Humans of coffee: Phaedon Gourtsoyannis


Who is Phaedon Gourtsoyannis?

I think my defining characteristic is probably curiosity, and a passion for learning about new things. I’m also inherently a generalist – it’s rare that any one of those new things keeps my attention for too long, though there are a couple of important exceptions.

I’m (arguably unhealthily) obsessed with optimisation – of myself, my business, my life, my way of doing things and, much to the chagrin of those around me, sometimes of other people’s ways of doing things too.

I try to steer clear of aligning my identity to funny things like nationalities and ideologies.

What is your best childhood memory?

I don’t tend to think about my childhood that much. I’m sure a therapist could have a field day with that statement, but if I force myself to look back on fond memories, Christmas times in Montreal definitely spring to mind. We lived in Greece (and then Belgium) but we would visit my grandparents in Canada on school holidays. Novelties like snow, real maple syrup and unbridled North American capitalism always made it a lot of fun – not to mention time with the extended family.

If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently?

I feel like I’ve landed in a good place and I’m doing something I want to be doing. Partly by luck, partly by planning, I also feel like I’ve equipped myself with some of the skills and knowledge I need at this stage in my life. I think the only thing I would really change is getting here faster.

I do sometimes wish that I’d taken better advantage of the tertiary education I had access to, and perhaps did a bit more reading in my 20s.


What do you feel most proud of?

I feel proud that I’ve taken a different path from the one I originally set out on as a young adult. I was very much on the corporate treadmill. To tell the truth, it was a pretty attractive treadmill that felt good to be on, which made stepping off difficult, but I’m glad I did, whiplash and all.

If you could only keep three possessions, what would they be and why?

The answer to this question would really depend on the situation I’d find myself in, but if we’re talking about life as it is now, it would have to include my laptop and my iPhone. They literally run my business and my life, and they give me access to hours of reading, listening and watching on any subject I happen to be curious about – you don’t need much more in life.

The third would have to be my pour-over setup – though I wouldn’t blame someone for quibbling about the fact that it’s actually comprised of several separate possessions… but a man’s got to heat, grind, brew, weigh & time – right there I’d be over 3 objects.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

Who wants to think about dying?


What is Cape Coffee Beans?

Cape Coffee Beans is my passion project. It’s ultimately an expression both of my love of entrepreneurship and my love of coffee. It’s a business with a mission to empower South African coffee lovers with everything they need to fully enjoy speciality coffee – fresh beans, brewing gear and information.

At the moment, Cape Coffee Beans is an online store that provides a unique mix and variety of freshly roasted coffee and equipment to customers all over the country, with a healthy dose of helpful content wherever possible. I think the channels that Cape Coffee Beans works through will evolve but the mission will likely stay the same.

What’s your favorite kind of coffee, brew method or coffee origin?

I tend to resist questions about favourites when it comes to coffee. If I could easily pick a favourite, my job would be a lot more boring than it is. Much of the fun of coffee is in the incredible variety.

Having said that, I’ve been a manual brewing, black coffee kind of guy for a while now. Hario V60 pour-overs tend to get the biggest share of the 3-5 coffees I make a day, but I also go through phases with some of my other coffee toys. I regularly use a siphon, Aeropress, moka pot, french press, Chemex & Clever Dripper as well.

I’ve gone off milk, and I have a funny relationship with espresso. I see it a bit like restaurant food – something delicious to enjoy when you’re out, but I don’t know if it’s something I’m excited about making myself yet. I could see that changing in the future though.


In which coffee shops are we likely to bump into you?

I like to visit the coffee roasters I work with. I know I’ll get a great cup and a great chat there. I learn a lot from my visits.

It’s hard to pick a lot of independent cafés, even in Cape Town, that do really great coffee – I prefer to brew it myself. However, The General Store on Bree makes a pretty mean espresso and it’s right around the corner from my office. You’ll often find me in there at lunch time, albeit usually for the food.

What does a perfect day look like?

I think my perfect day would need to have a few extra hours in it.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself in recent years, is that a good day has to include a feeling of accomplishment or fulfilment, so it probably would involve some work. Not busy work or admin but work on an interesting project rather – the type of work where you learn while muddling through something new. I’ve spent a lot of great Saturday mornings this way.

My perfect day would also have to include time to read and learn. Unconstrained time to go down a rabbit hole on the internet is one of life’s great luxuries in my mind.

When my curiosity and drive are exhausted, my best days always include quality time with my partner in life, business & crime – my spouse Dianne. That usually means enjoying some (or ideally all) of the following together:

  • Great coffee
  • Great wine
  • Great food
  • Great music

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Andy loves coffee, has a global community of followers that loves coffee and talks about himself in the third person.

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