes good? That has a long lingering and pleasant aftertaste? You decide.
A Tale of Two Coffee Cities
One on the cutting edge of the culture and one in its infancy, both with a lot to offer.
We talk to Shinsaku Fukayama also know as ‘Samurai Shin’, a name so given for his precision skills with a milk pitcher. He mastered the art of coffee in the coffee capital of Melbourne and is bringing that flair back to his home country, settling in the well-known foodie city of Osaka. But coffee, particularly the specialty kind? Well, they’re just getting started…
In the taxi on the way into Melbourne, Australia from the airport, I had the strangest feeling of familiarity. It’s felt a bit like Durban actually. Well, if Durban had a plethora of world-renowned cafés, restaurants and bars, that is! But the landscape, the height of the buildings, the colour of it, a laid-back quality; I had a sudden understanding why some South Africans feel so comfortable there.
I experienced the exact opposite when we high-speed zoomed into Osaka, Japan on the bullet train: wonder at how everything was fresh and foreign and unfamiliar, how so many people seemed to be operating successfully in what presented to me as colourful chaos. All I can say is, thank goodness for Google Maps! In one of the most densely populated cities in the world, you could wander the streets for weeks and never have a dull moment, every inch of space is covered: a convenience store, a street vendor (takoyaki - octopus balls- for the win!), a dive bar, a restaurant serving some of the best beef in the world, a brand name café, high fashion, whatever you can imagine, there is a tiny shop in Osaka that has it. However, we had to search pretty hard and travel very many of those streets to find the specialty coffee spots. One of the favourites was a small café called Lilo Coffee Roasters, owner-run, beautifully designed branding and packaging and a delicious array of coffees!
In Melbourne you could fly a flimsy paper aeroplane and whichever direction it went, you would still find another gorgeous café with an incredibly high-standard of specialty coffee. It was damn-near unbelievable. One of the ‘must-visit’ locations recommended by many different sources was ST. ALi Coffee Roasters. When we walked into this Melbourne coffee institution, all we could do was observe as the machine worked its magic. It’s not on a main street and it doesn’t look like much from the outside, metal roller doors in the wide windows, graffiti on the brick walls, but inside, its an explosion of well-oiled activity. The pace was insane, but everyone made it look so easy. From the Front of House manager who found us a seat to the team of baristas pumping out a crazy amount of coffees, the experience was flawless. We spied some coffee legends, including Shinsaku Fukuyama, among the busy yet relaxed team. He wasn’t behind the bar at that point because it was the Melbourne International Coffee Expo in a few days, where he would be crowned Australian Latte Art Champion 2018. Now after making his mark in Australia, he is taking his hard-earned accolades and numerous coffee skills back to Osaka, growing the specialty coffee scene, one coffee at a time. We chatted to this world-renowned coffee professional.
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us how you got the nickname ‘Samurai Shinsaku’!
I was a chef in Japan and I really wanted to become a barista, so I moved to Melbourne, to the heart of café culture. I started making coffee when I came to Melbourne, and I’ve been working in the coffee industry for almost 8 years. When I came to Melbourne I didn’t have any experience, and I didn’t know how to speak English, but I had a passion and motivation to become a barista. It was very hard to find a job when I was a beginner and made a lot of mistakes, but improved a lot as well. I studied and trained hard almost everyday to become a barista. In 2016, I became the Coffee Fest World Latte Art Champion and I became the first ever person from Japan to win the Australian Latte Art Championships in 2018. Also, I got 2nd place in the 2019 Coffee Masters in the USA. So I guess you could say, my nickname came from my attention to detail and carrying out my latte art pours with precision and passion. It’s my privilege to represent both Japan and Australia and I would love to share my passion and motivation with everyone!
Tell us a bit about your move from Melbourne to Osaka? What does your business do?
I want to bring Melbourne coffee to Japan. In Melbourne, the coffee tastes good at every café. The quality level is so high, and I really like Australian customer service. It’s so friendly and focuses entirely on the customer. We will focus on education and building a roastery and café that embodies those values. We will open in early April in Osaka, Japan.
If someone was visiting Osaka for the first time, which coffee spaces would you recommend they try?
I would love to say “Barista Map Coffee Roasters” which is our new café!
What is the difference in coffee culture between Melbourne and Osaka?
Both countries have an amazing coffee culture, however, Japan has many convenience stores and vending machines for different consumers. Sometimes people go to a café and drink coffee, but often they buy coffee at a vending machine if they don’t have time.
In Melbourne, consumers like to drink coffee at cafés at a slow pace and they usually drink 2-3 cups of coffee every day.
You had a long and successful career at ST. ALi, can you tell us about what it is like to work at this prestigious coffee business?
I was really lucky to work with the ST. ALi Crew for almost 8 years, because I could learn about all the parts of coffee there. They had many talented baristas, including Matt Perger (Founder, Barista Hustle), Ben Morrow(Founder, Manhattan Coffee Roasters) who have gone on to do amazing things in the industry with the help of the platform that ST. ALi gave them. I learned so much about coffee skills, knowledge and mental skills from them. ST. ALi is open 365 days, they are really busy cafés. I would make literally thousands of cups of coffee a day. This situation is pretty hard to manage and make consistent coffee for customers at a busy café. It was an absolutely amazing situation and good to learn how to build career before I started my own company.
It’s my pleasure to continue working with them.
For the baristas who need some motivation, can you tell us about what it takes to become a Latte Art Champion?
As I said, l love coffee and love competition. Keep learning and keep going. That’s my motivation for everything.
What is your favourite part about being in the coffee industry?
Talking with customers and becoming a friend over coffee.
You are an extremely well-rounded coffee professional, what was it like learning to roast coffee?
I really enjoy working in the coffee industry. Now I am starting my own roastery and café in early April. I have experience as a barista, trainer and ambassador for ST. ALi, then I moved to roasting coffee by myself. I learned the roasting skills and knowledge from ST. ALi and Craig Simon (Founder, Criteria Coffee) in Melbourne. This is absolutely such an important skill to build a career as a barista. After learning to roast, I now understand so much more about a coffee and how to get the best out of it.
What is your next big dream?
Of course, I want to be better and better. I started my own company and will open a new roastery and café in Osaka. I want to build a new coffee career here in Japan. I also started a new coffee farm project in Okinawa, in South Japan. This is really exciting! I will share this experience soon! Lastly, I am preparing a new project which is ST. ALi Japan.
Can you please tell us what your favourite way to brew coffee is and what your recipe is for that particular brew method?
I love every coffee, it depends on mood or situation. However, I usually drink pour over and my weapon of choice is the Kalita Wave.
Here is my recipe:
12g of coffee
200ml of water
25 clicks (Commandante Grinder) - This is a medium coarse grind
90° C water, 40 ppm - This means he uses fairly ‘soft’ water with not a lot of mineral content, so probably best to use filtered water, we recommend the BWT Magnesium Mineraliser Jug
Method: First pour - 40g, Second Pour - 40g, Third Pour - 120g
Total brew time is 2:15sec
Have a wonderful coffee experience!
Congratulations to all the lucky winners and thank you to everyone who entered over the last two weeks. One of our favourite parts of running this competition on social media is hearing all your coffee stories and adventures, always reminds us how much coffee impacts people’s lives!
Day Three - December 12th: Mastertons Christmas Hamper worth R1700 sponsored by Mastertons Coffee
Day Four December 13th: Wacaco Picopresso, compact, portable espresso maker, sponsored by MoreFlavour
Day Six - December 15th: Coffee for a Year + Coffee Mag Subscription sponsored by Discover Great Coffee Club, valued at R2400
Day Seven - December 16th: Hario Pour-Over Set and Skerton Mill Grinder, sponsored by Equipment Cafe, valued at R1700
Day Eight - December 17th: TWO WINNERS - MiiR Assorted Flasks, each prize valued at R1500, sponsored by MiiR SA
Day Nine - December 18th: Go Grinder - Electric portable grinder from Timemore, sponsored by MoreFlavour valued at R2500
Day Eleven - December 20th: The New Nespresso Vertuo Next valued at R3500
Day Twelve - December 21st: Ratio 6 Filter Brewer sponsored by Electrical Industries, valued at R6500
We popped into The Barn Owl over the festive season to give some hugs and support the team with our patronage after the tragedy that they experienced just before Christmas.
Chatting to Ryan he said the response to their appeal for help, "makes me believe that people are good and there is good in this world. We have paid for the next 4 years of school for the children that were left orphaned by the accident."
We were bowled over by their resilience. What a lovely experience. Delicious coffee as always. I tried the Breakfast Bowl for the first time, because Ryan described it to me as "Perfection!" He was not wrong. It was scrumptious.
The kids in our party were enamoured with the playground and the "best chicken nuggets ever".
And what more can we say about the setting and the beautifully designed cafe? The industry voted at the end of last year and Barn Owl Midlands walked away with the Coffee Magazine Award for Best Cafe Design presented by Vision Works Optometrists.
"We will have to see what direction we take here, we're not sure what needs to shift yet, but there will be changes for Barn Owl. But we'll all be ok."
You can still be part of the ongoing support of the team affected here.
The small things matter. Even more so these days.
It is more difficult than ever to look up and take stock of the moments. We are all trying to get back what we’ve lost. To start something new. To claw back our freedom. To accept that things will likely never be the same no matter how hard we try.
And so we need to find joy in the small victories. Celebrate each other. Savour each sip of the delicious cup of coffee you’re drinking. Take a moment to respect the people that grew it. Take a moment to respect the person who brewed it.
So as we face another summer of uncertainty, not knowing if and when a new set of regulations will change everything all over again, let’s remember to celebrate.
Make that cocktail or mocktail you’ve been threatening to try out at home. Visit that new cafe you haven’t had a chance to get to yet. Spend a few minutes learning your favourite barista's story. Buy a coffee from a new origin country. Experiment with it, see how it tastes at different times after it’s been roasted. Up your water game at home.
We can’t control much, but we can make the small things count.
Hope your summer is full of mini celebrations. They matter.
Thank you for your support! All our best, Mel and Iain
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