Coffee People: Juan Terblanche

Friday, 23 February, 2024

By Ayanda Dlamini 

I’m glad to be a part of a generation that embraces diverse ways of connecting with people. I’ve really become a digital nomad when meeting new people, more specifically coffee people. My algorithm consists of at least 80% coffee content and as a result this is how I met Juan. 

Juan Terblanche is a dynamic and charismatic engineering student whose passion for coffee extends beyond mere appreciation for the brew. For Juan, coffee is more than just a drink, it’s a gateway to the captivating world of coffee machinery and engineering. If you're familiar with Juan, you may know him from Instagram, as a representative of Henlo (South Africa’s first producer of commercial coffee machines). Through Juan’s engaging videos, viewers are invited to explore the inner workings of commercial machines, in a way that is anything but intimidating. With Juan’s charisma and knack for simplifying complex concepts, his content becomes entertaining for those that don’t even know much about the industry. 

I reached out to him because I admire the artistry of coffee that he represents on social media. I appreciate how he’s simply a young engineering student who has found a way to incorporate his love for coffee and engineering by making videos that are both entertaining and educational. 

Can you share a bit of your personal journey into the world of coffee? 

My parents would drink coffee every morning, but at the time I sort of hated the taste, I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t believe how people could be “addicted” to coffee at all. Then my first year in University came about, I was trying to attend all my classes around that time, which I mean was almost impossible. I would get sleepy in class and from then it all really started. I began taking instant coffee to class, drinking it out of the lid of my flask and it would help me stay awake for the hour. The more I drank it the more I thought, surely this could be more enjoyable ? One thing led to another, I began watching videos with James Hoffman, Lance Hendricks etc. I then thought, maybe I should get myself a good hand grinder and a French press. I finally bought myself a good hand grinder, and now I have about 6 or 7 ways to make my coffee in my cupboard even though I only use 1 or 2.

What inspired you to start creating Instagram videos about coffee? 

When I started becoming a coffee “snob”, I would chat about coffee things with my friends and they wouldn’t understand what I was telling them. I could see they were trying to listen to me, but they didn’t actually understand what I was talking about. Then I thought of the idea of making videos; maybe this could be a way to help them understand me better, and a way for us to understand each other on that level. There’s a friend of mine that I sought advice from who runs Instagram pages and manages people’s posts. She’s quite a wise person and suggested that I should just start making coffee videos. “What’s stopping me?” is the mindset that got me going. Especially because it’s a path that I see myself in long term, so I might as well start making videos now. It might look stupid at first, and feel awkward at times. But I just know in a year’s time, I’m going to be glad I started now. 

Can you share any behind-the-scenes moments or fun anecdotes from your experience filming coffee-related videos?

It’s a challenging thing to learn on your own. I have this pour over stand that's now turned into my tripod. I don’t really have anything else, whatever I can find, I’m just stacking things to help me film. Also, for me it’s important to remember the process that made me fall in love with coffee. It’s relaxing and it’s an art, and sometimes bringing video into that can take away from that experience, so it’s also about balancing the two sides of it for myself. 

What is your favourite way to drink coffee at the moment? 

Definitely a pour over. I went through that phase of having a distributor, a WBT, got myself a dosing funnel too - everything felt like it had to be perfect. And then the more I made coffee, it began feeling like a hassle. I just want to wake up sometimes, and make myself an easy coffee, like I don’t want it to be a piece or art always.

How did you get involved in the mechanical side of coffee? 

I went to Caloroso Roaster & Eatery in George. Their cafe burnt down a few years ago and they’ve now renovated and gotten a new machine and it looks really nice. One day I went into the cafe to get a coffee. It was the best coffee I had ever tasted. It was a flat white with just the right amount of sweetness, without any additives. I then got a chance to chat with the owner, Kelvin Appelgren, who’s always there. I asked him why the coffee was so good, and the first thing he said was that it was the machine he uses. You would think he would brag about his beans first, but he couldn’t stop talking about the machine. He then showed me the roastery and spoke about all the machinery and the roasting  equipment, explaining all the work he put in for about 20 years - fast forward a few months later when I got back to university for my second year. We got told that we were required to do vacation training. So as an engineering student, I immediately looked towards the training that involved robots and trucks, thinking this would be a cool experience. But then it hit me, to reach out to the guys at Henlo. I thought this would be fun because it aligns with my field and interests, plus the guy that owns the brand is a mechanical engineer, so he could sign off my training papers for school. So, I took a chance and emailed him. I didn’t know much about the brand at the time but thought it would be cool to get involved in the engineering side of coffee. The next morning I woke up to a response in my emails which said “sounds good”. Henlo thought of me as a good fit, and from there I really just jumped straight into it. I’m grateful because since then, I’ve learnt so much and met so many amazing people along the way. 

Whether you’re a coffee enthusiast or a curious observer, Juan’s videos offer a captivating glimpse into the heart of coffee-making technology. If your algorithm looks anything like mine, join Juan on his journey as he continues to grow and while brewing more creative concepts, one video at a time.

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