Last year, my wife and I visited our daughter and son-in-law in Melbourne, Australia. One of their favourite past times is to visit the many bespoke coffee shops in this metropolitan city.

It got me thinking about the Mother City, and while Melbourne makes a claim to being the “centre of the coffee culture world”, Cape Town surely is the capital city of South Africa in terms of the number of independent roasters.

I would like to share the story of one of the newer independent roasters, Blue Door coffee. Last month I reflected on a father daughter duo in hospitality. This month, I want to share the story of a father son duo in coffee.

Robert and son Dewald van der Westhuizen are the pioneers behind Blue Door coffee shop at the Harbour Bay centre in Simon’s Town.

They are originally from Pretoria and moved down to the Cape at the end of 2014. Robert was in photo copiers and Dewald was about to start matric in Fish Hoek. They reflect that they were both looking for a fresh start. Away from the chaos and busy-ness of Gauteng.

The start of their journey:

They went to a coffee roastery in Dullstroom one weekend and were intrigued by the whole process. From the delicious aromas that came from it to the business aspect that sounded appealing. Once they settled on the business concept, they started to look for roasters and found their Giesen coffee roaster in a restaurant in Franschhoek.

It was more of a show piece there and the owner could squeeze another four tables in its place. That’s where their journey started. (Don’t despise small beginnings, for they can lead to amazing vistas!) They sell online and through their shop. They also package for other cafés; and they also sell bags. Dewald added, “So, there’s always a way to get your coffee fix!”

They had no prior background in the coffee industry, and it was more of trial and error, learning and burning coffee as they refined their skill and started to understand the ins and outs of coffee roasting. Their original shop was low rent, up a side road in Simon’s Town and a little hidden gem.

Unfortunately, it was too hidden to be sustainable, but with plenty of free time came a lot of practice, giving them the opportunity to refine their skills both on roasting and in the actual preparation of making and serving coffee. They conclude, “it was a blessing in disguise, allowing us to build a strong foundation.”

I asked Dewald about some lessons they have learnt on their journey.

Consistency in quality and experience is what makes them shine. They create a family like feel environment; like the coffee shop in the series Friends, it’s where people come to unwind, catch up and enjoy coffee and company.

They believe good coffee will entice people to have a second cup. But what keeps them coming back is the feel of the shop.

In a cafe, they believe the vibe comes from the people that work there, not the clients. They create the homey environment with loads of jokes, banter and of course, delicious coffee! (My wife and I love both the atmosphere and the red cappuccinos). Challenges will always arise, and I wondered how they navigated Covid.

Covid was tricky at first, but they found a valid way to continue operating. They placed tables at the entrances with clear collection and order sides; correctly distanced from one another allowing people to order without technically entering the shop. This gave people the opportunity to get out of the confinements of their homes and enjoy connection, in a socially distanced setting.

I asked what they would say to new entrants? “The coffee culture is ever growing. Good luck to all who decide to venture down this road, but if the product is good, and made with love, then it will succeed!”

Without a vision, the price is always too high. Where do they see themselves in five years’ time? They would like to have another shop (or three) yet, they will stick to their roots of intimacy and customer staff relationships; creating that home away from home experience. They are always learning from their experiences; so more time equals more experience, which means even better coffee.

Finally, I asked: what principles have you applied on the journey? “Quality over quantity. You can feel when coffee is made with love, so be sure to have people who make the coffee that enjoy doing so. You can taste their unique individual flair in the cup. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so be patient and consistent.”

Any final thoughts?

“In the high stress, busy lives that we all live these days, a sit-down coffee is exactly what we need. Take the time to sit, relax and enjoy the smaller things. Life is too short for bad coffee!”