South Africans love coffee. We might not consume as voraciously as some other countries, but a large chunk of our population depends on coffee to get us out of bed in the morning. Recently though, the coffee culture has boomed in South Africa. Gone are the days of freeze dried coffee / chicory blends in cans above the fridge (no names shall be mentioned). We are way beyond that now, with independent roasters popping up all over the country. According to one report, there were only 20 roasteries in 2005, but more than 100 by 2015. Two years later the high-end coffee industry is growing faster than ever, swept up in the tide of artisanal / craft craziness (impacting wine, beer, coffee, tea and many other consumer goods).
One area where South Africa lags however, is coffee cultivation. There are a few producers that have been around for some time, but in general this part of the value chain is tiny. An avid consumer has every opportunity to see how coffee is roasted and brewed, but what about further up the value chain? Beyond promissory declarations such as “organic” and “fair trade”, a consumer has a limited view into the life of the coffee that went into that delicious cup. Okay, this is also changing with specialty coffee producers putting more and more effort into sharing the “story” of their coffee, but we hope to expand this view even more. We want you to see the very trees that bore your coffee; to know who picked the cherries and when they were picked; to understand how the coffee was processed; and everything else you might want to know about how your cup of coffee came into existence.
Did we plant coffee in order to fill this gap in the value chain? To capitalize on this niche in the market? No. We planted coffee because we wanted to, because we love it, because our friends and family love it, because coffee grows incredibly well on our farm (we have semi-wild coffee trees all over our garden), and because it is always exciting to create something new.
We first planted coffee on our farm in Kiepersol, Mpumalanga in 2014. What variety is it? To be honest, we are not 100% sure. Leaf samples will shortly be tested in a laboratory in France to give us certainty, but for now we are settling for the 90% view. Based on extensive research and questioning, it appears that our coffee is predominantly of the Catimor (F6) variety – known to some simply as “Colombia”. This accords with the plant physiology, and with the fact that this was one of the varieties planted in South African in the 1980s. We also have two other classic varieties – SL28 and K7 from Kenya, but these trees are not producing yet.
Our coffee begins to ripen during the month of May. This is a gradual process, and in 2016 continued until October! As the cherries ripen, we pick only the ripe ones, and only by hand.
The harvested cherries are brought to our small processing area, where we process them in three ways: washed, pulped natural and natural methods (the latter in 2017). Each method brings out a different flavour profile in the coffee, and we are continually experimenting with tasters and roasters to see which method works best. So far, we feel that pulped natural process delivers more sweetness, and we are very excited to try out natural processing in 2017.
Once the coffee is dried to the right level, it is stored (in parchment form) until the parchment is removed when the coffee is ready for roasting.
We have our own roaster (an ancient 12kg Probat), but until we learn properly, this step of the process is left to the experts. To date we have shipped samples of our coffee to quite a few roasters in an attempt to find the perfect roast profile. We have received valuable feedback from all of them, but as expected, there are just too many variables. The coffee we currently sell was roasted by Craft Coffee in Newtown, Johannesburg. We find that the profile developed by Japhet and Lovejoy to be perfectly balanced with hints of caramel, citrus and just a little bit of sweetness. I would say it is a “medium” roast, and is probably too dark for some drinkers and too light for others. Hopefully though, it is just perfect for almost everyone else!
Please click on the order link to buy our coffee. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!