As most people are aware, the 2010 FIFA World Cup is being held in South Africa and kick-off is imminent. In an effort to help Woodsmoke readers find the best cup wherever they might be in the Beloved Country, Glenn will be profiling coffee shops in as many of the host cities as he can.
As a Durbanite, I’m not supposed to like Cape Town or, for that matter, her people. I’m supposed to find the place and its denizens pretentious, conceited and “earthier-than-thou”. I’m supposed to resent the way they refer to their home as the Mother City and the fact that their opposition-controlled province seems semi-detached from the general South African reality. But, as a honeymooning coffee-lover with an affection for natural beauty and a taste for the good life, I can’t help but grudgingly admit that the place has a lot to offer, particularly to the discerning coffee drinker.
Much of this may be attributed to Origin Coffee Roasting, who supply beans to, and train baristas for, many of the coffee shops in the Cape Town area. These guys take espresso seriously (I particularly enjoyed the sign they used to have on their menu – something to the effect of, “All espressos come as doubles; if you want a single, drink half.”) Their own coffee shop is an industrially stylish hub of espresso learning and appreciation. At street level is the sparsely furnished but very comfortable café, where you can buy any one of a number of different types of beans from places like Brazil (I’ve just finished two home-pulled double shots of their Brazil Samambaia – delectable), Kenya, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Guatemala and many others. The second floor houses the roastery, where you can watch staff members browning beans to various levels of deliciousness, and the barista training school where my wife and I watched an Origin trainer patiently explain (whiteboard and all) to a class the function of a “naked” portafilter. The third floor, which I’d not visited until my most recent trip, offers a more extensive food menu (the bottom floor serves a small selection of lighter, bagel-type fare) and (I think) an outdoor seating area. Being there solely for the coffee, however, my freshly-minted wife and I didn’t get a chance to test the third floor’s victuals, although I must say that the menu was tempting.
I remember my first pilgrimage to Origin being somewhat of a revelation – never before had I tasted espresso as nuanced and appetizing. I felt, in short, like Origin had shown me what espresso could be. However, I must say that my four or so subsequent trips – three of them undertaken last week – have not yielded quite the same type of euphoric experience. The espresso, while still very tasty, wasn’t as mind-blowing as I remember that first cup being and the cappuccino, while full flavoured and generally well proportioned, was a little too hot, with milk not as expertly micro-textured as one would expect from this centre of espresso excellence. I did try, and I would recommend that you do too, the Three-Quarter Flat White. This size, to my mind, allows the espresso to speak more clearly than does the regular-sized cappuccino and the last Three-Quarter I had at Origin was quite delightful.
Possibly my favourite part of visiting Origin, however, is choosing a bag of beans to take home. I’ve had a number of bags from them and I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed. The Origin crew really does excel at bringing out the best in a bean, roasting it to just the right degree for it to yield its full range of complex flavours, which they then very helpfully detail above the various boxes of beans on display in front of the counter. The average price of a 250 gram bag of beans is R80 and you can find Origin on Hudson Street in the De Waterkant area of Cape Town’s city bowl. Parking is available across the road and, if you’re visiting Origin, the first hour is free.