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THE WONDER WOMEN SERIES

Take five women from unlikely backgrounds. Add a round of cappuccinos and you get a group who are raising the bar on being baristas.

NTOMBI  MAHLANGU

A newbie to the coffee business, Ntombi also began working at a fast food outlet and moved to The Daily Buzz, a Joburg coffee chain. 

YOU NEVER DRANK COFFEE?

I knew nothing about it. Now I start each day with a double espresso, and would like to have coffee equipment in my house.

WHAT ABOUT BEING A BARISTA IN SA?

I joined to get a job. I didn’t see being a barista as something to take seriously. People here often don’t know what a barista is. Now, I’d love to learn and grow in this industry. I want to travel and learn as much as I can about coffee. Perception is also changing. More people like coffee and our customers even buy beans from us.

YOUR FAVOURITE COFFEE?

A cappuccino - without sugar. Adding sugar or syrups changes the taste. My customers from Europe don’t add sugar so I learned not to.

WHEN YOU’RE NOT BEHIND A MACHINE?

I visit my family - I have a nine-year-old daughter who lives in Mafikeng. I want to go back to school and study (I started studying marketing management), and help my daughter get an education.


SAMUKELE SIBANDA 

After starting at The Daily Buzz in 2006, Samukele has worked herself up to supervisor level. Like a number of our other baristas interviewed in this issue, Samukele lives far away from her child and her priority is working paying for his upkeep and education. 

YOU SEEM PASSIONATE ABOUT THE BUSINESS OF COFFEE… 

I would love to move more into the business side. I’d like to own a coffee shop. It’s a good business to be in. 

HOW MANY CUPS OF COFFEE DO YOU DRINK EACH DAY? 

I only drink two (cappuccinos). I don’t want to drink up our profits! 

BUT YOU STILL DRINK INSTANT COFFEE… 

I also need to know what’s out there. 

THE COFFEE BUSINESS SEEMS REALLY SOCIAL… 

It’s about meeting different people and learning how to grow in this industry. 

ARE PERCEPTIONS ABOUT BEING A BARISTA AND LOVING COFFEE CHANGING IN SA? 

The other day I heard that a former colleague is opening up a coffee shop in Soweto. That’s what I want. One day I want to be a [coffee] roaster. 

WHEN YOU WANT SOMETHING YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND IT, GRAB IT AND LIVE IT” 


SIDUMISILE DUBE 

Like many South African baristas, the coffee business wasn’t something Sidumisile ever took seriously. Now she can’t go a day without espresso when she cranks up the coffee machines each day at The Daily Buzz. “I start my morning with a single espresso. If it’s good coffee, it’s refreshing!” 

BUT YOU HAD NO BACKGROUND IN COFFEE… 

No, and at first my family didn’t understand what I do. I was studying business management. Now I’m a barista supervisor. 

BEING A BARISTA ISN’T JUST ABOUT MAKING COFFEE? 

There’s so much more to learn about coffee. It isn’t just about making coffee it’s often about interacting with your customers. I like meeting different people each day. 

YOU WORK WITH COFFEE ALL DAY… 

But I never get tired of the smell. Each time I open a packet of beans I love that smell! And I make a good espresso. I can tell just by looking at the way sugar settles on top of the crema if it’s a good one. 

"I CAN TELL A GOOD ESPRESSO JUST BY LOOKING AT THE CREMA” 


MEMORY DUBE

A coffee guru in the making, Memory doesn’t stop talking about the stuff. From how decaf is undeservedly underrated to how each African country’s coffee tastes unique. And she makes a killer cappuccino. 

HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE BUSINESS? 

I volunteered for the Barista Championship and worked preparing the machines and washing dishes. I then applied for a job at Bean There Coffee Company and have learned from the ground up. 

DO YOU EVER GET TIRED OF THE SMELL OF COFFEE? 

Never. I love what I do. When I’m not behind a counter, I educate people about coffee. I drink a lot of it at home. I like it black to get the full flavour, but my favourite is a cappuccino. 

WHAT’S YOUR PET PEEVE? 

When customers want flavoured lattes or rooibos cappuccinos. Also, people undermine decaf and think it’s inferior. If I made you a cup, you couldn’t tell the difference. 

THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A BARISTA IS MAKING SOMEONE’S DAY


BOKANG MPHAHLELE 

A self-confessed coffee rookie, Bokang started off working in a fast food chain as a hostess. She then moved onto The Daily Buzz, a chain of coffee outlets in corporate buildings in downtown Joburg. What’s impressive that Bokang has gone from not being a coffee drinker at all to downing several espressos each day. Respect. 

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT BEING A BARISTA? 

Coffee isn’t just about drinking a cup of coffee. It’s about interacting with your regular customers and seeing them smile. 

HOW MANY CUPS DO YOU DRINK A DAY? 

I don’t know. I am constantly tasting to check consistency but I have never counted. 

IS THE ART OF BEING A BARISTA TAKEN SERIOUSLY IN SA? 

I think people no longer drink coffee just to get through the day. People are starting to know a lot more about coffee. The other day a customer asked me to teach them how to make a latte so they could do it at home. 

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU STEP OUT FROM BEHIND THE MACHINE? 

I have a daughter and I’m studying financial accounting. My dream is to see one of my own coffee shops in Joburg somewhere 

PEOPLE PUT SO MUCH EFFORT INTO PRODUCING AND MAKING COFFEE” 


Play Magazine
June 2013

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