SA’s barista champion recommends the best locally available coffee beans
- Winston Thomas has had a couple of cups of coffee in his time, especially lately. He is also SA's top barista in 2020.
- These are the locally-available beans he recommends for those forced to make their own coffee during lockdown.
- Prepare to pay up to R666 per kg – but not necessarily.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Winston Thomas, South Africa’s 2020 barista champion, has tasted his fair share of coffee beans over the last few months, and the additional indoor time due to lockdown gave him plenty of time to experiment with each.
Although they're not all cheap, or widely available, most are high quality single origin beans roasted or stocked by independent local coffee shops and roasteries.
As an independent barista trainer - and South African barista champion in 2017, 2018 and 2020 - there are few better placed in the coffee industry than Thomas to recommend which beans you should be grinding and brewing at home.
Although there’s no shortage of big-name local and international coffee beans available on supermarket shelves, Thomas’s preference is still for smaller independent roasteries - and thanks to Covid-19, almost all now sell their products online and will deliver beans to your door.
When it comes to brewing the perfect cup of coffee Thomas has a few tips. He recommends careful coffee measurement, colder than average milk, and picking the right water to start with - and he has a strong leaning towards African beans.
But he also recommends experimenting with different brewing methods according to the beans you’re using - and will often do away with costly coffee machines in favour of more hands-on methods like a pour overs or the AeroPress.
These are the coffees Thomas tasted during lockdown, and recommends any coffee lover to seek out.
Rosetta Roastery – Colombia La Loma Washed
One of Thomas’s first lockdown coffees was Colombia La Loma Washed beans, which he received from one of the country’s top roasteries and coffee shops, Rosetta Roastery. It didn’t disappoint.
Thomas says he brewed the beans using a V60 pour-over coffee dripper, which is similar to how Rosetta brews them in-store, and the results were similar.
He tasted notes from the beans that he says were “pretty similar” to what is indicated on the packaging - including “caramelised sugar sweetness and something like a light Cape sour fig flavour note”.
La Loma is currently not available on the Rosetta website, but they have stock of another speciality Colombian, in Villa Clabelina, which sells for R666 per kg. Owner Jono Le Feuvre says although roasted in a similar way, Clabelina is comprised of 100% Colombia seeds, and offers a unique flavour profile.
Gegrond Coffee - Colombia Popayan Washed
Gegrond Coffee sells freshly roasted coffee via their website - and their Colombia Popayan Washed appealed to Thomas’s palate.
“Gegrond believe that coffee is an adventure, and are big advocates for outdoor brewing with the Moka Pot and Aeropress,” he says. “So I gave the Aeropress a try."
The beans are a medium-dark roast, which Thomas says he doesn’t brew very often, so he played around with recipes to achieve some dark toffee and a sweet Nuttikrust biscuit notes.
“There’s little room for error here, but if you get it right it’ll be exactly what you need to get through a long hike,” he says.
Gegrond sells the Colombia Popayan for R220 per kg.
From Cape Town with Love - Blend
From Cape Town with Love is a Long Street coffee shop that sells a blend of beans that Thomas says is “for everyone”.
“It’s roasted by Uncle Bear Coffee, and this was one my wife and I both enjoyed as a plunger in the mornings with breakfast,” says Thomas.
To get the flavours that he desired, Thomas says he “dug quite deep into plunger experimentation with this coffee, which resulted in flavours ranging from light milk chocolate, biscotti, vanilla and sweet rye bread.”
From Cape Town with Love sells their blend for R325 per kg.
Father Coffee - Norma Iris Macerated Natural
Father Coffee is one of Joburg’s best speciality coffee stores, and their Norma Iris Macerated Natural bean is what Thomas describes as “something special”.
“This coffee undergoes a macerated natural process with a 90-hour sealed soak fermentation,” he says. “This makes it very versatile and suited for all brewing methods, literally. I’ve tasted this coffee in many ways, and it has been so good every single time.”
The most prominent flavour note that Thomas picked up on was “artificial purple grapes” - which he says is often interpreted in different ways based on brewing method and extraction, including grape bubblegum, red wine, and artificial grape syrup.
“My favourite must have been espresso, which I tasted on a trip to Joburg a month before the national barista competition,” he says.
The coffee is in somewhat limited in quantity, and currently sold out on the Father website, but Thomas hopes that they might have some “green” stashed away to release at a later stage.
When in stock, Father Coffee sells the Norma Iris Macerated Natural for R275 per 250 g.
Quaffee - Sumatra Kerinci Washed
The Sumatra Kerinci Washed, available from Quaffee, is, according to Thomas, “so clean and crisp for a Sumatran, which is generally known for boldness and body.”
He says this is a clear sign of how processing and quality roasting can change a perception of what consumers believe coffees to be.
“My first attempt at brewing this coffee was a V60 and I decided to keep it this way! I got a bit of citrus and an extremely clean and balanced acidity,” he says.
Daily Brew is selling Quaffee’s Sumatran Kerinci coffee beans for R500 per kg.
Rock & Roller - Ethiopia Grade 2 Washed
Ethiopia Grade 2 Washed from Rock and Roller is the coffee that Thomas has been using most recently for his barista training.
Rock & Roller offers a variety of coffees which they roast for their own retail sale - or pack and sell directly to clients.
“Of their many Ethiopian offerings, I settled on the highest quality to use for my courses,” says Thomas. “The Ethiopia Grade 2 Washed is one shines as a short Americano, but the emphasis is on short, in order to avoid diluting the espresso. This gives it a smooth and delicate mouthfeel with very clear peaches and black tea.”
Rock & Roller sells its seasonal single origin beans for between R250 and R325 per kg.
Origin Coffee - Kenya Ruchu Washed
As one of the original speciality coffee shops and barista training centres in South Africa, Origin in Cape Town knows its beans and coffees. Thomas spent some of his lockdown time playing around with their Kenya Ruchu Washed beans.
“I tried a few brewing methods during lockdown but achieved the best results in my V60. Generally, I brew with a high strength - more coffee and less water - but I tried scaling down the amount of coffee I used per brew, partly to ensure that my coffee stock lasted throughout lockdown,” he says.
He was surprised at the results.
“This coffee shined. Washed Kenyan coffees have a tendency to lean towards berries, and with this I picked up on mulberry and kiwi with a surprisingly muted acidity lower that what I would expect from a Kenyan, as well as a gentle sweetness.”
Origin doesn’t currently have stock of the Kenya Ruchu beans, but Kenya Gititu beans are selling for R575 per kg.
Colombo Coffee & Tea - Ethiopia Kilenso Mokoniso Honey
"It’s pretty clear that I like African coffees,” Thomas says. “It also happens to be the right time for fresh crop Ethiopian coffees.”
Generally, Thomas says he likes his Ethiopian beans “as a light and bright pour over”, but he preferred these Ethiopia Kilenso Mokoniso Honey beans from Colombo Coffee & Tea using his Aeropress. "It had tons of body and subtle tropical fruit notes,” he says.
Colombo sells its Ethiopia beans for R258 per kg.
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