We last caught up with Maxine Keet in 2012 in Interview with a Champion. Back then, Maxine was KZN’s Regional Cup Tasting Champion headed for the World Cup Tasters Championship in Nice, France to represent South Africa and Colombo Coffee & Tea. A lot has changed since then. Maxine is now the co-owner of Urban Bistro, a casual café and trendy oasis in the middle of a commercial office park in Riverhorse Valley.
From left to Right: Byron Keet (Maxine's cousin - please note not her brother, who is also in the industry) Maxine Keet, Owner of Coastal Coffee Roasters: Craig Sampson and Coastal Coffee Roasters’ Trainer: Thamie Ndlovo
You last chatted to Coffee Magazine in 2012 – how has life changed for you since then?
“Wow, where do I begin… The past seven years have been a journey culminating in a decision three years ago to leave a great career in marketing to run my own café. It has been humbling and life has taken on a new meaning with all the joys and heartache of navigating the wilderness of entrepreneurship.”
How did you get into the coffee industry initially?
“It was a chance encounter with two young coffee enthusiasts during the 2010 Good Food & Wine Show. Colombo Coffee & Tea had a quirky stand set up and I was immediately drawn to the two baristas behind the counter, Kyle Fraser and Dirk Maritz. A couple of weeks later, I visited the Colombo HQ to find out more about the team behind this local coffee brand, and was subsequently offered a position on the Sales & Marketing team.”
How did you go from Sales & Marketing to cupping competitions?
“Being a part of a small team, we were encouraged to play and participate in all aspects of the coffee supply chain. It was an exciting time to be a part of the new wave of coffee culture in an emerging market in South Africa. I wanted to immerse myself in the process, to learn as much as I possibly could of the product I loved and believed in. It started off with cupping coffee as part of a quality control measure within the roastery where I was able to hone my skills, and of course being on the sales and marketing team we got involved with hosting a few competitions – and so I decided to give it a bash.”
What made you decide to pursue a different avenue in opening your own business?
“I had a minor hiatus from the world of coffee and the café culture to pursue broader opportunities within the marketing arena. During that time, I worked on exciting projects involving Urban Regeneration and noticed a striking connection between coffee shops and the upliftment and activation of areas, as well as the potential to be important place makers. Cafés appeared to play an integral role in being catalysts for regenerating areas and providing places for people to connect and engage with one another. I began to long for the hospitality aspect of my former career and the hands-on satisfaction of being behind an espresso machine.”
You’ve been with Urban Bistro for three years now? What’s that journey been like?
“I joined my brother, Ryan Keet, who is a qualified chef, and together we took over a café (Urban Bistro) situated in a thriving commercial office park in 2016. It has been one of the most challenging and equally rewarding experiences of my life so far. We have grown tremendously in our love and passion for hospitality and learnt so much about owning and operating our own business.”
What can you tell Coffee Magazine readers about Urban Bistro?
“As a small team, headed by my very talented brother, who studied to be a chef through the Capsicum Culinary School, we joined forces with my love of coffee and hospitality to bring a kind of casual playfulness to the Island Office Park. Our patrons are almost exclusively the people who work and are based out in Riverhorse Valley and the surrounding area, so we serve a lot of corporate business people and delight in providing a reprieve from the taxing environment of the office by serving freshly made simple food, fresh juices, great coffee and smoothies.”
What do you like best about your line of work?
“Besides the technical aspect of being a barista and working on an espresso machine, I love being in a position to run my own operation, to make decisions freely (whether they are the right ones or not), finding innovative ways to overcome challenges – currently there are some imminent challenges facing our business in the form of load shedding. So, we have to be creative, adaptive and flexible in our approach whilst still maintaining a high level of service to our very important customers.”
What’s been the highlight of your business journey?
“The highlight of my business journey has been a culmination of small wins, meeting and connecting with some incredible people, and successfully keeping our operation growing from strength to strength whilst still maintaining quality of life. My favourite moments are being able to share my passion for hospitality with my brother and our awesome team, and the feeling of family we’ve cultivated over the years, with a lot of laughter between the crazy stress of running a business and dealing with complexities of being in the service industry.”
What does your average day look like?
“Open at 7am, start serving coffee for our first little rush of the day, connecting with our awesome regulars who keep us and our business going. A little bit of admin here and there, some experimenting with baking fresh breads and fermenting sauerkraut, then a lunch rush serving seated customers and arranging take away lunches for businesses in the area. We wind down after 2.30pm, and close shop by 4pm to take advantage of the wonderful quality of life we experience living here in Durban and working only weekdays.”
Tell us about the coffee you serve, and what your coffee of choice is these days?
“We currently serve Coastal Coffee’s TIA blend which is an all-African espresso blend crafted by another local coffee enthusiast, Craig Sampson. As for me, you cannot beat a humble black Americano, but recently having discovered MilkLab’s almond milk, I enjoy a simple almond milk cappuccino.”
You can find Maxine Keet and Urban Bistro at Building 4, Island Circle Office Park, Riverhorse Valley, open weekdays from 7am to 4pm!
2019 KZN BARISTA Championship
Champion: Kgune Zamo Dlamini from Lineage Coffee.
Runner Up: Princess Fikile Khuzwayo from MRP Foundation
3rd Place: Bruce John Manning from Brustar
The Barista Specialty Awards went to (as determined in the semi-final round):
Best Technical: Dieter Liebenberg (VDP Distributors)
Best Milk Beverage: Jason Nkosi (Lineage Coffee)
Best Signature & Espresso Drink: Kgune Dlamini (Lineage Coffee)
2019 KZN LATTE ART
Champion: Ndumiso Ngcobo from The Talkhouse Cafe
2019 KZN CUP TASTERS
Runner Up: Themba Ndlovu from VDP Distributors
All the above competitors have qualified for the National Coffee Competitions in March 2020 at Hostex!
Young people in Egypt are turning to mobile coffee solutions and cafés on wheels to earn an income, helping to tackle Egypt’s high unemployment rate. Unlike a brick and mortar café, coffee carts, trailers, bikes and vans require minimal resources and capital, making it much easier for young entrepreneurs to get a small business off the ground and earn a decent living.
Mobile cafés are able to travel to where the business is (usually near malls, universities and big markets), and operators can be flexible with their hours, which suits both students and those who are looking for an alternative source of income. For example, some vendors might serve morning commuters their caffeine fix on the way to work before heading to their own ‘9 to 5’ job.
Food carts have always been standard fare on the streets of Egypt, but young entrepreneurs turning their private vehicles into mobile cafés is a fairly new concept. Most new graduates can’t afford the cost of a permanent venue, and don’t want to risk investing in an area where their business might not take off. A mobile solution provides much more freedom, with less risk – ideal when starting out in a tough economy. It also means coffee can be sold at slightly lower prices because overheads aren’t so high.
Café Up in Cairo
Café Up is an example of one of Cairo’s first mobile microbus cafés which gives commuters their caffeine fix. Founded by Mondy Mahmoud and operated by Bakr Saleh, Café Up makes it easier to get a good cup of coffee on the go. In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Mahmoud said:
“We are four friends, all graduates from law school, and we wanted to find an alternative source of income. Therefore, we got this bus in 2012 and started roaming around Cairo […] We wanted to start a café and yet we could not afford the cost of a permanent venue or store. We also did not want to risk staying in one area that might not welcome our idea or not be profitable enough.”
Entrepreneurs earning a decent living
Micro businesses like these are proving that there is employment for today’s youth, and there are ways to make ends meet if you think ‘outside the box’. Unemployment in Egypt is high, but young people like Mahmoud have found innovative ways to make ends meet. With the right papers and permits, mobile cafés are finding success in providing specialty coffee on the go.
Photos by Ahmed Najeeb © CairoScene
History was made in Durban, South Africa 7th November 2019, as Karabo Motla became the first deaf barista to compete at a SCASA competition and perhaps the first deaf barista in the world to take the step on to this platform. He poured some beautiful latte art and we couldn’t be prouder of his bravery and his drive to be a leader for this community.
Huge congratulations to Ciro Beverage Solutions and in particular Lani Snyman and her team who are so dedicated to changing lives through coffee. The volunteers at this competition are all also trainee deaf baristas, amazing!
Thank you to eDeaf for sponsoring an interpreter so that the judges and MC could interact with Karabo. You may or may not know that interpreters are allowed at the World Coffee Events competitions. Karabo is an ambitious young human, who knows, maybe one day we will see him on the world's biggest coffee stage!
Dearest Deluxe Coffeeworks!
Happy 10th Birthday! We remember fondly packing in to Church Street early bells and watching the team (including Grant when he was a baby barista!) work magic and keep the heaving crowd happy. The vibe was more like a bar at a rock club than a cafe at 8am and that's what we loved about it. You've grown, gotten fancy with technology and online sales and opened many more spots, but the rock 'n roll still holds strong throughout your brand. Carl Wessel and Judd Nicolay continue to helm the crew boldly and we wish you all the best for the next 10 years!
What a combo! An amazing time was spent soaking up the Springboks win while coffee people got inked and showed off their latte art skills at this fantastic event!
Thank you to Equipment Cafe for putting on the show, Tory of Sally Mustang Tattoos for producing incredible art and all the baristas who took part in the epic MilkLab Smackdown organised by Wayne Burrows. Good times all round!
Yoh! We don't know about you, but we are EXCITED and TERRIFIED for tomorrow's final. And the SA coffee community is getting behind the Springboks!
Go have a Bokkeccino at The Whippet in Johannesburg! Love it!
And Nationwide the Wiesenhof Franchise has got you covered in a big way with World Cup fever! Bokkie is out to celebrate!!!
The Coffee Magazine has largely been based on a lifestyle of coffee, community and doing the things we love. Being Durbanites, one of those things is getting in the ocean on a daily basis. We usually gravitate to the places where the wind is offshore, the vibes are good and there is great coffee. The North Coast of KZN is one of those kinds of places, with more and more folks taking their coffee (and their beach lifestyles!) seriously.
Enter Salt Rock Coffee Company. This little coffee outlet started as a temporary, mobile coffee unit at Salt Rock beach serving beachgoers, surfers, fishermen and dogwalkers early each morning, and quickly became so popular that they took up residence in the nearby shopping complex around the corner from the beach, and soon thereafter outgrew that space and are now currently setup front and centre of the same precinct in a much larger space facing the busy street that is Salt Rock Main Road.
Sne, the barista along with the Owners Karl and Stacy, serve Bluebird Coffee to the very loyal customer base that sometimes are queuing up from 5.30am in the morning to get their fix! We arrived after a surf, and the shop was pumping. Lots of regulars, lots of visitors and a really cool vibe you’d expect from a seaside town. We were told that the community played a large role is assisting with getting the shop ready – locals helped to make the counters and shopfit the premises and have really made it their own.
With the December holidays looming, and the North Coast of KZN being a prime location for many holiday makers, we are stoked to tell visitors to Salt Rock that they will now be able to have an amazing beach holiday and delicious coffee in a cool space too.