SA coffee professionals in Lisbon celebrate their heritage

Friday, 18 September, 2020

There are two South Africans making a name for themselves in Lisbon, Portugal – one is brewing some of the best coffee in town while the other is baking sought after cakes and cookies for hungry customers. And despite their very different backgrounds, the two young men not only work together but are the firmest of friends.

Nqobile Bright Mbambo, who comes from Umlazi in KwaZulu Natal, and Hendrik Pretorius who hails from Heidelberg in Gauteng are both employed at Simpli, one of the most popular coffee and pastry shops in Lisbon. Locals and visitors have awarded the venue five stars on Trip Advisor and rave about the freshly roasted coffee and the cookies, cakes and other pastries that are made on the premises several times a day.

Mbambo (28) started working in the hospitality industry in 2012, first as a waiter at Nino's Restaurant before joining TriBeCa Coffee and working as a barista in restaurants in both the Westville and Windermere Centres and later at Love Coffee in Morningside. In 2018 he got his big break and was offered a job in Istanbul, working for Espressolab, Turkey's most innovative coffee chain. A year later he moved to Lisbon to take up the position of head barista and quality control at Simpli.

Pretorius (26) is the cafe's pastry chef and studied and honed his craft at Capsicum Culinary Studio's Pretoria campus in 2017 before taking up a position in Dubai, first at a newly opened Japanese concept restaurant called Kyo Café and Lounge and then at the Renaissance Hotel's Morimoto Restaurant. Two years later he was offered the job of pastry chef at Simpli, where he has been baking pastries for satisfied customers ever since.

Put two South Africans together in a foreign country and they are bound to become close friends, which is what can be said of Mbambo and Pretorius. In addition to working side by side six days a week, the two also socialise outside of work along with locals whom they have met and expats who have made the city their home.

The duo are also planning on writing a cook book together, one which will be around pairing coffee and coffee-flavoured beverages with cakes and desserts.

So are they planning to celebrate Heritage Day and how?

“After work, we'll get together with some of our South African friends - including King, a DJ who comes from Joburg, and Musa Magwaza who is from Durban - and go somewhere for a nice simple dinner,” says Pretorius. “Later, we'll head back to my place for coffee, courtesy of Mr Bright (my nickname for him), and tuck into my favourite cinnamon cookies - which I learned to make from my Mom - as well as a milk tart, both of which I will have baked earlier in the day.”

Adds Mbambo: “We'll have a good laugh, toast all our friends and family back home, reminisce about old times and then get some sleep as we both have an early morning start!”

Hendrik Pretorius' Cinnamon Cookies (makes 35)  perfect for with your delicious cup of coffee.

Ingredients

250g butter

300g sugar

2 eggs.

375g flour

10ml cream of tartar

5ml bicarbonate of soda

2ml salt

40g cinnamon powder

For the cinnamon sugar

100g sugar

20g cinnamon powder

Method

Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs and mix together

Sieve together the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate powder and 40g of the cinnamon powder

Mix the egg mixture with the flour mixture

Let the mixture rest overnight

Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare a baking tray with baking paper

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together to make the cinnamon sugar

Divide the dough in balls of 30g each and roll them into the cinnamon and sugar mix and press them down slightly on the baking tray

Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are slightly crispy on the bottom 

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World's Largest Coffee Tasting 2020: Genio Roasters puts SA on the map.

Friday, 11 September, 2020

James Hoffman is what we in the industry call a "coffee celebrity". He is a coffee Youtube guru and has since winning the World Barista Championship in 2007 gained quite the following around the world. Last year he started the World's Largest Coffee Tasting. A livestreamed group cupping event.

The great news is, in 2020, Genio Roasters is bringing this event  - "The World's Largest Coffee Tasting"  - to South Africa, and you're invited to participate!

On the 3rd of October 2020 at 4 pm South African Time, James Hoffmann will Livestream himself tasting five different coffees while simultaneously guiding viewers/participants through the process. In order to do this, Genio is selling a limited amount of these coffee tasting kits directly to the local market. The kits contain the following:

  • 5 x 30gms of unlabeled coffees
  • 1 x sachet of Third Wave Water to add to distilled water, which ensures that everyone involved will be tasting the coffees brewed with the same kind of water
  • 1 x sample of coffee with the grind that James will be using for his beans – to ensure the grind size is the same

Buy your tasting kit today here:

https://genioroasters.co.za/shop/the-worlds-largest-coffee-tasting-kit/

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How to be a great Cafe Customer

Friday, 11 September, 2020

Words by Mel Winter and Iain Evans 

This was first published in 2018, but in the wake of how hard the hospitality industry has been hit during the COVID-19 crisis, we thought it was worth a re-post.


We’re pretty sure if you’re reading this that you have a love of exploring new café’s and tasting the best coffee you can find. As we grow accustomed to better service, higher production values and ultimately better coffee, perhaps we also need to aspire to be better customers. The beautiful images used in our media are intended to inspire you to appreciate the process that goes into every cup and the environment it’s served in. But most importantly, behind each of these stages of coffee, there are people.

This discussion started, as many do these days, with outrage at a simple social media post. An irate restaurant patron took to social media, after overhearing a waitron say to a colleague “What am I supposed to do with R7?” in response to the tip left on the bill of over R250. The patron took to social media to moan and rally up support for such a disrespectful waitron. It backfired spectacularly.  Instead of affirmation and support, this Armchair Critic found herself under a barrage of abuse. What can anyone do with R7? And how can someone feel this is an appropriate tip on a bill for over R200? Tipping appropriately and customer entitlement are age old points of contention in the hospitality industry, but it also raises a broader discussion: What does it mean to be a good customer? And what do we really think about that old adage that the customer is always right?

Well, are you always right?

Our reaction to that phrase is that the person who originally said it could not have ever worked in the service industry, but we have the internet to check such things, so we used it. It was originally coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London. So he was in the service industry. Over 100 years ago. I can think of quite a few things that have changed in society since then, thank goodness. And if you’ve ever been a waitress, barista, teller, shop attendant, you will know that it is the most rage-inducing phrase a customer can use when trying to get their point across. In fact it is almost always likely to get you worse service instead of endear you to any member of staff. In the growing coffee industry, businesses are being built on education. Education of better coffee, new methods, trying something different; no matter where we are on our coffee journey, nor which side of the counter we are on, there is always so much more to learn. And unfortunately dear, deeply-valued customer, you really are not always right, nor should you assume that you are superior to any other human. Sure, you’re a paying customer, and you rightly have expectations that come with the economic value you provide the cafe. You expect service, and a product. But service to the customer does not mean servitude, and selling someone a product does not mean selling one’s dignity. Your attitude as customer will determine just what kind of service you will receive.

Being a really great Customer starts with being interested. 

In the coffee industry we talk a lot about what good service is, and rightly so.  Coffee professionals and their staff’s success is reliant on good on word-of-mouth, reviews and recommendations – human, digital or otherwise.  

Building a base of regulars is integral to the success of any cafe. The locals keep the business ticking over, but more than that in the truly successful cafes regulars become friends, good customers can brighten the day of the barista just as much as their smile with your cup of coffee brightens yours.

In some places, the expectations of the coffee itself are not really even that high, but being treated incredibly well, and having a special experience, is always of utmost importance.  Coffee professionals also talk a lot about engagement and discussion with customers, which is quite unique to Coffee, because how often do you get to ask the chef in your favourite restaurant about where your cut of meat originates from and how it’s been prepared?  Now you don’t have to be interested every visit. Sometimes you’re in a rush, or you’re busy and you just want a coffee. That’s ok. Being interested is not a one-time thing.  It’s a mindfulness that the baristas making your coffee, the roasters buying premium direct-trade coffees and the Café owners are investing in people’s lives simply by serving you that coffee. Even if you’re in a rush. 

Behaving like a local. 

When we were starting this magazine we were hugely influenced by a James Hoffman lecture on Customer Service.  He started the address by getting the baristas to quickly assess 3 things about the customers approaching the bar:

  1. Are they in a rush or are they relaxed?
  2. Are they happy or sad? 
  3. Are they interested or not interested? 

Now, we’d like to challenge you as the Customer to use the same three questions when approaching the bar to order or entering your favourite roastery:

  1. Are they in a rush or relaxed – If it’s 7.30am and she has 25 coffee orders in front of her and is stressing to make them, she’s probably not going to engage with you the same way as if it’s 3pm and the shop is quiet. 
  2. Is the barista happy or sad?  Considering that in South Africa many baristas are working long hours, on their feet all day for close to a minimum wage, they might need your encouragement, support or a simple friendly greeting  - chances are you’ll get a much better coffee as a result.  
  3. Are they interested or not interested. Now we’re happy that you’ve logged your last month’s brewing ratios on your Chemex or are bursting to share your flavour notes with the Roaster on a particular batch of beans, but again, being a good customer is knowing when an in-depth discussion on such topics is appropriate.  If he’s trying to unload a ton of green coffee through the warehouse backdoor, it might not be the best time. 

All of the above is common sense – yet, sometimes, as customers, we can lose our perspective. Sometimes we spend 5 minutes there, or 2 hours if we move in with our laptops to work and our expectations of the service should be different in these scenarios. 

So let’s talk about tipping . 

Let’s dive right in here.  In the US, Australia and most of Europe, tipping for good service is just good customer practise. In Japan on the other hand, tipping is a not standard practice.  In South Africa, tipping for good service is absolutely mandatory.  Baristas and other service staff in South Africa rely on tips to survive. The wages for baristas is generally minimum wage, but often not a living wage. This is changing, but not fast enough. The Living Wage Calculator (http://living-wage.co.za/) is a great tool to be a better employer and a more informed employee and the Barista Wage Calculator should be up and running by October 2020. So for baristas your tips, for great service and coffee,  make it possible for that individual to stay working as a barista and to grow, support themselves and their family and the longer they do so, the better your coffee experience becomes.  Cashless payment methods are becoming king, please try not to let this influence your tipping.

Be Willing to Pay More 

While we’re on the subject, we really want to you to pay more for great coffee. Think about the last time you had a really exceptional experience at a cafe. I’m pretty sure you didn’t pay R20 for it. 

The economics are simple. Speciality Café’s are trying to source more sustainable and ethical coffee along with tasting incredible. This comes with a price, a price we should be willing to pay. These premium prices go into infrastructure, schools for the coffee children, better farming practises, washing stations for the coffee and so on. But the truth of the matter, is that it’s scary for a café Owner to push the price up to what it should be.  I remember Rosetta selling us a R50 coffee for a special Micro lot – and initially we were a little taken aback, until we heard the whole story behind the coffee. This higher price per cup also goes towards paying better staff salaries.

Sometimes in this life you meet a person who is an all round ray of sunshine and can be happy in the face of any adversity, but I think we can agree that that is a rare occurrence. The majority of humans are hugely affected by outside factors like quality of life, money stress, the way you're treated by others, how you spend your day. If this environment is horrible can you and should you expect happy, friendly service?

One of the South African coffee teams that has always stood out for us over the years is Bean There Coffee Company. The team culture in this business makes us smile just thinking about it. Never have we walked into one of their cafes and felt anything less than ecstatic. This is largely down to how valued each of the staff is and that they are compensated accordingly. 

As coffee lovers – spending the premium price on a premium coffee supports everyone along the supply chain to ensure you continue to get great coffee. 

Great customers contribute to their Café environment. 

It’s great when customers also feel a role in fostering great vibes at cafes. All of us are there for the same reason – like minded coffee fans, being served our favourite beverage by skilled staff.  It’s also a great meeting place, a great social hub and a great shared space for communion with our neighbours.  Coffee professional Scott Rao on Instagram recently gave a great little post of things we can all do to be better customers. We’ve paraphrased some of them here: 

*If a cafe is full, offer to share your table with other customers (and not just the pretty, single ones!) in need of a seat. 

*Never be on your cell phone while ordering. 

*Always say please and thank you, or whatever niceties are common in your area. 

*If you’re a coffee pro and have access to some expensive or unique beans, give a sample on occasion to your local baristas. They will usually be pretty keen to try it. 

*Find special little ways to make cafe staff happy. (This is underpracticed and underrated on both sides of the counter. Sure, as a barista you may give good service, but when was the last time you gave extraordinary service?) Doing something special and out of the ordinary for a customer or a barista can really make someone’s day and also can be very bonding for both the staff and customers. It can be something as simple as clearing your cup and taking it to the counter with you giving them one less thing to do.

And, as one of the readers commented after the post: These aren't just coffee tips, these are great rules for life. Being a great customer may have a lot to do with compensation, but like anything in life, it has everything to do with attitude.

So while Coffee Professionals, Baristas and Roasters all try their damnedest to please you on every visit, know that your presence in their shop is more than just a transaction of cash for goods – you can influence the café environment, the staff that work there and even other patrons, more than you think. 

Here’s to being a great café customer!  

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Cafe Focus: Plato Coffee

Thursday, 3 September, 2020

What a joy to know that we are still discovering new coffee places every damn day. Just look at this stunning brand with big plans! We chatted to Stephan Bredell  of Plato Coffee.


How did Plato Coffee come to exist? 

I initially had the idea to start a mobile concept, specifically a tricycle (like the wheelys café concept). So in the beginning of 2017 I built a bike, but never really got it off the ground as I was and still am full-time employed and also realised that SA don’t necessarily have the same walking/cycling culture as in Europe. At the end of 2018, fed up with not getting the thing off the ground in my off-time, I approached my younger brother to help me get this dream off the ground. The new concept was built out of a container and we literally took a year to get the perfect spot for it (and to get through some red tape - Petrus worked really hard to just get all the license through) and we opened our doors in Irene on the 7th of December 2019. 

Who are the people behind the brand?

So I do all the social media and marketing stuff as I have very limited time, my wife Corlia (@endless.grace on Instagram) takes all our photos for our social media channels and my brother Petrus who basically runs the whole of Plató by himself - he manages the baristas, ordering of stock, payroll etc..basically everything that’s keeping Plato running

What coffee do you use?

We use a Central American and Central African blend that a good friend of ours roast for us. It is still very small setup, but we're looking into expanding and setting up a proper roastery once we hit 10 shops.

What do you have planned for the future? We saw a sneak preview online of a cool idea for parks/outdoor spaces?

So we believe that if you can sell Quality coffee, consistency, you create hubs for communities to grow and people to engage with one another.  The shop in Irene really brought the whole Irene community together where everyone is getting involved in getting the Irene Concentration Camp Memorial up to get it to its former glory (people are sponsoring trees, looking after the garden, offering paving services and making donations to the Heritage Council) We also think people aren’t necessarily going to flock back to the shopping centres once lockdown is over, so we’re looking to expand into more parks, nature reserves, office parks and estates. We recently also opened a shop in Rustenburg and are looking to add another 5 shops in the next 6 months or so, we already have 2 lined up for the next 3 months

What do you think makes your brand stand out?

I would like to think that our brand and colours really stand out from the crowd. It almost feels a bit “softer” where the trend was very steampunk and industrial vibes with dark steel and wood the last couple of years. I almost wanted to create a brand that was more neutral and minimal. People love our branded cups as well, especially the “pink” one (it’s actually more salmon I think..haha) As far as I know, we are also the only company who has different colour cups for different sizes.  (I might be wrong, just never seen it before) We also don’t use the normal short, tall and grande, but opted just for small, medium and large cups, but people no longer order in sizes at our shops anyway, they will ask “can I please have a cappuccino in a pink cup please” We also have bigger versions of a cortado and a flat white, with the same ratios. (Socrates - 4 x Ristretto shots in a 500ml cup with micro foam - same ratio as a Flat white), Plato - 3 x Ristretto shots in a 350ml cup with micro foam - also same ratio as a flat white) and then we have an Aristotle which is basically a big Cortado - 3 x Ristretto shots in a 250ml cup with micro foam.  You will also see on our menu that we break up exactly how our drinks are made.

Where can our readers find you?

At our physical stores Irene - 11 Stopford Road or Rustenburg - 193 Kock street. You can also find us on Facebook facebook.com/coffee.plato or Instagram @plato.coffee

Got something to say? Then leave a comment!


New Kid on the Block: Milk & Honey Cafe, Durban

Wednesday, 2 September, 2020

Hello Milk & Honey Cafe! Aren't you gorgeous? Coffee has an amazing way of attracting people from so many different walks of life. This beautiful new spot is a passion project that grew from a side hustle to a lovely cafe in Durbs by the sea. We chatted to Sherrie Elson on her experience opening Milk & Honey.

All images from their lovely Instagram page. Give them a follow!

What did you do before you started a cafe? And how did Milk and Honey come to be?

I was a junior primary teacher before I opened the cafe, with a cake business as a side hustle. I had started thinking about moving on from teaching and had always dreamt about opening up a cafe.  My husband and I started talking about what I would do next. He actually works at Olive Tree Church, and he had a conversation with the pastor and randomly suggested that I be the one to run a cafe out of the church; as it was something they had been wanting on the property for a while; then one thing kind of led to the next and here we are. We pretty much opened  up the cafe together, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him(and a lot of other support).

Sherrie (and Charlie, sweet!), the woman behind the delicious baked goods (see below!) and the cafe.

Homemade blueberry cheesecake. Oh. My. Goodness.

As a new business, lockdown must’ve been especially hard, have you been able to get back on your feet?

It’s definitely been a huge learning curve; you feel the weight of the people (who become like family) you are supporting. I’ve learnt that we can’t compare, sometimes we need to take it slow and be kind to ourselves and those around us, take it one day at a time, make the best decisions you possibly can with what you have at your disposal and often you’ll only see the bigger picture right at the end.

So yes, I think we’re back on our feet.

What coffee do you serve?

We get our beans from Manna Roastery, it’s the Noble blend which is a Uganda and Brazil two bean blend.

How do you think the coffee landscape in Durban has progressed over the years?

I think it's amazing to see how far it has come. 10 Years ago it was a completely different landscape here in Durban, where as now I feel the average consumer has a greater chance of visiting a more speciality type coffee shop. I think where our style of coffee shop is unable to match the likes of Starbucks and Vida in marketing, we can deliver on experience and community. There is almost a guarantee that when you walk into your local coffee shop you will run into someone you know, strike up a conversation and enjoy a good coffee. I think more and more people are realising that across Durban and are drawn to that experience.

What would you like your cafe to mean to the Durban community?

I would love for it to be a space where people feel that they can come and figure out what coffee they want. We know that coffee is meant to be served at a certain temperature and that a Flat White isn’t simply a double shot of coffee; but not everyone knows this and often find it intimidating when they can’t order their coffee the way they would like it and are used to. So we like to think that we can help build the bridge from the every day Nescafe drinker to the more educated coffee drinker through conversations and hospitality. 

We want every one to feel welcome and at home when they enter the doors to Milk & Honey. Whether you are here for a meeting, a snack with a friend or just getting your favourite coffee to go, our desire is that everyone feels invited to return and be a part of our family. 

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One of our favourite coffee humans has started a Manual Brew Bar, go have coffee with him!

Thursday, 27 August, 2020

Khulekani Mpala is not only a SCASA coffee competition veteran, placing consistently in the Top 6 baristas in the country and a revered Barista Trainer nominated in this year's Coffee Magazine Awards, he is also just one of the kindest and most inspiring humans you will meet. He, like everyone, has had to tuck and roll during this time and if you are in Johannesburg you can support his new coffee business.

Tell us about your new venture!

I recently opened up a manual brew bar. Here I am serving coffee brewed using only manual brew methods. There is no espresso machine or anything fancy. But I've made it so exciting by making sure that I have an exciting coffee each week, and operating the bar myself. This is a very interesting time for me and it has given me the opportunity to connect with the coffee community.

Look at all those awards! Khulekani has been visited by lots of friends from the coffee community.

Where is your manual brew bar located?

My brew bar is at a corner right inside my wife's hair salon! It's shop 243 Oriental Plaza, Bramfischer Drive, Randburg. My wife's business is called Norma's Beauty Hair Salon. So we do coffee and hair! I've been on temporary lay off at work since March. So to remain sane I focused all my energy in helping my wife Norma at the salon. I would brew coffee for both of us, and the aroma intrigued everyone who walked in or past the salon. As people asked questioned about the aroma and the coffee. I saw an opportunity in the market.

What methods can customers choose from?

I do Chemex, V60, french press, filter coffee and even one brewed using the Ethiopian traditional Jebena! The price of coffee depends on the brew method, with filter being the cheapest and chemex costing more than others. This week I am serving the Danse Mormora from Ethiopia roasted by Beethoven Coffee Company.

What is your favourite brew method?

My favourite brew method is the Chemex. I love it for its ability to bring out the complexities of a coffee and at the same time giving me a very clean cup. 

What have you learnt during this time of COVID-19?

During this period of Covid19 I have learnt not to take anything for granted. The importance and value of all things that seem small and relatively insignificant during normal times. The value of time we spend with other people. Nothing in life is guaranteed, not your job, or your plans, or your relationships. We need to adapt or die!

You are nominated in the Barista Trainer of the Year category for the Coffee Magazine Awards 2020, do you look forward to getting back into that in the near future? What is your favourite part about training people in coffee?

Being nominated for Barista Trainer of the Year is a huge honour for me. I am humbled by the fact that I'm being recognised for doing something that I love doing everyday! I have always loved training and sharing knowledge, and I look forward to getting back to that soon. I may even start home barista courses right here in my brew bar!

My favourite part about training people in coffee is seeing an individual grow to a level where relationships also grow from master and student to true friendships.

It's all in the details! Khulekani with some of his students.

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Starbucks is landing in Cape Town: Exclusive with Ishan Natalie

Wednesday, 26 August, 2020

Why is this big news you may ask? Well after a rocky couple of years and the sale of the business at the end of last year, many were wondering if the international powerhouse would be able to stick it out in South Africa. This announcement is a step in a positive direction and while we always urge coffee drinkers to support local, the reality is that the international brands are part of the coffee eco-system and can provide some important industry standards, for example, in the arena of Barista Wages. Big brands also have the power to attract a new set of customers that may be at the beginning of their coffee journey. It is also an opportunity for the employees to learn how a company as internationally successful as Starbucks ticks. Cape Town was always going to be a tricky market for them to get in to, with the plethora of well-established cafes and roasteries in the city, but with the choice to open in Canal Walk, a retail hotspot and tourist shopping destination they're presenting an optimistic attitude. We spoke to coffee industry legend and three time National Barista Champion, Ishan Natalie,  Beverage & Operations Resource Lead at Starbucks SA, who is heavily involved in  making the CT flagship store a success.

Ishan Natalie doing what he does best, making and serving coffee with that amazing smile.

"The time has finally come! Yes we are opening in Cape Town this year and we are super excited as it has been long time coming. Whilst we cannot provide a lot of specific details of the stores and launch plan as we love to surprise and delight our customers, we believe that the Cape Town community is going to be extremely happy and will have easy accessibility to all.

Our stores always incorporate elements of inspiration of its location, surroundings, landmarks and local heritage, so there is no doubt that the design and elements of each store will put smiles on the faces of those we will serve. Cape Town is known for remarkable beauty in terms of scenery, landmarks, the winelands, arts and culture, the Bo-Kaap, heritage/ history and tourism, to name a few – and we anticipate features showcasing these in the design and visual of the stores alongside elements of ethical sourcing and coffee stories.

As a brand, and in line with our values, we pride ourselves in creating moments of inspiration, customising an experience for the consumers and creating the Third Place. We take immense pride in being an all-inclusive brand and celebrating diversity which are synonymous of Cape Town as well. Our stores will have ample seating to accommodate all customers - whether you are chilling with a friend or family, having a business meeting, working alone or just need a break away; there will be a range of seating areas/ types to suit the moment and person; hand crafted by local artisans.

We will be focusing on our heritage and core menu range, which is a great way to introduce new customers to the full range and give existing Starbucks customer familiarity as we want our customers to have a consistent experience wherever they travel the world. I am keen to see which of our core blends will suit the Cape Town consumers more – the lighter Blonde Espresso or the Signature Espresso. Cape Town is rich in coffee culture and one of the leaders in lighter profile coffees in SA, and no doubt this may be the roast style of choice by the consumers; so my money is on Blonde Espresso being the winner of the 2. The smooth, mellow cup profile will appeal to the general Cape Town consumer. However, at the Cape Town Coffee Festival, we had a great response to our darker roasts as well so it’s exciting to be able to offer customers a choice of roast profiles in the espresso beverages, and customising them further with a choice of our various milk, dairy alternatives, syrup and sauce modifiers.

There will be great career opportunities at an international brand with a new location in CT in the works.

The stores will offer our full range of coffee beans with various options in the Blonde, Medium and Dark Roast profiles which vary further as blends and single origins; with the occasional single origin seasonal feature bean every few months. I cannot confirm a Reserve store just yet but we would like to introduce the Reserve brand at some point for an elevated coffee experience and to give the consumers an opportunity to experience some of the world’s rarest, small lot coffees.

We are deep in the planning stages for the opening at the moment, with the current focus on creating employment and development of the local communities by creating skills sets and business experience to support all these local communities. We are grateful to be able to create employment opportunities for the Cape Town community, help the partners develop a long-standing career and to let them be part of something bigger than just coffee.

We look forward to creating an experience and beverage style of choice for Cape Town as well as to deliver our mission statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit; one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time”."

"The feature wall on Menlyn Maine store which features the lush flora of the Capital City, Pretoria with a Starbucks store in the back ground which represents us being part of that global community."

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Barista Training during a Global Pandemic! Some insights from the experts

Thursday, 27 August, 2020

Have you ever thought about doing a course in coffee? We've been impressed to see the way businesses have had to innovate to survive during this time and while everything has found a new life online, we asked Christopher Abrahams, two-time SA Latte Art Champion, nominee for Barista Trainer of the Year in the Coffee Magazine Awards 2020 and Senior Trainer at Ciro Coffee Company, to tell us what that means for barista trainers.

Barista Trainers across the world have had to adapt their courses to be run online during this time, how have you found this? Has the shift been difficult?

It has most certainly been an adjustment. During this time the CCA Training Academy was forced to innovate in order to ensure that we maintain training support to all our customers. We developed short coffee training video content and made it easily accessible to both our customers, as well as all the relevant staff.

We also looked at conducting all our sessions via Zoom, which I believe most trainers also did around the world. This definitely was a bit of a challenge in the early stages, however, it became easier later on as we incorporated practical skills development activities and assessments, by sending each student a coffee training pack, which allowed the student to interact with the trainer during each session. We found that it had a huge positive impact on the student’s growth and increased the student’s level of eagerness to engage and learn as each course progresses.

It has most definitely caused myself as a trainer, to think outside of the box and make use of a variety of new training techniques. This has allowed me to explore my skills as a barista trainer and has made me more aware of how value can be added to a department through innovation.

It has most definitely had a negative impact on the training department from a financial perspective, but has generated enough income to add value to the business and department as a whole.

In some ways it makes the courses more accessible, correct? Do you think learning to run the skills program online will be useful for the future?

I definitely believe that it is exceptionally useful for the future! The world is focussed on constantly working towards innovation and technological development. We have found that people from all sorts of professions have found interest in attending our online courses, ranging for IT specialists to auditors. This makes it easier for people to attend courses in their spare time, wherever they may be in the world. Access to specific coffee brewing tools/equipment, may limit a student’s ability to take part in specific courses. 

During this time, we’ve focussed mainly on SCA Introduction and Foundation courses, which has picked up quite a bit.

How do you deal with the practical and sensory aspects of coffee when doing online training? 

This is a very good question! And in fact, my favourite part of online training, especially when it comes to foundation courses and for people who are new to the industry. I usually take students through a few exercises of how to develop and identify their sensory skills, focussing on levels of saltiness, sweetness, acidity and bitterness. I usually do this by tasting certain ingredients simultaneously, through instruction, discussing the experience. It is truly amazing to see how unique each individual’s sensory experience differs from one to another and is surprising when the interpretation of the sensory experience becomes more accurate as the student develops.

Are you running in person training courses again now?

Unfortunately, we have decided not to run any course in our training centre for now, however, this may change from the month of September 2020. We do, however, offer onsite training at our customers, as long as all the COVID-19 protocols are adhered to.

What is your favourite part of being a trainer?

My favourite part of being a trainer is to see how a student utilises the training given and generates even better skills. I love seeing individuals progress into the coffee industry and it is most certainly an honour being part of each student’s road to success.

What did you find the most difficult skill to master when you were starting out?

It would definitely be latte art :) I actually found a few latte art photos on my laptop a few days ago and was absolutely shocked, considering that I may have thought it was good at the time. Fortunately enough, this all changed as soon as I became aware of the actual expectation of what perfection is when it comes to the visual aspect of latte art.

Do you think it’s important that baristas who are already working and employed do further training? If so why? 

I strongly believe that one can never be knowledgeable enough. It is therefore important to continue learning even if you’re the best in the industry or have years of experience. Coffee has endless variables, allowing us so many opportunities to explore the possibilities of what it has to offer. Through a variety of coffee education programs and accreditation, we have the opportunity to develop more skills in order for us, as coffee professionals, to reach our full potential within the industry.

This often has a positive impact on an individual’s financial situation, as well as the level of confidence and ability when working within the industry.

How can our readers and baristas book a course with you? 

This can be done by visiting www.cirocoffeeboutique.co.za , by sending an email to TrainingGP@ciro.co.za or by connecting with us via Instagram at ciro_coffee_academy 

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