As Garden Route coffee menus expand to exotic new flavours and brewing methods – such as delicious flat whites, microfoam-topped espresso shots, creamy cortados, rich macchiatos and smooth ristrettos – local aficionados no longer need to settle for a heap of dry froth on the surface of a bitter brew pretending to be cappuccino.

WORDS Clare van Rensburg PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Maré

Kelvin Appelgren of Caloroso Café in George is at the forefront of the coffee culture in the Garden Route. The artisan barista has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of coffee and a passion to match.

“Coffee culture has really taken off in the Garden Route in the past five years, and more people want to experience gourmet-grade coffee.” Kelvin has picked up on the growing trend towards variety and luxury; “I want people to experience the sophistication of coffee. We offer different brewing methodologies and a diverse range of bean experiences.”

The brew bar and café promotes a range of single origin beans roasted specifically to highlight their unique characteristics. Sample a plunger of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Let Kelvin intrigue you with his take on the unique citrus, jasmine and floral flavours. Taste the spicy Indian Mysore or try out the house blend, a unique and complex balance of Ethiopian, Indian and Costa Rican beans, supplied by Rouviere’s Coffee Roastery outside Sedgefield.

Kelvin has developed a passion for educating his clientele and encourages them to experiment by sampling increasing popular trends such as brewing with the AeroPress. Unlike the French Press, this single shot extraction technique makes full-flavoured coffee in seconds. “Locals have developed a more adventurous palate and are ready for a new taste experience, breaking away from the idea that coffee is just a vehicle for caffeine.”

Knysna coffee bar, Polvo, is another coffee snob’s mecca. The name derives from the Spanish for dust, a reference to the earthy ground coffee of South and Central America. Owner-manager James Fouché is a self-confessed coffee purist: “I’m pedantic beyond measure.” His exacting standards are exemplified by his year-long quest for the perfect house blend. A unique fusion of Guatemalan, Columbian and Costa Rican beans, Polvo’s Potente blend has intense chocolate and earthy tones. “It’s like taking a bite of Lindt chocolate, with a lingering touch of zesty fruitiness on the back of the tongue.” He makes a stunning Café Cubano, a traditional Cuban-style espresso in which demerara sugar is added during extraction. The result is a delicious, syrupy caramel-flavoured coffee. “One is allowed to be full of nonsense about coffee and wine,” says James with a grin.

He has a true love of coffee and a passion for sharing his knowledge. Polvo hosts coffee tastings by booking. This coffee buff is ruthless about the quality of his coffee, and serves the most expensive brand in the world – Kopi Luwak – at R150 per cup.

Polvo emphasises the need to repurpose their used coffee grounds. Their waste recovery effort involves making a zesty grapefruit soap from the leftover coffee grounds.

Peter Murray is the talented young barista at the helm of The Merchant Coffee, a trendy café in Mossel Bay. The 140-year-old former merchant shipping store on Bland Street was expertly renovated to preserve its heritage.

Stark, rugged sandstone walls house the coffee shop and art gallery. “We are passionate about coffee and creativity,” says Peter. “We promise the aroma will match the reality of the flavour.”

It’s a lofty undertaking, matched only by their delicious tall cortada. Sample one on a Saturday morning when there is local live music. Relax and enjoy the arty vibe and innovative space. Embrace The Merchant Coffee philosophy; good coffee is a right!

Richest roasts
Beans About Coffee is a speciality coffee roastery in George. Green beans from all over the world are hand-roasted daily while the baristi crank their espresso machine at a furious pace in the vibrant coffee shop. “Our main focus is on roasting and serving excellent coffee,” says owner Stefan Jamnek, who also distributes to espresso bars and restaurants across the region. He has identified an emerging trend for brewing gourmet coffee at home and stocks a range of 14 single estate varietals as well as house blends. Beans are sold whole, ground or in capsules.

Stefan is a stickler for excellence: “I only sell what I truly believe in, customers are guaranteed to get gourmet coffee, incomparably fresher than anything on a supermarket shelf. We distinguish ourselves by selling coffee that is not easily available elsewhere.” For example their Indonesian Arabica is grown on a small estate, the coffee cherries are hand-picked, Rainforest Alliance certified and the beans dried and rolled in a ‘wet-hulling’ technique that reduces acidity and brings out tropical melon, strawberry and paw-paw flavours. They also stock rare, full-bodied Cuban beans featuring caramel hues and smoky tobacco undertones.

Aharon Baruch is the grandfather of coffee roasting in the Garden Route. He imported his love of coffee from his home in Israel and has been perfecting the art since 1998 at Baruch’s Coffee Roastery in Mossel Bay. The master roaster oversees a serious coffee operation involving selecting beans, roasting daily in two drum roasters and meticulously blending. His son Josie is serving as an apprentice.

If Aharon has time he will give you a coffee tasting lesson. The entrepreneur maintains espresso is the real proof of good coffee. “It should stimulate all the senses,” he says as he dips his finger into the dense golden foam and inhales deeply. “Slurp the coffee all the way to the back of the tongue, while inhaling air gently. You should be able to see a beautiful crema, smell the aroma of the bean and taste it on all parts of the tongue.” He insists most people who start to appreciate ‘pure coffee’ will never go back to a sweetened flat white.

Aharon is passionate about the health benefits of the drink and points to research, which has proven coffee’s role in reducing the risks of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression and liver cancer. Coffee is rich in antioxidants and enhances memory.

Husband and wife team André and Tanya Prins manage Root, a boutique micro-roastery and coffee shop in George. They showcase a range of Asian, Central and South American and African coffee beans in bright red silos at their coffee counter. The couple believes there is a freshly roasted bean at Root for every palate and conscience. André is the perceptive analyst of the team and enjoys matching clients to the right brew. “It’s a little game we play, trying to read which of our coffees a person will love.” The duo will even allow you to sample the beans first, if the shop is quiet, and have a second grinder just for this purpose. Try the fruity and aromatic Indonesian Mandheling or see if you can pick up the minty finish in the Kenyan Blue Mountain beans. They take their environmental responsibilities seriously and have adopted a local business to repurpose their leftover grounds into a fantastic cacao and coconut body scrub.

Ethical accompaniment
Sisters Ali Brebner, Sue Dalzell and Les Rankin stock fair trade coffee at their European style coffee bar, Doubleshot, in Plettenberg Bay. The trio offers a sustainably produced and hand-picked blend of Brazilian, Columbian and Ethiopian coffee beans supplied by Espresso

Lab Microroasters in Cape Town. Ali Brebner says: “We are passionate about serving a drink that ensures producers are looked after and paid a fair price for their product.” The blend offers caramel, cherry and blood orange flavours, an impeccable companion for a slice of their warm Marmalade cake. Their artisan coffees are crafted on a rare Mirage Triplette coffee machine, complete with levers and foot pedal. For coffee junkies, this alone is worth the trip.

Caffè Americano: An espresso diluted with hot water.
Caffè Latte: A serving of espresso with about three times as much hot milk topped with foam.
Caffè Mocha: Chocolate, espresso and steamed milk.
Cortado: An espresso ‘cut’ with a small amount of micro foam textured milk to reduce the acidity. It is stronger than a cappuccino or flat white.
Espresso: The soul of coffee. A 60ml (two-ounce) shot obtained by high pressure extraction of fine ground coffee. It should have a caramel coloured velvety crema, a textured body and a flavourful heart.
Flat White Cappuccino: An espresso single or double shot, with twice as much micro foam textured milk.
French Press: A brewing method that separates spent grounds from brewed coffee by pressing them to the bottom of the brewing receptacle with a mesh plunger.
Lattè Art: Art created by pouring steamed milk into a shot of espresso.
Macchiato: A serving of espresso ‘stained’ or marked with a small quantity of hot frothed milk.
Pour-over: A brewing method where boiling water is poured over ground coffee in a filter.
Ristretto: A ‘restricted’ shot, produced by stopping the extraction process before any of the bitter notes are allowed into the cup.

Caloroso Café: 103 Meade Street, George 044 874 0482
Polvo: 50 Main Road, Knysna 072 025 6402
The Merchant Coffee: 78C Bland Street, Mossel Bay 071 203 7188
Beans About Coffee: 117 York Street, George
Baruch’s Coffee Roastery: Gericke Street, Voorbaai, Mossel Bay
Root: St George’s Square, George
Doubleshot Coffee Bar: Checkers Centre, Plettenberg Bay

We asked South readers where in the Southern Cape they drink coffee. [email protected] in Mossel Bay was the outright favourite in our Facebook poll.

“All you need is love and more coffee,” proclaims a sign in [email protected], the labour of love of Hennie and Soney Muller, who have been serving coffeeholics their caffeine shots since they opened their doors in Marsh Street last May. The couple is passionate about coffee and takes great care to source the best beans. They believe every cup should be just right. The trendy hot spot offers a variety of on-the-go coffees, a range of specialty teas as well as light meals and treats. Open Monday to Friday 7am to 3pm and Saturday 8am to noon.
56 Marsh Street, Mossel Bay 071 692 1641

Our readers also enjoy:
MOSSEL BAY: Baruch’s Coffee Roastery, Carola Ann’s, The Blue Shed Coffee Roastery, The Coffee Club (Joan’s Bloemiste), The Merchant GEORGE: Beans About Coffee, Caloroso, Lala’s Vintage Coffee Shop, La Patisserie, Lauren’s, Meade Café, 101 Meade Street, Root WILDERNESS: Flava, The Green Shed Coffee Roastery SEDGEFIELD: Café Vienna, Deo Gloria, Slow Roasted Coffee, Tea 4 Two, Village Deli, Wild Oats Community Farmers Market KNYSNA: African Bean, Café Throbb, Chaplin’s, East Head Café, Lunar Café, Mon Petit Pain, Polvo, Seattle Coffee at Shell, Summer Shack/Ile de Pain, Tin House Café PLETT: Bocca Dolce, Doubleshot, Clare’s Cakes, Hola Café, La Caféteria, Le Fournil de Plett TSITSIKAMMA: Tsitrus Café OUDTSHOORN: Beans About Coffee, Cango Caves Estate, Mamash, Signature Divine