The King of Caffeine... the inspiring story of Lovejoy Chirambasukwa.
Six years ago Lovejoy Chirambasukwa - A natural born barista, had been in the coffee business for only four years when he was crowned the 2013 South African Barista Champion and All Africa Barista Champion. The year before he had won the inaugural Speciality Coffee Association of Southern Africa Latte Art Competition, so it was clear this young man was destined to make his mark in the world of coffee.
Flash forward to 2019 and Chirambasukwa (37) is now the roastery manager for Craft Coffee in Johannesburg and planning a future which involves one or two coffee shops of his own and inspiring the next crop of coffee professionals.
In advance of a tour of the Newtown-based Craft Roastery being organised by The Design Assemblage on Wednesday, October 23 (details below), we sat down with him over a cup of high quality coffee - of course - to find out more about how it all began.
Can you tell us how it all started? I was born in the small Zimbabwe town of Banket in and moved to South Africa in 2009 following the economic collapse of the country. My coffee journey began after I saw an article in the Cape Times about a guy who was looking for people to train as baristas for his Origin Coffee company. I had nothing to lose as I literally had only 50 cents left in my pocket. I was that guy who used to sit on the side of the road waiting for odd jobs so that I could get money to buy food for the day. But Jake Easton from Origin had a tiny slot in the training school and just gave me a shot and from there I never looked back.
Tell us about Craft Coffee and what makes it different from other coffee roasters out there? Craft Coffee is the brainchild of our parent company called The Daily Buzz which was started in 2006 by Andrew Brown. He was working for one of the major banks and was frustrated by not having a proper cup of coffee when he was at work. He spotted an opportunity to change the coffee landscape and Craft Coffee was born. As the name infers, it is all about passion, skill and knowledge. We pride ourselves on unlocking the potential in everything that we do and we the best part of what we do is to make everyone’s day enjoyable. We roast coffee to perfection and have a team of people that are highly skilled and passionate about all thing’s coffee.
Where do your beans come from? We work with a couple of green coffee suppliers and we are all about ethically sourced coffee beans. At present our roastery has coffees from various parts of the world - from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, Brazil, El Salvador, Kenya, Uganda and Guatemala to name just a few. We are always on the lookout for the most exciting and delicious coffee with a story behind them.
How long does it take to train to be a barista? It takes only two to three days to train someone to become familiar with the coffee and the machines they will be using in a café or restaurant but it takes forever to become a really good barista because a really good barista never stops learning.
What is the secret to making the perfect coffee? The secret lies in a few important things; the coffee that will be used in terms of flavour; the understanding of the coffee equipment and, without doubt, the love and passion for coffee is the greatest key. My golden rule is if you can’t drink it yourself then it’s not perfect.
What coffee do you always order when out and about? Because I work with coffee on a daily basis, I taste or drink my coffee in different ways so every day is different. To be able to taste what the other roasters are doing out there I will either have an espresso or a v60. This allows me to assess the flavour as well judge the quality of the coffee being served.
Tell us about the local and international awards you have won. I was the Latte Art Champion in 2012 and went on to represent South Africa in Melbourne, Australia. The following year I was crowned the South Africa Barista Champion and All Africa Barista Champion. I have also won accolades for Best Espresso, Best Overall Impression for Presentation, Best Cappuccino and Best Signature Drink.
What sort of thing do you have to do at these Barista Championships? At the championships you have to bring your A-game and wow the judges. You are judged on three aspects, coffee knowledge and taste, technical skills on how you operate your equipment and on how you present yourself (as you become an ambassador for your country in the specialty coffee field). Of course you have to make coffee for the judges, talk about the coffee in terms of how it was roasted, why you chose that particular coffee and explain the flavour or taste notes to the judges.
Can you tell us what those who will be touring the Craft Roastery with The Design Assemblage can expect? Lots of coffee tasting and information sharing. I live coffee, breathe coffee and sleep coffee. Those touring our roastery will be privileged to witness the coffee roasting in action, get to have their questions answered by our coffee expects, get to do some cupping session with us, which is a critical quality process in the manufacturing of coffee, and get to meet the ordinary Lovejoy in action and share his coffee experience with them.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? Life permitting I will definitely still be involved with coffee, hopefully running one or two coffee outlets of my own, serving some amazing coffees and teaching people about coffee. I also want to inspiring the next crop of coffee professionals and travel and tour coffee farms both at home and abroad.
Anything else you would like to add? My other passion - apart from coffee - is product development and innovation and I recently developed a hot chocolate that is being served across all our sites and also sold to our external clients. I also love farming, am a big Manchester United fan and I love cricket and music.
To tour the Craft Coffee Roastery with The Design Assemblage on Wednesday, October 23 from 10:00 to 12:00, book through Quicket at https://www.quicket.co.za/events/86525-coffee-club-craft-coffee-roastery-tour/#/. Tickets are free but numbers are limited. The Craft Coffee Roastery is located at 50 GwiGwi Mrwebi Street, Newtown. For roastery bookings or training enquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (011) 492 0501. You can also order coffee for home brewing online on www.craftcoffee.co.za.