It's All In The Beans
KIMBERLEY FOOD SCENE - ANGEL HEART
I probably drink too much coffee. After many years of happy caffeine consumption, I switched to different types of tea for quite some time. I am still teased about a specific day in a teashop. Let’s leave it at the fact that I was left behind tasting and buying tea by two ladies who could not wait and went sauntering to other shops. So what does this have to do with coffee? I returned from Europe being spoiled by the high quality of their coffee and I simply could not drink instant coffee anymore. It tasted like water. That is probably an insult to people who prefer water, but there was none of the richness and flavour and many other fine merits of a nice cappuccino.
So one Wednesday morning we met with Wally and René, the co-owners of Angel Heart, a Kimberley gem where the coffee experience is lived. We arrived at Angel Heart shortly before 07:00, on a wintry morning, still feeling the effects of the recent cold front. The traffic in Long street sailed past behind us in opposite directions, everyone on their way to start the new day. Through their windows they would find it extremely difficult to miss this caffeine beacon with the larger-than-life red heart in front of the store. I sat in the car, shivering and waiting for my first cup.
When you walk into a real coffee shop, the aroma and smells are enough to cause even a non-coffee junkie's mouth to water. When we entered the store that morning, the coffee masters had just started calibrating the machine. The smell of medium roast - Wally’s favourite - hung in the air.
Brewing a cup of coffee has become an art. Long gone is the time where boiling the kettle was enough. Now you use very sophisticated instruments which have to be calibrated accurately. The milk is not merely frothed; the micro density of the foam should be exactly correct. Let’s face it: coffee making has become a scientific art form.
Wally started working with coffee at Fruit & Veg’s Seattle coffee shop. He has spent many hours on Youtube being taught about the right temperatures, the right pressure and everything else necessary to produce the perfect cup of coffee. Every morning he would arrive at 03:oo with the bakers, and experiment with everything from the quality of the water to the level of the bean roasting, from the texture of the coffee grounds to the froth of the milk. To a man focused on mastering his discipline, this was no problem. He quickly developed his own unique brand of doing things, which was great preparation for his achievements at the national barista championships. His specialty is a macchiato and it is worthwhile to enjoy one next time you visit this shop.
He knows his customers and quickly remembers your order, so without ordering, my cappuccino grande simply appears a few minutes after sitting down at a table. One quickly gets addicted not only to the coffee but also the energy. Here there is no wi-fi and if you pay attention to your cellphone too long, you will quickly here his voice easily carrying from the bar to you, because this man believes we need to communicate directly with each another: not via social media, but in person. René tells us about their customers. Many of them share the ups and downs of their lives with Wally, René and their helpers. Angel Heart has become a safe place for them to talk with friends about anything and everything, and they return again and again for their informal caffeine counselling sessions.
To Wally it is important that a coffee shop should be filled with energy. He doesn’t trust a prim and proper, quiet barista. Coffee energises people, therefore a meek and mild barista is highly suspicious to him. He creates this energy by talking directly to each customer, greeting them on their way in and out and making time to ask about their day. All this happens from behind the coffee machine, which translates to a high-decibel environment, which translates to energy, and that’s exactly what Wally aims for.
So when you visit a master, listening and watching him work and then drinking the liquid aroma is amazing. For this self-taught barista from Roodepan it was not enough to make coffee; he wanted to express himself through his coffee and he is definitely doing just that.
If you have not been there, find this Kimberley treasure. If you have, you know what I am talking about; you know the feeling of being greeted, being energised and for a few moments losing yourself in Wally’s workshop away from normality, smelling and drinking true pleasure.
As we left the shop, the iciness of the morning was broken, not by the physical temperature, but by the warm caffeine treasure in my belly.
WALLY'S COFFEE TIPS Purified water Full cream milk Medium roast coffee beans