I have had such a lovely morning learning all about coffee! I am quite delighted to have found The Colombo Fine Beverage Co and suspect that I shall be back quite often.
There are several reasons for my gushing: the place, the people and the produce. Colombo is a family business which has been in existence for 87 years. Started by James B. Richardson and his son in 1923, Colombo has gone through several guises to get to 2010 and its premises at 369 Gale Street. Today, Colombo is run by a dynamic, passionate group of young guys including James B. Richardson’s great grandson, Victor.
Colombo resides in a large, bright, airy warehouse space scattered with coffee roasters and tables and chairs. Hanging from one wall of windows at the moment are the finalists’ designs from Interpret Durban and, from the ceiling, a chandelier made from parts of an old coffee roaster. The roasters themselves are the most dominant feature of the space. One dates to pre-World War One and another is a super-shiny modern machine and most are still in use.
It is no wonder people are drawn to Colombo as the people who work there are cheerful and welcoming. I arrived just as they were about to do a cupping and I soon felt like I’d known Victor and Kyle, the marketing director, for years as they explained some of the intricacies of coffee harvesting, roasting and brewing to me. It seems as though every step in the process becomes an opportunity to influence the final product. At Colombo, they source beans from all over the world and then roast them in the machines you see there to create their own blends.
The process of cupping was fascinating. The point is to taste the coffee and then decide what else needs to be done to it in terms of roasting before it is ready for serving or packaging. Cupping is a delicate process. Firstly, the water has to be the right temperature, “Ideally 92 degrees,” Victor explains. “It is better to have coffee that is a little cooler than coffee that has been burnt by water which is too hot.” At Colombo, they use thermometers to get it just right. The next thing is to pour the water in such a way that the ground coffee is wet through evenly and then to let it stand for exactly 3 minutes – and I mean exactly three minutes as each cup is timed separately in order to get it just right. A table spoon is then used to push away the beans to release the aroma (heavenly) and then to mix the top layer through the coffee. The silt left on top is then removed using two spoons and then, my best bit – you SLURP it! Yes, slurp, like soup! The point is to atomise the coffee so that the olfactory nerve at the back of your throat is stimulated and you smell the coffee as much as taste it. What fun!
Colombo is obviously all about coffee and their product is fantastic. Colombo has several different brews for all sorts of occasions and palates and knowledgeable baristas (i.e. the people who serve and sell the coffee, not those who roast it) to sell it to you. The passion with which the Colombo guys speak about coffee is tangible and you leave without the slightest doubt that your coffee has been brewed with care and attention to the smallest detail. My husband is going to be delighted to hear that Kyle advises you to drink freshly ground cofee within two weeks – a good reason for an extra cup a day! Colombo’s newest range is based on the fascinating stories of James B. Richardson’s expeditions to coffee producing regions decades ago. James was more commonly known as Jas B. so this range is called Jas B. Richardson’s Voyage. With appealing packaging, Kyle’s recommendation for a great Christmas gift (you knew I would get a Christmas gift idea in somewhere, didn’t you?) is a hand-grinder, a good plunger and a bag of Jas B.’s Voyage.
The reason that I have chosen today to write about Colombo is that they are hosting the Durban Wholefood Night Market tonight from 6-10pm. If you feel like a great cup of coffee, a buzzing atmosphere and some high quality fresh produce for the weekend, don’t miss it.
For more information about Colombo Fine Beverage Co. call: 031 205 3283 or see http://www.colombo.co.za/