Warren Machanik is a roaster that a lot of other roasters look to for in-depth conversation about coffee and to see what's the latest in coffee experimentation. Always up for a debate and a man true to his principles, he's a valuable part of the coffee community.
Warren (right) pictured with Donovan McLagan of Cabal Coffee at A Shot in the Dark 2018 where they shared 3rd place.
How did Quaffee get started?
Quaffee started from a personal pursuit of fine quality coffee. In 1995 I tasted my first fresh roasted Ethiopian Arabica coffee (pan-roasted by a local Italian mama). The next decade was a quest to find great coffee to enjoy at home, in South Africa. This mission and the belief that there must be a few others out there like me was the seed that became Quaffee. An opportunity presented itself in 2006, so I launched a website and started sourcing good fresh roasted coffee. Quaffee’s target was and stillis the home consumers and small business owners. Initially we roasted under a partnership with a fellow coffee lover. In 2011 that changed with his passing, and we then set up our new roastery at Buitenverwachting in Constantia.
What does Excellence in Coffee mean to you?
For me, excellence in coffee is the pursuit of three things: Quality, Sustainability (from seed to cup) and Humility. By being exposed to better and better quality coffee, our perception of quality changes. At the same time, it is essential to consider how coffee gets to us, how the environment and the people are treated on its way to us. At the same time, you need to be humble and appreciate the 1000s of hands connected through each cup of coffee. Humble enough to consider that your opinion is one of billions.
One of the things that we have always loved about Quaffee is the way you empower your team, has this been an intentional decision on your part or is it just natural as part of your business ethos?
It is indeed intentional (and a lesson from the past). Any company is only as strong as the team within the company. The personality of the company is the product of the people within it. Every member is involved in decisions around the business and the coffee and products we offer. The ethos is inclusive and we are always looking local for everything we can. Right livelihood is an ethos I strive to live by.
What has been the highlight of your coffee journey so far?
There have been many. From visiting the origins we source from, meeting the producers there, to coffees that make you fall in love with flavours of coffee again to the wonderful supportive clients (we call them fellow coffee lovers) that have come with us on the journey. But even considering all these, the highlight has been seeing how given opportunity people within the Quaffee team and those we work with have shone. Every time I reflect on our journey to now, that has is a consistent highlight.
This frog is the mascot of Quaffee and has been all over the world with Warren. Find out why here!
What is exciting you in the world of coffee at the moment? You always seem to be on the cutting edge of new ideas!
The world of coffee is an exciting place to be (and one that rewards daily). Besides the great coffee, we taste all the time, and new processes appearing almost monthly. New initiatives linked to transparency and giving more back to the producers are slowly taking root. It is also inspiring to see people driven by coffee to uplift themselves and their community. The slow and steady growth of specialty in South Africa makes one proud to be part of a culture that never sits still, and always wants something a little better.
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