CRUSH CHATS TO Coffee Roaster Mzukisi Xhati
From gardener to master coffee roaster, this has been a worthwhile journey.
The real-coffee culture continues to boom in South Africa and as it has grown it has begun to change the lives of many local people. One such person is Mzukisi Xhati. Mzukisi’s love affair with coffee didn’t start out in the way that it did for a lot of us. It didn’t develop from having his hands wrapped around a cup of warm brew in some trendy hipster coffee joint, but rather more fortuitously as he worked as a labourer on a building site.
The owner of the building site spotted something special in Mzukisi, he showed initiative, and proved himself to be a very quick learner, dedicated to everything he did. After the building project was finished, he moved on to doing some gardening work and this soon led to him getting his driver’s license. He then took on the role of driver for three days a week for Quaffee speciality coffee roasters. Warren, the owner of Quaffee Coffee in Constantia also spotted Mzukisi’s ambition and ability, and saw an opportunity to take his skill level up another few notches and to teach him about real coffee. Warren’s first lesson taught Mzukisi that the coffee they were making didn’t need his normal three sugars and milk to be enjoyed, and that those additions were destroying many of the coffee’s true flavours. Mzukisi’s education into the subtle flavours and aromas of a well-roasted cup of coffee had begun.
Mzukisi’s potential talent for roasting was immediately obvious, and Warren decided that the next step was for Mzukisi to be trained by Stephen Diedrich, the owner of Diedrich Roasters in America, who is considered to be one of the top roasters in the world. This would be Mzukisi’s first trip overseas and understandably, he felt the pressure of their expectation on him. While completing the course, Stephen Diedrich was apparently so impressed with Mzukisi’s innate understanding of coffee roasting that he offered him a job and a place to stay in the USA. Luckily for South African coffee lovers, he is happily married and so returned to SA bringing all his newly acquired coffee roasting skills back with him.
The Diedrich Coffee Roaster used at Quaffee is a complex electronically automated system and was a challenge for Mzukisi since he had never used a computer before – but he mastered this in no time. Mzukisi prefers to roast some beans manually as he says that he finds it be more accurate for certain bean profiles. At Quaffee, he is dealing with 26 different coffees all with different roasting profiles. He can now tell where the beans are from just by looking at them. Beans are roasted on demand at Quaffee to ensure the freshness of the end product.
“To roast coffee you need great patience and concentration,” says Mzukisi. Definitely don’t try to chat to him in the middle of the roasting process, this time is critical to keeping the heat and air flow correct, ensuring that the beans turn at the right point. With most highland coffees, he likes to keep the heat lower in the beginning to keep the beans from drying too early. If this happens, the coffee will not develop its intricate flavours. Coffee has really changed Mzukisi’s life; hard work has made it possible for him to forge a new career path and to uncover his true passion.
Order one of the 26 roasts available online from Quaffee. They range from easy drinking, to medium and balanced, to dark and full-bodied. There are also a couple of limited edition coffees. One common thread you will notice is the undeniable attention to detail that comes from Mzukisi’s passion and skill.
Quaffee Bloc, Buitenverwachting, Constantia | 021 794 298