South Africa’s largest city is well represented by specialty coffee companies, with a select few growing out of the city’s CBD. Victoria Yards is one fascinating corner for urban renewal with artists, brewers and baristas sharing a former industrial space, now furnished with growing areas for food. Tigele Dube is started as a barista at Flynn Coffee Company before progressing to Kramer Road to join Cult. He’s an unlikely new joiner to the industry. In this interview, he outlines his journey and what he has in store for his career in the industry.

When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?
In July 2018, I was discovered by a certain lady while I was selling coconut at a market in Johannesburg. I’m sure she was impressed by my passion for what I was doing and then she felt I might have the same passion for coffee as well. The lady introduced me to Belinda who then took for training as a barista at her coffee shop. I hadn’t the slightest knowledge about coffee but within a few weeks I found myself developing a very strong connection with coffee. And so here we go, I had fallen in love with coffee, then I felt the urge to perfect my barista skill and enjoy everything about coffee.

After this, I developed some passion for coffee in the process such that at some point I had to realise that I had perfected an artist skill that could change my life for the better. Now could make plenty of different coffee drinks from just ground coffee beans.

What's the status of specialty coffee in Johannesburg?
In general, I would say speciality coffee has gained huge momentum in Johannesburg and in South Africa in general. Every coffee shop is probably riding on the 4th wave of coffee regardless of their size with a special emphasis on fair trade and their coffee products’ quality.

What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
Working with coffee has become so fashionable nowadays. Young people are keen to get into the industry as barista. I believe it gives them an opportunity to meet and interact with different people thereby improving their interactive skills that will in turn help them identify opportunities in various areas of interest. Keen explorers and people who are passionate about coffee are the ideal ones who can work in coffee. People who are innovative and are willing to learn are the ones who can work in coffee also.

If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
I believe people can choose to pursue certain areas of interest in learning about coffee depending on what exactly is their area of special interest. However, a new person willing to learn about coffee will need to start with the basics such; history of coffee, production of coffee and the products made from coffee as well as the knowledge about the equipment used in producing coffee products.

Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
There are no specific blogs or websites that I follow consistently but instead I read any coffee related articles that I happen to come across on the internet, or any other social media platforms.

What's next for your career? What's on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
I still regard myself as a learner who still has got a lot more to grasp from learning about coffee and the coffee industry in general. It is therefore my greatest wish that one day I see myself owning well equipped coffee shops that provide not just good quality coffee beverages but also that provides quality knowledge about coffee through extensive research. I’m looking forward to the next three years as the time I can start to reach my goals. I’m confident enough that by then I would have managed to acquire as much knowledge as possible as I will need to venture into a coffee business without fear.

Find Martin on Instagram at @martintigeledube