Words and Photography
By Malu Lambert
We all do it. The majority of the planet does every day. It makes our blood pump faster, our brains more alert. We take our psychoactive medicine in bitter brews, or languish over frothy mugs, luxurious with steamed milk. Wake up and smell the coffee culture; South Africa gets roasted daily.
The last decade has seen a coffee revolution. The mud-coloured granules of instant coffee have been shunned in favour of beans with origin.
The first catalyst was the SEATTLE COFFEE COMPANY. It opened in the late ‘90s—in a landscape awash with instant and filter coffee—and gave consumers a choice on their morning caffeine fix; today there are 32 Seattle Coffee Company stores countrywide. Next was VIDA E CAFFÉ, a European-style espresso bar that burst onto the scene with a ‘vibey’ service and espresso-based coffee menu.
Then, in a move away from European-branded coffee, ORIGIN COFFEE ROASTING opened in Cape Town. They call themselves ‘the artisan roasters of Africa’ and it’s their mission to roast only African beans. The coffee is now available in over 80 outlets, and the Origin headquarters even has a barista school.
We’ve come a long way from spooning our fix out of aluminium tins. Gourmet coffee spots are a prerequisite on every trendy city street. One such place is FAIR TRADE coffee roaster, BEAN THERE. “There’s an increased awareness of coffee as an entity,” says Rojeanne Koen, proprietor of the Cape Town branch. “It’s more than just the ‘end-of-the-meal drink’.”
The original roastery is on Stanley Street in Johannesburg. The focus is on single-origin coffee beans, traditionally hand-roasted in small batches. Plus, thanks to the Fair Trade principles, the coffee tastes sweeter.
Rojeanne has also seen huge growth in home coffee-making. “We often have regulars popping in, particularly on a Saturday, to get their coffee beans for the week. This shows that people are more educated in terms of origin, roast profiles, and particularly, freshness. Nothing beats driving home with your freshly-roasted bag in the car.”
So, what does the average Joe need to make his own, er, cup of Joe? There are a number of ways to do it, from inexpensive plungers to the Rolls Royce of coffee machines.
The French press, also known as a ‘plunger’—BODUM is a well-known make—is a simple and attractive way to make and serve coffee. Place ground coffee, coarser than you would use for filter, at the bottom of a glass beaker (which is fitted with a lid and a plunger). Add hot water, stir together and allow to brew. After a couple of minutes push down the plunger, trapping the grounds below.
Or you could try the French press of the future: the AEROPRESS. Similar in look and action to a syringe, the device is made of two cylinders; one has a rubber plunger and fits inside the larger cylinder to create an airtight seal. This method takes just 30 seconds to brew an inky espresso.
Then there’s the tool for the designer connoisseur, the CHEMEX COFFEE MAKER. The hourglass-shaped glass vessel with a polished wood collar and leather tie has even made it into New York’s Corning Museum of Glass. Not just a pretty face, though; the resultant coffee is said to be clear and pure, and is often used for making flavoured and iced coffees.
Stove-top espresso makers look elegant, too. Also known as a MOKA pot, they often come in brushed or stainless steel. This method uses pressure: the bottom chamber contains water, the middle chamber holds the ground coffee, and the coffee funnels up to the top chamber, aided by the heat of the stove.
The sky’s the limit in terms of price when it comes to automatic espresso machines. To truly geek out, get one with a coffee grinder; there’s a certain pleasure in making an espresso straight from the beans. Some machines automatically make milk-based coffees—but to be a true aficionado, froth the milk yourself.
You may need a milk frother (if your coffee-maker doesn’t come with one), as well as a water purifier, to take your coffee to the next level of clarity. Also, ask your coffee dealer for the right grind for your coffee-maker.
Pairing Coffee with Food and Drinks
Now that you know how to make speciality coffee at home, enjoy it with your favourite foods. Chocolate can elevate a coffee-drinking experience. Try dark chocolate with a dark roast, fresh cream truffles with a cappuccino, or a bar with almonds to bring out the nutty flavours of a well-roasted coffee.
On a healthier note, stone fruits are a treat when paired with black coffee, and can highlight the inherent fruity flavour profile—just make sure that the fruit is sweet and not sour (the latter would bring out the worst in the coffee).
Coffee spiked with whisky or brandy is a remedy as old as time itself. For a more civilised approach, pair with a potstill brandy, and alternate sips from each. Look for complementary characteristics in a coffee; for example, match the nuttiness, or the caramel flavours you find. A good roastery will be able to provide you with details on their bean’s flavour profiles.
When Wine and Coffee Meet
Wine and gourmet coffee are both luxury products where we savour taste, texture and aroma. Indeed, many wines have coffee characteristics, most often found in blends or wines that have been heavily oaked. Pinotage is the most susceptible, and in turn, the wine industry has seen a phenomenon around ‘coffee-style Pinotage’. It started as an experiment at DIEMERSFONTEIN WINE ESTATE, and the trend has since exploded on the market.
The wine is made by adding a certain yeast strain as well as heavily-toasted oak staves during fermentation. The result is a Pinotage with a distinctive coffee and chocolate flavour. Big, bombastic wines that have a polarising effect on the wine drinking community; some deplore them, others adore them.
Coffee-flavoured wine is just one more way to enjoy the world’s favourite drug. However you like your coffee, in a wine glass or an espresso cup, one thing’s for certain: South Africa’s coffee culture has perked right up.
Try one of these cafés for your next coffee break.
Not much can beat the mingling scents of freshly-baked bread and coffee. Treat yourself at this artisanal bakery to a hot cuppa and a croissant straight from the oven. 082-458-0352.
The Green Bean African Coffee Roastery
Enjoy coffee made from 100% Arabica beans at this roastery inside Casalinga Ristorante Italiano in Muldersdrift. The beans are hand picked on high altitude African estates. 011-957-2987
4th Avenue Coffee Roasters
This gourmet café on the Parkhurst strip is perfect for a girly outing. Gorgeous confectionery pairs well with their house blend of African and South American beans. 082-378-2109.
Find this nook of a coffee roastery down Church Street; there’s usually a Vespa parked outside. A floor-to-ceiling window looks out onto the street, and the décor is vintage chic. The crowd is rockabilly, and the coffee is sublime. 072-569-9579.
This Long Street coffee shop gets its beans from Deluxe, so you’re guaranteed a premium roast. Pair with one of their gourmet sandwiches or pastries, and you’re in for a treat. The space also acts as a revolving art gallery. 021-422-3788.
The Haas Coffee Collective
Part design studio, part art gallery and part roastery—expect cutting-edge design and exquisite coffee. Top hat-wearing waiters will bring your order, and you can try the world’s most expensive coffee, kopi luwak: made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet then passed through its digestive tract. 021-422-4413.
The Bean Green Coffee Company
Take a trip to Ethiopia down Davenport Road. The father-and-daughter-run roastery serves only Ethiopian beans. Try the house blend, ‘The Bluff Bru!’, made from Harrar, Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Limu beans; it’s a smooth, full-bodied treat. 031-201-8122.
Colombo Tea & Coffee Co.
Set in an old factory in Gale Street, this roastery and barista training centre is also a café. Try the ‘Aggressive Chocolate’, a blend of beans from Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia. 031-205-3283.
Beanstruk Coffee Roasters
This boutique roastery is hidden in the trees of a litchi orchard in Salt Rock. They specialise in beans sourced from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama. 083-445-0028.