University students around the world are finding lots of different ways to make coffee more sustainable and eco-friendly, from finding coffee bean alternatives to repurposing coffee waste…
From root to cup
A graduate of Central Saint Martins college in London, Daisy Newdick, has found a way to make coffee using dandelions – what most people might consider an unsightly weed. Her design project, called Make Weeds Great Again, aims to highlight the overlooked qualities of the common dandelion plant, which actually contains certain aromatic compounds that provide a similar bitterness and chocolatey smell to coffee. The chemical inulin is present in the skin around the surface of the root, and that gives it the characteristic coffee taste and aroma when roasted. During her research, Newdick found that chicory (which is botanically related to dandelions) and burdock root can also be used as a substitute to coffee.
Newdick developed her own roaster to prepare the dandelion roots before grinding and brewing them into coffee. The designer hopes that her hand-operated root-to-cup system will encourage more people to try coffee alternatives that don't require beans to be shipped from overseas…
"In the West, and especially in cities, we take for granted the immense distances and complex supply-chains foodstuffs travel before they reach us," Newdick told Dezeen. "With increasing demand driving environmentally degrading practices, together with the impacts of the climate emergency, the future of this highly esteemed commodity is uncertain.”
From cup to concrete
If you’re not so hot on the idea of alternative coffee, an RMIT University engineering lecturer and his students in Australia are investigating the potential of coffee waste combining with concrete to create construction material. Instead of the dregs from 1.3 million cups of coffee going to landfill, the grounds can be repurposed into concrete to be used in homes, driveways, and office buildings. The group found they could replace up to 10% of sand in a concrete mix with coffee grounds, and they’ve produced ‘coffee bricks’ to prove it.
The reasoning behind the idea is to cut down on the need for sand, which is in high demand (the average concrete mix contains up to 80% sand) and has a huge environmental impact when extracted. The City of Melbourne alone creates around 156,000kg of coffee waste every month, so repurposing that waste into useful building materials is an incredible solution for the construction industry.
Northumbia University graduate, Jamie Pybus, has also found a higher calling for coffee waste – a kit for growing mushrooms. The designer developed a system that allows people to cultivate edible mushrooms from leftover coffee grounds. Called Fungi Factory, the kit includes a storage container for your coffee grounds, a vessel for mixing the grounds with mycelium spores, and a domed fruiting environment in which the mushrooms grow. Now, rather than throwing coffee grounds into the bin, UK households can repurpose them as a bed for growing oyster mushrooms in just four weeks.
"The concept helps to highlight possibilities of waste recycling within the home by bringing the often unseen, circular economy into the hands and control of people," Pybus told Dezeen. “Shrinking space-intensive processes into a home-sized product is vital to the success of local manufacturing and food production. I really wanted to create a system that was visually interesting and could get both adults and children interested in the product's function and potential benefits. Fungi Factory is environmentally rewarding through its recycling, whilst providing an equally significant benefit to people's healthy eating habits.”
With innovative students finding environmentally friendly alternatives and investigating ways to repurpose and upcycle coffee grounds, a more sustainable future seems more possible than ever.
Rwanda grows some of the world’s best coffee, but the farmers themselves don’t necessarily know it – many of the country’s coffee farmers (along with the rest of the population) have never even tasted a cup of coffee. Rwanda’s government wants to change that, and is encouraging locals to drink more coffee…
Rwanda’s coffee industry nearly collapsed after the genocide in 1994, and it took many years for the industry to recover to the point that coffee is now one of Rwanda’s largest and most profitable agricultural exports. Funding from the Rwandan government, trade partners and private investors allowed Rwanda to focus on high grade specialty coffee, and Rwandan Bourbon Arabica beans are in high demand today.
Coffee is a luxury
Rwanda’s own coffee culture is almost non-existent though – most Rwandans drink soft drinks and tea because it’s a lot more affordable than coffee. The price of coffee is a major obstacle – a cup can cost around $2–3 and more than 60% of the population earn less than $2 per day. Rwanda exports 99% of its coffee, but the government is hoping to increase the domestic market by taking advantage of the emerging middle class’s disposable income.
Thanks to Rwanda’s growing middle class, local consumption has increased in recent years. Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, has seen a number of specialty coffee shops opening to cater to people in the city, including foreign expats and international visitors. The government is encouraging this trend by launching a “Let’s talk coffee” campaign to teach locals how to traditionally prepare and brew a cup of coffee, and sponsored radio ads to tout its health benefits and tell people that coffee isn’t just for foreigners.
Building a coffee culture
“People don’t consider coffee as being for them, mainly because of the taste and the price. But even small things like producing coffee in smaller packages so more people can afford it can strengthen the coffee culture in Rwanda,” says Dr. Celestine Gatarayiha from the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), a government agency dedicated to increasing agricultural exports.
There’s obviously a lot of education that has to happen around coffee in order to start to build a culture of consumption rather than just production. People need time to explore and discover the variety of coffee beverages and get used to the taste and flavour. The government is trying to boost local consumption and make coffee seem more accessible by organising barista training for restaurants and hotels, encouraging them to serve high quality locally roasted coffee, and organising coffee seminars and tastings for curious consumers.
The popularity of coffee
The history of coffee in Rwanda could have a lot to do with why there isn’t much of a coffee culture. It was introduced by German and Belgian colonisers, who forced Rwandans to cultivate the crops under terrible conditions. Farmers were never taught to drink coffee, and the country exported all of its green coffee cherries to be roasted elsewhere before being reimported. Coffee is expensive as a result because Rwanda doesn’t have enough roasters, and roasted beans are worth much more than the green cherries.
The rise of coffee shops in Kigali is proving that there is a future for local consumption, with cafés serving as places to meet and socialise, attracting business professionals, freelancers and groups of friends. There’s a long way to go before coffee is the beverage of choice for most Rwandans, but its popularity is definitely on the rise. Local professionals are realising that it’s important to support the economy by buying (and drinking) local, and as taste preferences change, the coffee culture shift is sure to come, especially with each new generation showing a greater appreciation for this beloved brew.
As a café owner, a barista or even a customer in a coffee shop (or restaurant), where do you stand on criticisms of your establishment, on what you allow in your café and/or who you allow in?
This week a vida e café outlet in Cape Town received the full wrath of Independent Media newspapers’ front pages across the country along with roadside headlines to go with their indignation. Most of you have read the story so we won’t re-hash the details ( but you can click on the links below if you missed it)
Making overly dramatic headlines. A slow news day perhaps?
The front page of the Mercury this week.
This reminded me of another infamous and on-going feud between Top 10 Chef, Bertus Bassoon and blogger Chris van Ulmenstein that spawed the “No Whales allowed” sign that is displayed in many a Cape Town establishment as a protest against self-appointed food experts brandishing their opinions around the internet on their blogs.
Like any robust debate, there are good arguments for freedom of speech and freedom of expression on the side of the blogger and the customers who want to enjoy a newspaper while sipping their latte, and there are good arguments for freedom of choice on the side of the café owner who can decide which media he wants to subscribe to for his/her café.
Our opinion is that the café owner was wrong in putting up a sign prohibiting the reading of any Independent Media titles in the shop, as that of course one cannot do, but surely he/she is well within their rights to choose which media they pay for and have available in their stores? Even us, as Coffee Magazine, are not in every coffee shop or roastery in SA, as much as we would like to be, we can’t force owners to stock our magazine!
Similarly, what does one do about a customer who goes online to trash your Cafés, your products, your service on an ongoing basis? Are you allowed to ban them? Are you allowed to ban anyone?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
As we walked through the streets of Harlem, New York, Spring-time, and with it the cherry blossoms, was blooming. And every new cafe was celebrating in their own way with a unique, seasonal beverage. A vanilla and lavender cold brew fizz. A rose petal and cardamom latte. Don’t they sound delightful?
We are constantly amazed and surprised by the variety of syrups and ways to accentuate natural flavours in coffee. Many purists balk at adding other ingredients to quality coffee, but with a dash of creativity and some out-of-the-box thinking, magic can happen. Taking inspiration from the changing seasons and using locally sourced flavours can bring a little something special to your cup. The Blue Crush Latte we tried in Tokyo used blue ginseng syrup for it’s startling blue colour and local Japanese maple syrup to cut the espresso and let me tell you, it was DE-licious.
Even for those people who can’t handle a lot of caffeine, but still want to hang out in the beautiful cafe spaces, cafe menus have expanded to include a selection of comforting flavours. One of our recent favourites was a beetroot and almond latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon. And the coffee industry is making it easier than ever for cafe owners to have these weird and wonderful drinks on the menu, so you can look forward to the variety growing steadily.
A whole section of the World Barista Championship is dedicated to the Signature Beverage, a coffee cocktail that creates synergy between the coffee and basically any other ingredient you can think of, with the exception of alcohol. But don’t worry, there’s a whole competition dedicated to just the alcoholic beverages!
An individual who has played both games and won is Michalis Dimitrakopoulos. He was the World Coffee in Good Spirits Champion 2016 and Runner Up at this year’s World Barista Championships. Not bad!
He is part of the team of a couple cafes that are on our global café bucket list. The Underdog has been helping Athens learn about specialty coffee since 2015 and near the end of last year the team started The Rabbit Punch, a bar/café showcasing fine spirits and coffee.
Tasos Delichristos explains their philosophy, “We all have been or felt underdogs in our life. And that’s why people love the underdogs! The Underdog is a specialty coffee roasting company and we invite all of you to visit our third-wave coffee shop in Thissio (Athens), Greece. Our world revolves around the journey, driven by the pursuit of perfection. Along the way we forge relationships as we work to bring our coffees from the farm to your cup.”
Attacking the field of coffee with vigour and constantly re-inventing their menu inspired by new coffees, always willing to learn and grow.
“Michalis Dimitrakopoulos is not afraid to fail” says Sarah Allen of Barista Magazine, “He based his 2019 World Barista Championship routine around the idea that encountering failure—and then pushing through it—is a healthy process that allows one to make new discoveries and grow as a person. In his WBC routine, Michalis related this discovery process to both the innovation required to produce the Gesha he used in his routine, and his own growth as a coffee professional.”
We caught up with him after his incredible performance in Boston, USA in April 2019.
How did you decide to dedicate your life and passion to coffee?How did you begin?
I was studying as an electrical engineer but when I tried to work as a barista, from the first moment I felt in love with coffee! So one day I realized that this is what I love! This makes me happy and I would love to do it every day!
I stopped with my studies and start study about coffee. A lot of seminars and a lot of love about coffee!
What is your philosophy when it comes to creativity with coffee?
My philosophy is that, we are all the same no matter the nationalities no matter the languages no matter anything! just follow your dreams like i do, try your best every day and experiment a lot to create something new! Not a copy! Always in this journey be humble and kind! At the end of day always remember who has been there and how were you since day one and go forward with your team for the best result!
What makes a good seasonal beverage?
It all starts from the coffee you are using! You must know everything about the taste profile and the aromas of your coffee and then you must find ingredients that can be combined with it! If you have citrus flavour and aromas on your coffee, you must find ingredients that combine with this! That’s the best way for coffee lovers, they should get a cocktail with their favourite coffee! An Irish coffee is a great place to start. The first thing to do [when learning about coffee cocktails] is to make an Irish coffee. The most common coffee cocktail of all. Once you can make a good Irish coffee then you can search for your own to discover the combinations of coffee and alcohol.
Who is the team behind The Underdog and Rabbit Punch and how did they come about?
Team, or rather family as we call it! For all of us The Underdog team is like a family!Is not only the people that they are working there,but also the fans and the people that support us all these years!like farmers, staff, our customers etc! Tasos and his wife Elisabeth the owners of The Underdog and my partners at the rabbit punch are two of them! Tasos(World Coffee in Good Spirits Champ 2008) our coach and our friend all these years support us for every competition! That's the point for us! We are always working as a team with all the guys and we are trying to support each other! Coffee is about people and the land they live on. We believe in a meaningful and honest coffee trade. Not only do our methods ensure the maximum quality of the cup, we also ensure the greatest benefit to the local environment, and to a more transparent and sustainable coffee trade. We focus on serving a unique coffee experience by bringing out a delicate and dynamic clarity in every coffee we produce. We are forever curious and always uncompromising in our quest for quality products and services.
Tell us about your regular customers, how would you define them as a group? What sort of customer do your locations attract?
Our customers there are really in love with specialty coffee as much as we are! We support a lot of coffee shops with our coffees not only in Greece but also around the world! Our daily customers in Greece usually drink Freddo Espresso (double espresso mixed with ice) in the summer period but in winter they are drink espresso bad beverages, normally a flat white! They are always looking for good quality of coffee and they are always asking as about the varieties, the flavour profiles and the origins!
One of the things we always notice when we travel is the attention to detail with seasonal drinks/signature beverages at different cafes. How do you come up with signature beverages? Do you have a particular process? What inspires you?
My inspiration comes through the process of the coffee that I use! For example, for my Barista Championship set, my friend, the farmer of Finca Deborah in Panama, Mr Jamison Savage, helped me to understand everything when I visited the farm and together we had a lot of conversations about processing. After that I am always re-thinking processes and I am trying to create something new! Something that pushes the level up! My espressos had notes of blackberry, grapefruit, and raspberry and so I chose to place a natural fermented Gesha cascara into a syphon along with dry ice, which pushed the liquid into the top chamber, mimicking the anaerobic environment the coffee was fermented in. This was for sure a first in competition and helped to highlight the flavours in my coffee.
What is your ultimate favourite coffee cocktail (one alcoholic and one not)?
My favourite is Irish coffee! A true classic and as I said, the basis for exploring more flavours. Without alcohol I like mostly an espresso and tonic over ice!
What do you do to keep improving your palate?
We are always doing cupping with new arrivals, with new roast profiles to get always the perfect result for our customers!! this helps me a lot to find the differences! I am always looking to evaluate new coffees and new processing methods to find something new!
What is your favourite flavour/ingredient/product to work with at the moment (except coffee, of course!)?
At this time my favourite is passion fruit! I am always enjoy this flavour at the summer period!
In all your years in coffee, who has the most influential person been in your journey?
Tasos Delichristos is one off them! All these years work with him, I learned a lot of things, not only about coffee! He is one of my best friends now! But to be honest I don't to be like someone, I don't want to copy things, I like to have my personality and just learn from people like him!
How different was it to prepare for Barista Championships compared to Coffee in Good Spirits?
Both of these competitions are really difficult. We have a lot of things to adjust and to continue growing. Coffee in Good Spirits is just a bit different because you have to prepare three different presentations for each round - this is a challenge! But at the end of the day, both of them are based in balance and coffee!
I’m sure you get asked this question a lot, what is the one thing you would recommend beginners do to make better coffee at home.
My recommendations is to always look for good quality of coffee! Do not be afraid to ask about recipes for brewing and about information for coffee - baristas are generally so excited to share about coffee. Then try to find the best balanced cup at home!
Tell us something about yourself that isn’t coffee related. What is your favourite thing to do in your spare time? What are your other passions?
I really enjoy going to the sea! I love to be with my friends relaxing or free-diving in the sea! I really love classic cars and classic motorcycle and then I like sports like football!
How to Make an Espresso Martini
An espresso martini is traditionally made with coffee liqueur and vodka, but we’ll be swapping the liqueur for actual coffee. It may be over ice, but it’ll certainly warm you up from the inside!
You will need:
• Double shot espresso (around 50grams)
• 20 ml of a sugar cane syrup (or a similar unflavoured syrup of your liking, such as agave or simple syrup)
• 60 ml of a beautiful vodka
Try using a sweet and fruity coffee, as this makes for a great cocktail. But the beauty of making coffee cocktails is that you can experiment with all sorts of beans and brewing methods. Try a few different things and see what you prefer.
Okay, so let’s move on to how you make your cocktail:
1 Fill a shaker with ice and add all your ingredients to it.
2 Shake that shaker.
3 Double strain it into a chilled martini glass.
4 Garnish your cocktail with some coffee beans or some refreshing mint.
And that’s it – four quick steps to one impressive specialty cocktail. Talk about a chilled drink
Launched in September 2019, Victoria Arduino’s new Eagle One is a professional espresso machine that’s been designed with the barista in mind, using advanced technology to make it the most sustainable machine of its category. We chatted to Sara Gagliesi of Simonelli Group to find out more about the new machine…
What separates the Eagle One from its predecessors?
“Eagle One was born in response to the new generation of coffee shops where design, performance, and sustainability are defining factors to create a pleasant and memorable experience. We made the personalisation of the machine easy to do and it’s adaptable to different environments that range from the classical to the more glamorous. The machine's design also adjusts perfectly with various materials like wood, steel, resins, or aluminum.”
What was the inspiration behind the design?
“Eagle One is a project inspired by the culture of Italian design and also looks to the future as a symbol of modernity for Victoria Arduino. For the shape of the Eagle One, the architect Carlo Viglino was inspired by Victoria Arduino's impressive history. James Hoffmann (Coffee Opinion Leader and Author) was involved as a consultant in the development of the Eagle One – he focused on the needs of the new era coffee shops that require compact, efficient and sustainable machines.
From the very design of the coffee machine, Victoria Arduino has picked up on the industry’s needs and transformed them into technologies, also through the great collaborations with the futurist artist Leonetto Cappiello and the architect Caccia Dominioni. That's how design and innovation fuse: having a substantial impact inside the machine in correspondence with its new form.”
“Big innovation in a compact space.” Can you tell us more about this?
“The innovation of Eagle One is about its aesthetic and functional simplicity. The project completely covered all aspects – every single component was studied in relationship to the entire system. The ergonomic research of the Eagle One made it remarkably user-friendly – baristas need compact equipment that’s ergonomic and easy to use, but also capable of producing high volumes of excellent coffee for the client. That shouldn’t come at the expense of energy efficiency though.
In Eagle One, this is what drives the design. The machine is simple and extraordinarily compact, and able to respond to the new needs of the latest generation of coffee shops. The heart of the machine, the new engine (called NEO, New Engine Optimisation), is smaller but at the same time, able to deliver great performance with a reduction of energy consumption.”
Tell us about the special version of the Eagle One customised by Giulio Cappellini?
“The architect, Giulio Cappellini, art director of the Italian Manufacturer Art & Design Exhibition (I-MADE) and the international ambassador of excellence and Italian design, asked to show the Eagle One at the I-MADE exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. During that event, Victoria Arduino presented the Eagle One in a special version customised by Cappellini, who chose for the machine chrome colours and innovative materials. The customised version is a fusion of history and innovation: unique recycled wood, ecological resin and aluminum, signed by Giulio Cappellini.”
How does the Eagle One make efficient use of energy?
“With the NEO (New Engine Optimisation) technology, an important goal has been reached: obtain the same high performance while reducing energy costs. This new engine uses an instant heating system utilising only the necessary amount of water for the extraction to be heated, thus reducing energy-related expenses. The smaller boilers are insulated with a new material that avoids heat dispersion. This way, less energy is consumed.
The thermal insulation and the size reduction of the single components diminished the environmental impact substantially. The LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) demonstrated how the Eagle One has 23% less environmental impact concerning the same category machine. The new patented technology T.E.R.S. (Temperature Energy Recovery System) also contributes to the reduction. The system uses the discharged water to pre-heat the incoming water. The result is an 8% saving on total machine consumption.”
How was James Hoffmann involved in Eagle One project?
“Simonelli Group has been working with James Hoffmann for nine years. Eagle One is the third project that we’ve worked on and it’s probably the most exciting because it’s focused on the new generation of barista and coffee shop. The one that’s the biggest in scope and has the largest potential for a huge positive impact on our industry.”
Tell us about the Eagle One app?
“Eagle One is a machine born to be ‘smart’. Along with the Eagle One, anyone who buys the machine is also given a smartphone and tablet app to create a digital experience for the new generation coffee shops and baristas that enjoy sharing ideas and experiences between coffee lovers. Exclusive and user-friendly, the Eagle One app connects simply with Bluetooth and allows the user to create and share information and recipes with all the other ‘Eagle-oners’. Other than personal use, the app can be used by coffee shop chains to keep track of their different coffee machines and all of their settings, without interrupting the barista’s work.”
From the Impossible Burger to Impossible Coffee?
Meat-free burgers have taken off - will bean-free coffee do the same? Yes, you read that right… Atomo, a Seattle-based company, is working on developing what they call “molecular coffee” – coffee grounds that are engineered in a lab, with no beans involved at all. We’ve all seen plant-based ‘meat’ and dairy-free milk – is bean-free coffee the next sustainable alternative?
The coffee industry faces major agricultural challenges thanks to climate change and deforestation. The world’s land and water resources are under threat, along with many wild coffee species, so it’s not the worst idea to have a sustainable alternative on offer when the future of coffee production is so uncertain. "We believe we have a moral obligation to stop harmful coffee farming practices, but none of us want to stop drinking coffee," said Andy Kleitsch, CEO of Atomo. "Atomo's technology can halt the need for further deforestation by reducing the demand for coffee beans."
Atomo’s work is still proprietary, but the general idea is that a cup of coffee can be reverse-engineered using molecular biology. And they’ve got a lot of support. US $2.6 million of support to be exact – seed funding from Horizon Ventures, the investors behind Impossible Foods (the food-tech company that created the faux-meat Impossible Burger). With this injection of capital, Atomo aims to start selling beanless coffee grounds as soon as 2020.
"I love coffee, but every day I was adding cream and sugar to mask coffee's bitter flavour. By replicating the taste, aroma and mouthfeel of coffee, we've designed a better tasting coffee that's also better for the environment.” – Jarret Stopforth, Atomo’s chief scientist and co-founder
So how exactly does one reverse-engineer a cup of coffee? Stopforth, who has a PhD in molecular biology, broke down the thousands of chemical compounds that make up a roasted bean to understand the building blocks of coffee’s flavour, aroma and mouthfeel, and then recreated those core components without the beans.
Atomo promises all the caffeine and flavour of a regular cup of coffee (and even the same colour), but without the beans or the bitterness. Atomo’s website says the company is exploring naturally sustainable ingredients to create a cup of coffee that’s better for the environment, largely by reducing the volume required of commercial coffee farmers and the environmental impact of coffee production.
A sustainable alternative
Not every coffee drinker may be on board with giving up the sacred coffee bean, but Atomo say they’re not looking to destroy the coffee industry – they just want to offer a sustainable alternative. It’s also good news for those coffee drinkers who typically add milk, cream or sugar to their brew to mask the bitterness since Atomo claims to have created ‘the perfect coffee’ – the brew you know and love, without any bitterness.
Atomo’s bean-free molecular coffee is still a work-in-progress, and it remains to be seen whether the ingredients that go into it do end up better for the environment (and coffee consumer) at the end of the day. But there’s nothing wrong with a little competition, and innovation is what keeps the coffee industry moving forward.
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!