When Joel Singer, owner of Origin went to Seattle he saw great things happening in the coffee industry. It was booming and the demand for high quality, independent cafés grew day by day. Yet back in Cape Town, there was nothing of the sort. Fast forward to 2006 and Origin was born: creating a “space about people”. Origin quickly became known for it’s incredible tasting coffee, with it’s own roastery situated right above the café.
I was really excited to do an insight blog into the world of Origin after naming it my number one coffee shop in Cape Town (2015). I was blown away by the atmosphere in their café on Hudson Street. Long wooden benches filled with people chatting, eating and drinking. To the left, just in front of the coffee machine there’s a laptop club, working away in between conversations with the baristas. There’s a lot of laughter in the room and a really happy vibe.
The thing is, Origin isn’t just about coffee. Not only do they have 10 or more single origins available at any one time, they have an extensive list of Nigiro loose leaf teas and blends: from black and red to herbal and fruit. At the back of the cafe you’ll find huge ovens where you can order fresh, warm, hand rolled bagels or a delicious variety of pastries.
This is Jorge: Head of Coffee Quality at Origin Coffee Roasting. He could say it’s one of the most important roles in the business but he’s far too humble for that. Coffee has always been a huge part of Jorge’s life as his grandfather was in fact, a coffee farmer. He never imagined he would become a barista but looking back, it seemed fitting that he was asked to join the Origin team and start his own journey into the world of coffee.
I asked Jorge whether Origin had many regular customers. From my experience as a barista back in London, I know the importance of building these relationships and customer loyalty. After glancing around the room he points out someone on nearly every table in the café, by name. He tells me about the ‘three Mikes’, the ‘morning cortado’ and the other customers who’s faces he recognises. For me, that is the greatest evidence of a cafés ‘success’. To have built these relationships is a huge achievement for any coffee shop, particularly when there are so many great places popping up every day in and around the city.
“My favourite thing about being a barista is working with the coffee machine. It’s my relationship with the people.”
This says it all. The success of a café like Origin isn’t just down to the coffee or convenience, it’s about connections between people. Working with coffee behind the bar becomes a form of communication and with coffee being the route to many people’s hearts, friendships are very quickly built.
Something which many people are not aware of is Origin’s special connection with their coffee farmers. They believe in working towards a relationship model, where everyone in the process feels involved but also feel they benefit from greater quality. Jorge has just got back from South America, where he went on behalf of Origin to visit the coffee farms and learn about that side of the process. Jorge’s excitement and passion when talking about his recent trip is testament to his absolute love of coffee. I can’t help but think the importance of a relationship between Origin staff and coffee farmers is even more heartfelt when you really understand the job from a first-hand perspective.
“Knowing where the coffee is from, really motivates you”
I don’t think you can underestimate the value in this. When coffee farmers can see the end product they know what they are doing has purpose and have a greater incentive to improve quality. Quality improvements and wage increases will benefit everyone.
You can’t help feel their passion in here. If you’re into coffee and in Cape Town, be sure to head over to Origin.
A huge thank you to Grace for helping me film and photograph at Origin. It’s been an absolute pleasure to get to know her and she is one of the most talented portrait photographers I know. Check out her Instagram, it’s beautiful! I’m really excited for all the projects we have planned together over the next year, so keep an eye on her channel!