Coffee Culture, Lesson #1: Glenn Harpur, Blackwood Baristi

Firstly, thank you so much for all’a ya’ll mad numbers yesterday, showing up for the online party that was Andy’s new video. We had tons of positive feedback and are to excited for what’s coming. Carrie On Fo’ Sho’.

As I previously promised, I now get to introduce the last of the three new series’ zero31 is presenting. Let’s recap shall we?

  • General music vibe: check.
  • East Coast Colour tattoo series: check.
  • Carrie On skate/surf series: check.

Now it’s the turn of our beautiful city’s coffee vibe. I only know how to do coffee one way and that’s properly.  Coffee is the day-time nectar that pulls and holds this community together. We’ll party with each other until early in the morning, most of you no doubt bingeing on alcohol, but it’s this smooth, black, juice of the gods that we drink with each other the next morning as we recap the previous night’s regrets.

So, who am I that I give so much of a crap about coffee. I’m no-one. I did a bit of small-fry barista vibes back in the day. Tried my hardest to get into the coffee industry but was left to fill my seat as Mr. Prosumer. I love this drink. I run on it. I crave it. Truthfully, I dream about it.

If it wasn’t for me there would be hordes of people who have passed through my life, who would still be drinking instant like it’s the real deal. I spread the good news. Fact.

That’s who I am but enough of me, meet Glenn Harpur of Blackwood Baristi. Durban-based coffee trainers and consultants, Blackwood Baristi have joined the group of coffee evangelists catalyzing the local coffee explosion.

Here’s his journey with coffee.

Coffee Culture: 3. 2. 1. check.

I must admit that I didn’t get into coffee for the taste, the smell or the high.

I got into it for the image.

I suppose that makes me a bit like a smoker, especially when you consider the fact that, while other twelve-year-olds were sneaking looses out of the Engen Quick Shop, I was contemplating how drinking coffee would increase my street cred and make me more like the cast of Friends, who, despite the fact that none of them seemed ever to leave Central Perk (except for Ross the Palaeontologist), always seemed to have money (except for Joey the Struggling Actor).

Two of a boy’s favourite things: dress-up and heavy machinery. Photo by Warren Goldswain (Shot at Colombo Fine Beverage Co.)

Of course, back in those days, my idea of a good cup was three sugars, milk and light-brown solubles from a tin with a label that rhymes with “disco” (Nestle don’t sponsor this blog, do they, Dré?).Anyway, somewhere along the line I began to mature – image faded as a motivating factor and I fell head over heels for the taste, culture and challenges I found in coffee. I started with a simple burr-grinder and a filter coffee machine my parents received as a wedding present and began scouting Durban for the best cappuccino and espresso I could find. I acquired a cheap home espresso machine so I could experiment in the kitchen. I spent hours on the internet, obsessing over the intricacies of milk-steaming and shot-pulling, desperate to somehow create at home what I saw on the screen. I’m now the very happy owner of a semi-commercial setup and I still get the sense that there’s something out there that I’m missing; that no matter what I do, there’s always someone out there with a better cup of coffee than the one I’ve just made and that thought drives me mad!

I’m getting a bit philosophical here, but what I’m trying to say is that, for me, coffee is about more than just the taste – although that’s undoubtedly my favourite thing about it – I love the process of making a fantastic cup, whether it be pour-over filter, stove-top espresso or cappuccino. I derive a genuine and deep satisfaction from starting my day with something perfect, something beautiful. I love going to work knowing that, no matter how the day goes, I’ve done something right before I leave the front door. I firmly believe that since so much of life is the small and mundane, we should try to enjoy those moments.

flat white

The most evocative drink in the world.

The Durban coffee scene has grown tremendously over the last five years and, in my opinion, one of the best things about it is the ever-increasing prominence of local, independent roasteries. These companies offer better, fresher and, in general, more environmentally-friendly coffee than the international coffee corporates that used to dominate the local scene. Café owners are starting to realise how invaluable an asset it is to be able to speak to the person roasting their coffee and to have a team available to train their staff to get the best out of the beans. I love the fact that nowadays most Durbanites know that a cappuccino is not a superheated, vaguely coffee-flavoured milkshake with the consistency of nuked candyfloss.

Basically, coffee, when done right, is such a beautiful thing that’s it’s a shame to not let it be all it can be. It’s a social conduit, a creative outlet and the tastiest substance I know.

I love it.

Glenn Harpur
Blackwood Baristi

If you want to do coffee the proper way at your next function, get hold of Blackwood Baristi and ask them about their new mobile service.
They’ll bring the machine, they’ll bring the barista, they’ll bring the coffee … you bring the party.