The land that wraps around Table Mountain is building a dense cluster of coffee shops, holding on to the tip of Africa by raising standards in specialty. Simple bru Coffee Co. is one of the new arrivals, now with two venues. Here’s an interview with founder, Jacques Pienaar, which navigates the transition from part-time coffee to starting a career with longevity.
When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?
In 2018 I began barista work as a part-time job while completing my master’s degree at Stellenbosch University. This was where I was introduced to the complex underbelly of the coffee industry and was then undecided whenever asked ‘what coffee would you like’ - there’s really no singular answer.
From here my small part-time job became a hobby, evolved into a lifestyle and into roasting facet of the coffee chain.
What's the status of specialty coffee in Cape Town?
Oh man, it’s sick. Although I’m still very fresh in the industry, I believe the specialty scene around Cape Town has fundamentally shaped the way I approach coffee, and has injected such inspiration and aspiration into what we aim to achieve at Simple bru Coffee Co.. The specialty scene in Cape Town is still in its formative phase but in our still small developing community it is competitive and stimulating - the standards are increasing dramatically. It’s also cool that there’s a mutual sense of cooperation among the specialty scene as we have an understanding of working together to forward the industry in South Africa as a whole.
What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
Creative people who are confident in themselves and have an underpinning of grit. The industry in general can push you to your mental and emotional limits. Often trying to push specialty coffee - its weird and wonderful taste profiles and elevated prices - can be met with resistance from customers here (which is OK), and so a dash of resilience in your confidence is important in specialty.
If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
As with anything, building your knowledge and spacial awareness of the industry is important. Tasting different coffees, roasted in different ways and brewed well in order to experience the vastness of coffee is an important start. Then I think obviously spending a lot of time behind the bar or roaster helps hone in your skills. Building strong relationships with others in the industry also contributes to your general awareness of the industry going forward.
Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
In South Africa we have an incredible source which both shares information and knowledge surrounding specialty coffee, acting as a sort of glue binding the members - The Coffee Mag.
What's next for your career? What's on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
I see coffee continuing to play a primary part of my journey, not only for the next three years but throughout my life. Practically I want to focus on improving my skills behind the roaster. Experimenting with more progressive roasting styles so as to bring out ever more complex and flavourful cups of coffee. Further, I want to pair this experimental attitude to roasting with venturing deeper into sourcing coffee directly from like minded producers and in all this work at both growing our own company and the specialty industry in South Africa.
Find Simple bru Coffee Co. on Instagram at @simplebrucoffee
Locations are at 5 Marine Circle, Tableview, 26 Beach Road, Mira Mar Centre, Melkbosstrand