Cafe of the Week: Highland Coffee Roastery

Monday, 1 June, 2015
Highland Coffee Roastery

Found in the quaint mountain town of Clarens in the Eastern Free State, this micro-roastery, shop and espresso bar is the perfect antidote to a frosty winter. The cozy little cafe is a popular stop for both locals and tourists and with the new addition of a gallery to their premises, there’s no reason not to pop in.

Chris Pefanis, Roastmaster of Highland Coffee, shared on the story behind Highland Coffee.

Interview by Megan Pilditch

Why a micro-roastery in Clarens?

My wife, Sigal and I received a payout from the RAF in 2009 after a bad car accident in 2002. At that time we had been visiting Clarens for a couple of years and had gotten to know a few people here. We were living in Johannesburg at the time, my wife was trying her hand at self-employment working from home doing web development and I was feeling frustrated in the city.

I eventually managed to convince her to take a chance and use the money to move to Clarens and buy a business to try a change of lifestyle and we bought a young bakery. The seller suggested to us that it would be a good move to combine a coffee roastery with the bakery and by the end of 2009, we had taken that advice and set one up alongside the bakery. For the first year or so, we operated in conjunction with Baruch’s Coffee from Mossel Bay, and Aharon Baruch helped us find our feet in the business.

By mid-2012, the coffee side of the business had surpassed the moderate success of the bakery and we decided to sell the bakery and focus just on the coffee. By that time we had become Highland Coffee and we moved into the old Clarens Brewery premises closer to the centre of Clarens. We kept their old bar counter and created an espresso bar environment where it would be easy for people to just pop in for a quick coffee. In this tiny 25m2 space we have managed to build a popular spot for locals and visitors to meet and congregate over a great cup of coffee, as well as a source of freshly roasted beans for the area and beyond.

From where do you source your beans?

We rely on the expertise of importers to source our beans and use a selection of staples complemented by a changing variety of origins. Our regular origins that we also use in our blends include Guatemala Huehuetenango, Brazil Serra Negra, Colombia Exelso and Cameroon Blue Mountain. These are complemented by a changing selection of single origins such as Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, Rwanda Nkora, Uganda Bugiso, Costa Rica Bromelia Fancy, and Sumatra Mandheling.

What can people expect from sipping on Highland Coffee?

We serve our Espresso Blend as our house coffee, and the flavour profile of this we like to describe as dark chocolate-covered orange peel candies - a bold dark chocolate start with an orange citrus finish.

Why the new store expansion?

This year our neighbours moved out of their shop and we grabbed the opportunity to expand. We joined the two shops with a passage and the original idea was to create a roasting space so we could roast during normal working hours! We’ve become so busy that it was mostly impossible to roast in the café during the day and we had to roast after hours. Since the original plan conception, Cape Town artist, Desiré Crowther, approached us to combine forces and create a gallery and roasting space. We went ahead with this idea, and now have an espresso bar/roastery/gallery combination and the place looks awesome!”

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