Passion and pride is pushing Nino's coffee to the top of the pile.

Thursday, 11 August, 2016
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Yesterday I had a delicious coffee. Two rosettas from perfectly micro textured foam split the cup against a rich hazelnut espresso, inviting my lips to the cup as the aroma of caramel filled my nostrils. Deliciously bright like ripe cherries with a lingering chocolately aftertaste dissolving in the comfort of the milk. I tasted this delicious cappuccino standing in front of the shiny Genio roaster recently installed at Nino's Head office.

There I said it. Ninos.

Multiple barista Top 6 finalist, Wency Masawi made it for us on our visit to their new Roastery. Wency and the Godfather of coffee within the group, Bernard Muneri, have stepped up and convinced the Franchise group to invest heavily in the duo's vision for bringing high-level coffee to Nino's.

Let's pause at this point and contextualise the situation. Franchise coffee houses in South Africa run to a set of strict formulas and deliverables. It's a corporate game, a numbers game and a strictly controlled game. It's like the fully automatic bean to cup machine vs the bespoke, manual espresso machine - one is built for button-pressing consistency with average results and one is built for skilled users with potentially excellent results. Up until 2 months ago, Nino's were sourcing their coffee from a massive commercial supplier and all franchisees are obligated to use what the group decides - and I'm sure if you are a consumer like me, you had experiences of very mixed results. Often bitter, dark roasted, and well, tasting rather ordinary. Which is fine for most franchises and fine for most of their customers, most of the time. But it's not fine for the Operations Manager and Head Barista Trainer at Nino's. Their vision is for Nino's stores to serve coffee that is fresher, more flavour-packed and better made than any South African Franchise coffee offering currently available.

Bernard and Wency convinced the Nino's management to spend a significant amount of money on South Africa's biggest locally built Roaster - A Genio 35kg, designed and assembled by local engineer and coffee professional Neil Maree and his team. We could write a whole article on Neil and indeed he has featured significantly in the Coffee Magazine over the last 4 years, building and improving his roasters and exporting them all over the world with great success.

Wency Masawi and Bernard Muneri - the dynamic duo taking Nino's coffee to the next level by roasting in-house and delivering their Franchisees fresh coffee every 10 days.

The Genio 35kg roaster is the largest locally manufactured roaster in South Africa.

So Mel and I are standing in front of the Genio Roaster and Bernard and Wency are buzzing around like busy bees in their new found Hive, constantly chattering to us about development times, moisture loss, de-gassing times, blending and quality control. "It's a franchise game" says Bernard "We are roasting over a ton of coffee a month for our stores and outlets - of which there are almost 40 - and we capture the data of every tiny detail of every batch for future reference. We cup every batch before and after we blend" and they have even invested in a special heat-sealing bag that records a batch number and date-stamp on the seal!

So what does this mean to you as a coffee customer?

For a start, it means you can expect a much better coffee at Nino's. By better, which is obviously very subjective, I mean a shift towards the kind of coffee you'd expect from a top Independent Roastery or coffee shop. Sure, Wency made my coffee and Nino's is a big group, but the ethos of WBC style standards is fast spreading through the organization. "We have 6 baristas who are taking part in the SCASA events this year in KZN and they are going to be challenging for the title" says Wency, who trains the baristas along with Bernard. Wency has consistently placed in the KZN Top 6 for the past 4 years and Bernard is the current KZN Cup Tasters Champion. Bernard has also been on the organizing committee of the SCASA competitions in KZN for the past 5 years and has been a judge at Regional and National level almost since the beginning of coffee competitions in SA, almost a decade later.

What really impressed us the most is how passionate Wency and Bernard are. How much fun they're having there. They are genuinely excited for their franchisees and their company too, because you can see how proud they are of this step. The operation is a very down to earth one. Walking in to the factory is like going to meet two entrepreneurs in their garage, even mixing the blends in a bright orange, plastic cement mixer (ingenious!) - yet the technology and the sophistication of the roasting set up is world-class and they are achieving high level, high volume success. You can see they're having a good time, you can feel their energy and their absolute belief that this will make a HUGE impact on the reputation of Nino's coffee and they are genuinely excited about it.

And so are we.  

Wency pours the green coffee into a holding chamber, from this point, every single tiny detail is automated and digitally controlled, recorded and logged. The coffee beans are moved via a series of vacuums through the entire process.

Genio power! 

Signed by Neil Maree, the designer, engineer and installer of the Genio range: proudly South African!

We loved this! The House Blender is this groovy, lumo cement mixer!
The delicious end-product of Wency and Bernard's labour of love. We're excited for the future of Nino's coffee!

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