If like me, you’d been wondering what happened to all those garagiste winemakers who agitated the spittoon a few years back, I can reveal they’re now roasting coffee in Robertston. A few popped up on boer soek ‘n hoer, a TV program seeking to fix up farmers unable to pen lonely hearts ads to the Hitching Post column of Farmers’ Weekly with poppies. While others, like Hanno Schwartz (already married) are servicing the coffee requirements of those Ethiopian traders who have made Robertson an unlikely ground zero for their flourishing smousing empires.
These Ethiopians are truly the lost tribe of Israel, replacing itinerant Jewish smouse at the end of the 19th century with a new generation of hawkers of curtains, carpets and clothing, supplied from dusty Japanese cars rather than wobbly British bicycles.
Well the beans they boil in those clay kettles for hours have now made the two hour journey down to the Mother City where they are ground and poured for the gaggles of models and artists in Rose Street in the Bo Kaap at the Haas Coffee Collective. Not Kaas and definitely not Naas, as the hare-shaped hairy mat outside the front door confirms, but Haas. A deft Dutch touch that fits in with the narrow architecture – a bruine kroegen from Amsterdam among the city’s brown people.
We tasted three different coffees yesterday: the infamous Kopi Luwak made from beans processed by the alimentary canal of the palm civet; Jamaican Blue Mountain and Yemen Mocha. You could detect the hand of a winemaker behind the choice for the Kopi Luwak was a Bordeaux blend of beans selected by the civet – some Arabica, some Robusta. A field blend, if you like. Stomach enzymes had stripped off the heavy, bitter oils and produced the elegance and finesse of a First Growth.
The Blue Mountain was 100% Arabica and was as rich and warm as a Grand Cru Burgundy full of nuts and chocolate while the Yemen Mocha, the only African coffee from the continent that invented the stuff, was wild and spicy like Pinotage. While Durban dames call to check that the civets were free range and Cape Town radio jocks focus on the cost of the Kopi, at R80 a cup I can report it the same price as the 2007 Nederburg Ingenuity red blend we enjoyed on Saturday for R400 a bottle at Pepenero in Mouille Point, which nobody thought unduly expensive.