I’m new to this whole guesthouse thing so when someone told me that the two most important things for guests are the comfort of their pillows at night and the quality of their coffee in the morning, I took it to heart. We’re working on the pillows, but serving great coffee in the morning is a simple thing for this coffee lover who finds himself in more than a bit of a coffee mecca here in Cape Town.
There’s an apocryphal tale that coffee was discovered when an Ethiopian goatherd saw his animals get excited after eating berries from a coffee plant. Another fable ascribes its discovery to a Yemeni sheikh who ate berries from a nearby plant to stave off hunger when he was exiled to Ethiopia. No matter if either or neither of these is true, coffee most certainly did originate in Africa, probably near Harar in Ethiopia, and several countries on this continent today produce some of the finest coffees in the world.
We are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding high-quality, freshly roasted coffee here in Cape Town. With no evidence of the international chains that have standardised their brew and seem to inhabit every corner in most North American and European cities, the field here is given over to small roasters that flaunt their independence with equal parts eccentricity and creativity. In a 10 or 15 block stretch of downtown Cape Town, I could walk into probably a dozen independent roasters, all with unique and highly individualistic approaches.
Fortunately for my own love of coffee and that of our guests, a superb roaster just around the corner from us has been in business for more than 10 years, lending credence to its claim to be a pioneer in the roasting of specialty coffee in Cape Town. I met up with The Coffee Roasting Company‘s founder and co-owner Zita Rabek one morning a couple of weeks ago and she treated me to a coffee tasting that was a flavour tour of eastern and central Africa. We sampled brews from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda, and I brought home a selection to serve at breakfast. Zita is a downright zealot when it comes to preaching about coffee freshness but she need have no fears — a bag of her beans, usually roasted the same day I buy them, doesn’t last more than a week as our guests enjoy it both in their rooms and via French press at our breakfast buffet.
On any given morning, guests could be drinking any one of the four or five different beans we will always keep in stock. From full-bodied roasts from Kenya and Uganda to milder brews from Rwanda and Malawi to the original mocha coffee from Harar itself, a stay at Easy Five will be a coffee lover’s delight. Already it has become standard practice that guests ask me, “Where is the coffee from today?” as I put their French press down on their tables.