7 Things I Learned Interning At Cape Coffee Beans
As an intern at Cape Coffee Beans from the beginning of June to August, I learned more about coffee than I ever expected. As your stereotypical college student who is always on the go, I never got to spend time brewing speciality coffee. I always just grabbed a cafe latte or americano to go, thinking that was all I would ever need. After spending hours on hours working with different types of coffees and brewing styles, I realized I was doing it all wrong! I decided to create a little blog post about my experience working at Cape Coffee Beans and share a couple of the things I’ve learned about the world of coffee.
1) Brewing method makes a difference
When Phaedon first told me that certain coffees could taste different depending on the brew method, I must admit that I didn’t entirely believe him. I thought to myself, “how could a style of brewing affect a coffee’s flavor?”. I figured if a coffee was roasted a certain way, it would have the same flavor no matter which method you chose to brew it with. Through a bit of experimentation, I found that certain coffees that were less to my liking in a pour-over would taste great in a French press and vice-versa. The method of extraction seems to accentuate certain characteristics more than the others, creating two different cup profiles. I’m now taking note of which coffees I enjoy in which brew method.
2) You can brew a cappuccino at home with a simple machine
Whenever I thought of brewing a homemade latte or cappuccino, the first image that popped into my mind were those fancy espresso machines you see at cafes or restaurants. I knew those were out of my budget, so I’ve always opted for take-away lattes from my local cafe. Then I discovered the Bialetti Mukka. It’s an all-in-one cappuccino maker that is small, portable and brews coffee and froths milk on a stovetop. It may not be quite the same thing as a barista-made cappuccino, but I still think it’s a game changer as it hits the spot without the big investment. For cappuccino lovers who just want a single milky coffee drink in the morning, it may be just the ticket.
3) Don’t buy pre-ground coffee
Quality obviously trumps quantity when it comes to coffee. After settling for pre-ground coffee at home for most of my life, I had become used to the taste of stale coffee and I didn’t even know it. I always bought pre-ground because it seemed more convenient. I figured since pre-ground coffee is usually sealed tight, the coffee would stay just as fresh as coffee straight from a grinder. I came to realize within my first day of work at Cape Coffee Beans that I was wrong. Brewing coffee with freshly ground beans creates a flavor that is impossible to get with pre-ground coffee. I even started to drink my coffee black (which is something I usually never do). I’m really glad to be heading back to The States with my going-away-present Hario hand grinder, as I don’t think I’d be able to go back to pre-ground coffee after tasting it fresh!
4) It’s a lot of fun to try different coffees
My home town is a little area in The United States, located in the state of New Hampshire and is the complete opposite of a city. There a few different coffee shops but I had tasted all of their coffees and picked my favourite years ago. Instead of expanding my search in coffee, I would visit this same coffee shop weekly and buy the same thing over and over. I never knew I was missing out on so many unique coffee flavors. Working at Cape Coffee Beans and trying dozens of different coffees, from numerous different origins, opened me up to a new spectrum of flavour to enjoy. Each coffee has something unique to offer which adds a little bit of excitement to the usual morning coffee routine.
5) There are real coffee geeks out there
Before I started interning at Cape Coffee Beans, I would have almost considered myself a coffee geek. By knowing the different types of roast, all the different brew methods (or what I thought was all of them) and having knowledge of the different styles of coffee drinks, I thought I was the ultimate coffee lover. Having worked here opened my eyes to an entire world of coffee I didn’t even know existed. Talking to many different customers, I learned that South Africans are serious about their coffee. Cape Coffee Beans has a group of customers and clients who go above and beyond for a good cup of coffee. Some even go to the different brew competitions on the hunt for the perfect coffee and I aspire to reach that level of coffee fanaticism. I must admit that when I moved here, I didn’t even realize that people were weighing their beans to get a consistent brew ratio. Having lived with coffee-loving Capetonians for two months, I’ve learned I have a long way to go to become a real coffee geek.
6) Espresso doesn’t have more caffeine than a cup of coffee
Somewhere along the way of my coffee journey through life, I had gotten the idea that espresso has more caffeine than a regular cup of coffee. In reality, a double shot of espresso only has 80mg of caffeine whereas filter-style coffees can have a lot more. Whenever I thought of a latte or americano, I would associate it with a higher caffeine content. Little did I know that a regular cup of coffee would have done the trick even better than my espresso drink of choice. After switching to pour-overs, I could already see a slight improvement in my Monday morning work speed.
7) Entrepreneurship is worth the long-term efforts
My entire life I have wanted to open up my own business which is why I was so excited about coming to South Africa to work for Cape Coffee Beans. I needed the experience of working for a start-up company and being able to watch them grow. I had taken many entrepreneurship classes but I knew it would be more informative to experience a small business first-hand. I had the opportunity to work with two great entrepreneurs, Phaedon and Dianne, who own Cape Coffee Beans and Studio2Pilates, two successful small businesses that I was lucky enough to immerse myself in, while observing what makes them operate efficiently on a day to day basis. Although it involves hard work (and very few days off) I can see the efforts pay off when you are doing something you enjoy. Even just interning for two months, I started feeling a sense of satisfaction when CCB had a big day of orders or I saw more people at a pilates class. This has given me a little taste of what it would be like to open up a business and I feel grateful to have learned many tips that I will use in the future when it comes time to open my own.