Trust me, I know how difficult it is to get into coffee. I remember the first time I had a proper chat with a barista. He had just served me a flat white. It looked like a cappuccino to me but I wasn’t in the mood for an argument. Instead I did the slow nod of appreciation.
He began to explain that they were serving a Guatemalan that day. I had a quick look around but didn’t notice anyone interesting. He carried on to say that he was excited for me to taste it as it was a “complex coffee with hints of cocoa.” I nodded some more. I was still nodding when I realized he had stopped talking and was waiting for me to take my first sip.
While I sipped he added that coffee generally is amazing. That while wine has about 750 “taste profiles”, coffee has more than 1500! Then he paused his excitement and asked: “So what do you think?” I assumed he wanted to me to distinguish which of the 1500 I tasted in his flat white. All I could taste was coffee.
It took me a while before I had the guts to strike up another conversation with a barista.
I wish the first barista I ever chatted to was Shmuel Montrose. He runs Jozi Blue, a coffeeshop in Glenhazel, Johannesburg.
The moment we walked through the doors he welcomed us in. As if he was welcoming us into his home. I ordered a cappuccino. And it was good. So good I had to have another. I decided to be adventurous and ordered an Aeropress.
I mentioned to Shmuel that I had an Aeropress at home. In its box. In a cupboard. But didn’t know how to use it. He insisted on showing me how. He invited me behind the counter to start the process. When he realised my wife was alone at the table he insisted we finish the process at the table.
In the time it took me to finish that second cup we discussed brew methods, the beans he keeps, coffee roasting, his philosophy on coffee and customer service. It was a great conversation. I won’t give away any of his coffee philosophy – I want you to visit and hear it for yourself. Let’s just say this: it’ll inspire you to continue on your coffee journey. As for the customer service topic, I think this summarises Joziblue’s approach: you can WhatsApp your order on the way to work and someone will bring it out to your car when you arrive. I thought customer service was dead in Joburg. Shmuel is defibrillating the concept.
By the time we left Joziblue we had 2 great cups of coffee and made one new friend. You too can make a new friend at 9 Northfield Avenue, Glenhazel, every Sunday to Friday. Until you make it there, you can connect on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Happy new year by the way. My wish for you is happiness, health and that Shmuel Montrose is your first conversation with a barista.