Humans of coffee: Michael Steward Mentoor

Who is Michael Steward Mentoor?

I am a 23 y/o, living in Cape Town, South Africa, who is just starting to get a grip on life – or I like to think I am. From a supercar enthusiast who pursued a career in engineering with the dream of being on the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team, to now being a theologian (and loving it) I feel like the last 5 years have had its fair share of confusion and misguided endeavors!

I just finished my undergrad studies as well as being a youth pastor for a couple of years. I’m using 2018 to work on personal projects but also to just breathe. The plan is to do my masters next year, but maybe I’m just saying this because my graduation was a few weeks ago and I felt really inspired by seeing other people getting their PhDs!

I always try to pursue a broader understanding, a more accurate perspective of pretty much everything. To better know the bigger picture is to better know how to deal with small picture things. I’m very much an introvert. My faith is the center of who I am – my character and choices all root from it. I believe life at its core is sacred because of it having a Heavenly designer.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

I can’t really single out one memory, and nothing seems to stand out thinking back. But there was this one vacation back in the day – I think 2006 or something – where we as a family went to Port Elizabeth that I hold very dear. It was nothing amazing, but it was perfect. It was the first time I feel I was old enough to take a step back, see, and understand the beauty of family when everyone just appreciates the other being there and not being afraid to show it.

If you could have a do-over in life, what would you do differently?

Honestly, I would change so many things if I had the chance! I would love to tell a younger me to stand up for himself! To say no, to not let my insecurities and fear of other people’s opinions dictate my life as it did. And definitely to be more selective and frank with the people I allow in my life!


What do you feel most proud of?

So many things! But I feel all of them fall under the category of when I stepped outside of my comfort zone and braved through whatever stood in front of me.

If you could keep only 3 possessions, what would they be and why?

My camera! Photography is a recent passion and I love everything about it! My passport! Going to Italy end of September and can’t miss it! Also, if you know of any coffee spots?!My car! Spontaneous drives are the reason for my sanity.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

I’ve never given this any thought. Honestly, I don’t really care.

Maybe a segment from Romans 8:38-39? “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow…”


What is To be Christian?

To be Christian (@to_be_christian) is where I share parts of my Christian story. It’s about what it means for me to be a Christian. It joins the substance of theology with the uniqueness of my walk with Christ. It started out as a blog 3 years ago while I was studying, but with that now finished I’m working on making it more Instagram-based, and hopefully YouTube later on in the year.

What is your favorite kind of coffee?

Give me my Chemex and CoffeeSock and I’ll be content!

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

Terbodore Coffee Roasters in Franschhoek! I first fell in love with Terbodore a few years ago at their previous location which to me felt like a safe haven! Had my first flat white there and they have the best mocha in the business! Other than Terbodore, I often visit Deluxe Coffeeworks! They have a branch close to the theology faculty in Stellenbosch where I often got my fix in between classes! Their Quad shot was a frequent meal replacement!

What does a perfect day look like?

Waking up early to get a mocha and pour over as soon as Terbodore opens! Or sleeping late and brewing a fresh cup from the Chemex when I eventually wake up, followed by a cheese omelette!

I’d then drive the Chapman’s Peak road from Simon’s Town all the way to Sea Point with my camera! Lunch at the Silo hotel, trip up Table Mountain, gelato at the waterfront!

The evening would consist of a hike up the Franschhoek Mountains brewing a fresh cup as the sun goes down. And then taking a picture of it to put on Insta! Obviously!

Humans of coffee: Heidi Richter

Who is Heidi Richter?

In a nutshell,  a Canadian West coast dweller who thrives living as close to nature as possible with her husband, 3 year old son and a quirky French Bulldog.

I am a deeply creative individual with a love of whole, nourishing foods, organic gardening, simple living and photography. I hold a great respect for nature and do my best to honour it every day through small, thoughtful choices; I have chosen to eat a vegan diet for about 12 years and it continues to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Ironically,  I also have a very nerdy side that loves computers and can watch Star Wars (the original trilogy) or Lord of the Rings on repeat.  My dream home is a Hobbit hole, but I am quite content with our current house… for now, I suppose.

High Res - Heidi Richter- The Simple Green (1)

What is your favorite childhood memory?

There are too many to list, but one that jumps out would be my very first visit to Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  I was about ten at the time and the island was a very different place than it is today. Spending time exploring and soaking up the West coast generated a spark that lead to a deep love of this immensely beautiful place I now call home.

If you could have a do-over in life, what would you do differently?

Perhaps many things, yet also nothing at all… happiness has found me here along with good challenges.

However, if I could give my younger self some hints, I would suggest taking less “advice” from others (well-intentioned or otherwise) and encourage the following of my heart with the utmost trust and appreciation for its guidance.

Also, I would have taken up photography much earlier on… to think of the collection of lenses I could have by now!

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What do you feel most proud of?

Completing my open water scuba certification; it was an experience like none other to date. The course was physically and mentally demanding, but so rewarding when I was 60 feet down and looking up at an ‘ocean sky’ above…it was the epitome of breathtaking (I think there’s a pun in there) and utterly surreal!

If you could keep only 3 possessions, what would they be and why?

That’s difficult. My husband is an avid woodworker and has crafted many one-of-a-kind pieces I’d never want to part with. If I had to pick, I would choose my health, my hand-carved engagement ring and my DSLR camera and 35mm lens (I hope that would count as one thing).

What do you want your tombstone to say? 

“I didn’t ask for a tombstone, guys”.

Just kidding. Honestly, I love the idea of having my ashes planted alongside a tree…that’s my belief in a life after death.

The Simple Green Logo

What is “The Simple Green”?

An award nominated food blog inspired by a love for plant-based recipes, food photography, writing, organic gardening and simple living. I often call it my “recipe catalogue/diary”. It’s such a labour of love and marries so many of my creative passions in one place. My goal is to gently inspire others to make small shifts towards a more thoughtful and, perhaps, more nourishing way of life.

What is your favorite kind of coffee?

When the mood hits,  I prefer a manual drip dark roast with cinnamon or reishi mushroom brewed with the grinds.  My coffee usually comes with a sundry of extracts, herbs or spices; I love to experiment with flavours. Naturally, during the hotter months, it’s a cold brew… I love the patience involved with steeping the grinds for so long and the thicker, sweeter profile it creates.

High Res - Heidi Richter- The Simple Green (6)

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

Not many because I tend to enjoy coffee at home. Plus, our city doesn’t have much to choose from.

Whenever possible, I support the local shops here and Bocca Cafe in the Old City Quarter is definitely a favourite when we’re in the area. Victoria, a much larger city down island, has a fair share of great spots, many of which I still have to visit.

What does a perfect day look like?

I love Fall, so it would certainly take place in early Autumn with an overcast sky, but no rain (a rare occurrence as we live in a rainforest). We’d be heading out for a hike with my camera in tow, then back inside to warm up with a hot drink, followed by planning out the evening meal. Any day spent with family,  homemade food and our son’s laughter is a perfect day for me.

Humans of coffee: Andrew Sinclair

Who is Andrew Sinclair?

I’m Andrew and I run Mad Lab Coffee in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. I have insomnia but I don’t lose sleep over it. I’ve been a touring musician (like every other coffee person it seems), a 5 year Tesla Motors employee (Elon is my homeboy), and at one point in my life a Dean Martin impersonator for cruise ships (photos exist but I will never share them. I was an ugly Dean Martin). My life is vibrant like the ugly shirts I wear that my wife hates.

What is your favorite childhood memory? 

So I actually grew up in a 40 piece banjo band in Houston Texas called the Jubilee Banjo Band. I know, random. There was a day that me and my buddy were hired out for a gig, and we ended up playing at ZZ Tops ranch for their Christmas party. We played music with the guys and talked all night about music, gear, and life stories. I was 16 at the time so it was really a rad experience to meet a hero very randomly.


If you could have a do-over in life, what would you do differently? 

I’d actually do two things differently. One is I wish I would have never picked up a cigarette. Thats why our new sample packs say “a better addiction” on the back. It’s a hard habit to kick. Second is I wish I would’ve listened to my mentors and people with experience in coffee more. Most young baristas start coffee with a chip on their shoulder and I was that pretentious barista for years. I wish I would’ve humbled myself by listening more. In this industry its the most important thing you can do. Shut up, stop thinking about how you’re right, and listen.

What do you feel most proud of?

Usually when people talk about what they’re “proud of” they talk about what success they have had in a monetary or notoriety aspect. Success for me isn’t in what you’ve accomplished, its by how far you’ve come from where you were. I’m proud of how far I have come from my past and how far Mad Lab has come in such a short time. I’m proud of the support I have from my wonderful little family (which is definitely what I’m most
proud of). I’m proud of my journey.


If you could keep only 3 possessions, what would they be and why? 

My 1922 Bacon and Day 4 string banjo, my Stetson, and my Ikawa sample roaster. Each has a unique story in my life.

My 1922 Bacon and Day banjo is a story I like to keep to myself. Lots of emotion around that for me. But its a reminder that you have to learn how to love yourself before you can love others.

My Stetson was given to me by a loyal customer here in DTLA that I served for years. It’s a reminder to me about what it means to be in the service industry. If you take care of others, those people tend to take care of you.

My Ikawa made me better at my craft. It really helped me understand what I was doing in roasting. In such a competitive city like Los Angeles, not too many people are mentors to others who just want to learn how to be better. Its a reminder to me that I will help anyone who asks for help. I grew up watching Mr. Rogers and I remember him saying “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

What do you want your tombstone to say? 

“He loved people a whole lot more, instead of a whole lot less”.


What is Mad Lab Coffee? 

My passion project is Mad Lab Coffee. I’m able to freely create, curate, and discover coffee inside of what we do. Its exciting to be able to create without censorship or rules. I’ve played by the rules of “specialty coffee” and took the time to really understand those rules. Because to break all the rules you have to understand all the rules.

I think that’s one of the main obstacles holding our industry back. Stupid rules. There’s a barista here in LA who was fired because she was pouring latte art left handed. Yes. True story. Those rules piss me off and theres no rationale for them.

So I try my best to be the change I want to see in the world of coffee in that aspect. I collect data at every turn and conduct as much research around it as I can. If theres a number, figure, or chemical analysis we can perform on the coffees that Mad Lab carries, I find that data and compile it. That’s what makes it a passion project. I’m passionate about finding hard data that grows our knowledge of coffee and enlightens us to keep creating and curating.

What is your favorite kind of coffee? 

My favorite origin right now is India. There are a lot of great coffees coming out of India that people aren’t jumping on because its not your typical source for amazing coffees. People are afraid to buy coffees that they don’t see other roasters using. Everyone tends to source the same. Everyone wants to be safe and ritualistic. I like risk and spontaneity.


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

You’ll see me regularly at the San Julian Cognescenti coffee location in Downtown LA. CoffeeHall in Chinatown. No Ghost Bears (formerly Coffee Colab) in Downtown LA, and Dinosaur Coffee in Silverlake.

What does a perfect day look like?

Waking up after 8am. Then taking the family for a walk in Downtown. Of course we’re grabbing some pancakes at the Pantry. Then heading to the roastery to sample roast coffees. Move onto cupping and compiling data on coffees. Then getting nerdy by turning on our Sanremo Opera and pressure profiling our coffees to taste. Start winding down by sitting down to read the news over a solid batch brew. After that a beer at Ham and Eggs in Downtown LA. Then ending the night back home for a long walk with the dogs, then sitting with my family over a nice dinner.

What do you do when your body doesn’t agree with coffee?

Coffee is a peculiar thing.

Some love it, some hate it. Some start their day with it, others can’t make it through a day without it. 

It can be cheap and incredibly unpleasant or it could be made in a way that resembles art. 

For some it is all about the brewing method, for others it is all about the ratio between milk and espresso. No matter what your relationship with coffee is, how and when you drink it, what roast, whether it is organic or fair trade — we all have one thing in common when we sip away on that cup. It’s the intake of caffeine. 


I am no coffee connoisseur, but I would say that I certainly know a good coffee from a bad one and I prefer to have good ones (to be precise, a flat white, medium roast, organic if possible, no sugar).

When my options aren’t good, I opt out instead and when my options are good, I’ll walk an extra mile for it. I love coffee for the taste, the ritual of making it and how it simply bring people together. 

I don’t drink coffee to fuel me, neither do I drink coffee for a certain image (yes, some people drink coffee for public perception) and definitely don’t drink it to keep me awake, because I love good sleep way too much. 

The unfortunate thing is, as much as I love coffee — my body (or more specifically my endocrine system) don’t like or tolerate it at all. 


Women metabolise caffeine differently than men — and certain women, like me, are even slower at breaking down caffeine due to their genetic make up. 

The result? A liver that needs to work much harder than its capacity that gets ‘behind schedule’ with all its other duties. Like detoxing the rest of your body from the gazillion toxins that we are exposed to daily, without even knowing.

Have you ever experienced a backlog of work? Well, that was my liver. Constantly in arrears with metabolising caffeine and unable to do its daily chores to keep me well.

In January 2017 I finally connected these dots about coffee and my hormonal imbalance, better known as PCOS. I asked for help from a friend who also happens to be a holistic health coach (with a history of PCOS) and she confirmed my concern. I knew there is only one way to find out — to go cold turkey on my coffee habit and see if my suspicion holds truth. 

What followed mesmerised me.


After 10 years of having irregular menstrual cycles (sometimes once in 6 months), my cycle started to regulate. Not perfectly, because caffeine isn’t the only false instrument in this mystical hormone symphony, but without a doubt I could see significant change. 

Not only did my cycles love me for it, but my afternoon anxiety disappeared all of a sudden. 

After more than 6 months of not touching a coffee, I tried one again and felt so disorientated that I actually called off my work and meetings that day. It wasn’t a good sight, or a good feeling. Clearly, the impact was real. 

Now don’t get me wrong here, I still love coffee and I really do have my days where I wish my genetics away, but in order to flourish and feel well, I have to carefully consider when and how I expose my body to caffeine. 

It really helped me to understand the science behind it, and I personally find a lot of wisdom from Alisa Vitti, founder of Flo Living. She even goes as far as to say that (all) women shouldn’t be drinking coffee at all. 

You can’t unlearn what you learn, and for me, my truth is that caffeine doesn’t serve my wellbeing, whether I like it or not. 


Do I still sneak in a coffee now and again? I do. I am currently trying to figure out if there is a way to still have a coffee here and there without setting off a domino effect on my hormones. Do I want to be completely coffee-free? Yes, I do – because I know I feel my best without it. But the struggle is real, because once you’ve fallen in love with a good cup of coffee, it is hard to fall out if it again. 

On a final note —

Currently I only treat myself with a cup over the weekend and if I happen to be going to the mother city, my latest favourite is the newly opened Pauline’s in Sea Point. For those of you who can have coffee, please do yourself a favour and go have one on me. 

Feel free to get in touch with me if you find yourself in a similar situation. I know it can be a frowned upon conversation to have, but that is exactly why I open up about it — so that other women can see the light before they hit the caffeine tunnel.

This post was contributed by Marize Albertyn, founder of sheisvisual, a creative studio that tells visual & tactile stories through design & thoughtful curation. She also has one of the most beautiful instagram pages in the world. All photography in this post by Marize.

Humans of coffee: Katya Katkova

Who is Katya Katkova?

A marketer turned a barista and then a coffee-shop owner turned a coffee-obsessed blogger. Also one of those thirty something millennials who can’t function without a new project in mind.

What is your favourite childhood memory?

Once my dad was teaching me to ride a bicycle. I couldn’t keep the balance and he would support me holding the boot. As I was focusing on pedalling suddenly realised that I’m riding on my own and my dad is far behind. I will always remember that amazing feeling of euphoria mixed with a reverent fear!


If you could have a do-over in life, what would you do differently?

I’d definitely move to London much earlier. This is my happy place and I don’t understand how I lived without these messy streets, polluted capital air and weekend markets in my early twenties.

What do you feel most proud of?

I would love to think (and be proud of) that I played my part in gentrification of East London. Although it’s a mixed feelings term I’m happy to be an early ambassador of this part of the town coffee scene. Publishing a coffee-shop guide to Hackney at the time when all tourist maps were geographically limited by the first zone of London was a big step for me.


If you could keep only 3 possessions, what would they be and why?

Been practicing to be unattached to things for a while now, so could easily let go of all things material. Experiences are so much more important, therefore would hold on to my passport for travelling. Would also keep my iPhone and Macbook for work.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

Life is too shot to get offended, assume the best and move on. That is my motto right now and hope will stay relevant for a while.

What is the East London Mornings?

East London Mornings started off as a publishing project in 2010. After releasing the sold-out guide to East London’s coffee shops, the project was adapted into an Instagram version of it with a stronger focus on lifestyle and food culture. Exploring hidden corners of Hackney, the project gained thousands of followers very quickly and is loved by locals as well as visitors.


What is your favorite kind of coffee?

Seriously enjoying Biftu Gudina from Ethiopia as writing this.

I drink a lot of coffee during the day. I’d start with a flat white, following by a V60 and probably mocha to wrap the day up.

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

Climpson & Sons if I found a spare hour before heading to work, Morty & Bobs if I need a quiet coffee & wifi moment and most likely Ozone if I have a meeting.

What does a perfect day look like?

That would be Sunday. I wake up later than usual but early enough to have that pleasant feeling of achievement by midday. I’d head to Columbia Road Flower Market for a catch up with friends over the breakfast in Campania & Jones. Then visit one of the latest exhibitions in Tate following by a brunch somewhere back in the East of the town. In the evening I’d head back home for some book or Instagram time in a bubble bath and an early night.

Humans of coffee: Ashley Els

Who is Ashley Els?

I really struggled with this question – it’s something that I’ve been wrestling with for a while now. It’s easy to define ourselves by what we do and what we have. The culture of today tells us this and leads us to neglect the essence of who we truly are at our core, down at the fibres that we have been woven together with.

I recently have discovered who I am and will forever continue to do so… I am a teacher, a lover of all things coffee, an amateur writer of sorts, lover of people but above all a son of my loving Father.

What is your best childhood memory?

Definitely travelling down to my grandparents, who lived in Outeniqua Strand (a beautiful stretch of the Garden Route), early in December. I’d go before the rest of my family and spend time with my precious Nanna. We’d bake, cook, chat, go to the beach and catch up. A week or so later the rest of the family would arrive. I remember just sitting that Christmas looking at everyone laughing, cherishing every moment. It was so wholesome and fulfilling.


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

Nothing… I shy away from the idea of “do-overs”… Being naturally flawed as a human being I continually practice to a live kinder, more loving life. There is enough pain, callousness and hurt in this world, I don’t want to be a part of that but sometimes, I am… However, I can learn and “train” not to be. The moments that most consider as “do-overs” help me to do that. They open my eyes to small moments where kindness can become who I am. The moments we’d classify as “do-overs” in our lives provide the opportunity to learn and grow. Each and every moment has shaped me into the person I am today. Without those moments that challenged me; stretched the daylights out of me; and pulled me in every direction –  forcing me to step up, mature and grow – I’d be a crappy human. Aaaaand, I still have a very long way to go. The point is, the moments that could become “do-overs”, I try see as “new-beginnings”, because it is not the end, just the beginning of a small little path of kindness and love to be paved.

What do you feel most proud of?

My family and myself…

As a family, we have had a disconcerting moment or two. One thing that stands out over the course of our lives was the death of my father. At the age of 14, I lost my father to a botched robbery. He was a staggering 37 years young.

My grandparents had lost their son; my aunts, their baby brother; and me, I lost my father at a time in my life that was crucial. Despite this, we have risen overcome the heartache (mostly, haha) and dealt with the loss. In all honesty, without any hesitation or shadow of a doubt, it is only by the kindness, love and grace that God has poured out onto our lives. Straight up, yo!

I am most proud of, and would like to honour, my grandparents and aunts for traversing the hyperborean plains of heartache, grow increasingly more loving and always being present. In the face of our loss, I’ve seen them bear the depths of their souls in anguish and from that place a compassionate and appreciative living was cultivated.

I’m kinda chuffed of myself for being who I am today (I had A LOT of help!!). By the love and grace of Jesus, friends and family over the years who have journeyed with me and have never given up and have never stopped praying, I have become who I am today. I still have a long way to go, but I have an incredible community who supports, loves and encourages me to grow – for that I am incredibly grateful. They call me out on my crap and speak life into the potential within me.


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

My Bible for sure, a knife and my cell phone. Within the Word of God I find my hope. A knife is just always handy to have and my cell phone just makes distance communication just a bit easier. Only slightly though. 😉

What do you want your tombstone to say?

“A man after God’s own heart who loved fiercely and lived kindness.”


What is your passion project?

I’m an Educator so making a distinct difference in the lives of those I encounter daily would be an aspect of my passion project. Teaching in an all-girls school, as a young male, my passion is to change their perceptions of themselves and females in general. The media devalues women and dictates who society and culture thinks they should be. It tells them that they’re not enough without a man, that they should settle for relationships that demoralise and devalue them. Time and time again I am shocked by how girls perceive the (terrible) ways boys and men are treating them as acceptable, it has become a cultural norm. My heart is to break that… My dream is that when the girls leave school that they know their value – that they are enough and sufficient as daughters of the Father and content with who they are. My passion is to see a revival of self-worth in the perceptions of the girls I teach. Similarly, the opposite for men is true – to teach them how to step up and step out. A wise woman once told me what a wise man once said, it goes like this:

“The most difficult thing about being a man is being a man.”

Let that sink in for a while…

Also, I would love to build a community that forms a safe space where people can authentically do life together without pretence. When people are accepted for who they are and when they are taught to embrace their story they can experience permanent transformation in the deepest place. I dream of a place where truth is revealed and where roads will be crossed, connecting people so that they are sustainably built into and cultivated into the people they were created to be – to fulfil their true and full potential.


What’s your favourite kind of coffee?

There are so many. I just really love all types of coffee! If I had to narrow it down, I would choose the following two: a ristretto cappuccino (always a double!!) I used to be a big double capp and americano (when I thought milk was for babies) fan – I then saw the light… The flavours in the ristretto capp are just that much more soul soothing.

Ultimately, a Chemex is a firm favourite – the flavours are always so prominent and because of lack of milk one can have a few cups without “over doing” it (not that there is such a thing in a barista’s life, psh). There’s always extra to go around so the Chemex is like a community coffee, which is always (mostly) a fun time!

I’ve had some pretty incredible single origin Burundi beans out of Long Miles Coffee Project and a few delicious Ethiopian Yirgacheffes.

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

Most likely Vintage Coffee. It’s such an incredible space and I volunteer there. If you’re a Friends fan you’ll know what “Central Perk” is. To me, Vintage Coffee Menlo is kinda like that. There’s always someone you know, something interesting going down or a laugh to be shared. Other than that, I make my way out to Father Coffee in Rosebank every so often and if I’m there I definitely make a stop at EB Café – I’ve been influenced and taught well ;).

What does a perfect day look like?

Waking up early, spending time with God, sharing a Chemex and a good breakfast with my community. A day at the pool or beach with a braai and a nap on a couch somewhere in between all of that. Endless conversations with laughter and banter are a must. Ending the day with good food, delicious red wine and wholesome company would be the ristretto to my cappuccino. 😉

Follow Ashley on Instagram. Photographer: Shannon Venter