Cornelius Van Niekerk, aka @mountainbarista, combines his love for coffee and hiking mountains. It’s a simple, yet genius concept: Visit the places you love, and have your favourite coffee when you get there. @mountainbarista is doing just that and people are taking notice. Week in, week out we’ve been following him on some amazing hikes and admiring his highlife coffee moments. We spoke to him about his flavourful lifestyle combining coffee making and hiking.    

How did you get into the hiking + coffee combo?     “I really love coffee & had a little camping gas stove and mocha pot. So I started taking them on hikes. It seemed like a really good idea: when you get to the top and reach a nice view, you sit and take a moment to appreciate it. It slows you down – I sit there, grind the beans & soak it all in. I enjoy how the process forces me to really enjoy the surroundings. I’m also into photography, so I decided to share my hikes & coffee moments on Instagram.”  

Spring Butress Traverse

Do you hike every weekend?      “I hike as much as I can. Sometimes I hike during the week – I’ll do a quick route on Table Mountain. If I have a free weekend, I venture a bit further, sometimes as far as the Boland Mountains.“

On Instagram it looks like all you do is hike and drink coffee, but that’s most probably not what your everyday looks like. What do you do for a living?      “Well, yes, my everyday looks quite different – I’m a competitive swimming coach! I swam at varsity and represented South Africa in lifesaving at the Commonwealth Games in 2012. I do strength and conditioning specifically for swimming and coach at Tygerberg Aquatic – very different from what you see online!”  

With the Aeropress Go, Spring Buttress Traverse

Favourite brewing method?      “I switch it up a bit, but I really love the Aeropress, especially the Aeropress Go. It’s so compact, I love how the brewer and cup come all-in-one. The coffee it brews is also brilliant: you can manipulate it depending what type of coffee you have. I grew up making coffee with a french press. At home, I also use a pour-over, which is great for some lighter, fruitier coffees.”

Where do you get your beans from?      “I get my coffee from the Coffee Roasting Company in Somerset West, at Lourensford Wine Estate. It’s a really nice place to visit and they’ve got a great market there. I’ve been supporting them for the past five years because they roast very fresh. They also have a very wide variety – over 50 single origins so I can always mix it up. ”  

The Jonkershoek Panorama route, doing its name justice

Most scenic hike you can recommend in the greater Cape Town area?      “There are two that are really, really nice. I love the Jonkershoek panorama route. It’s incredibly beautiful, as well as accessible. The view point is great and there are two waterfalls on the way back.  I also like going to the Limietberg area. There are a few nice trails around Bainskloof along the water. So if it’s hot in summer, you can take a swim.”

Most memorable place you’ve had coffee?      “On Matroosberg summit, in the snow! That was definitely an incredible moment. The snow is a completely different scene: we were the only people up there, everyone else had turned back because the wind was so hectic. We hiked through knee-deep snow with no trail to follow. At the top it was -6 degrees, with wind gusts up to 40km/h. The chill factor was insane. Any exposed skin felt like it was burning. We found a nice sheltered spot at the summit and made a coffee. It’s a moment I’ll never forget!”

Coffee in the snow, Matroosberg

Where’s the last place you had a coffee that was brewed by someone else?      “At the Boston Coffee Roastery (@bostoncoffeealtydvars, 5 Park Court, Boston, Bellville ), which is 5 mins away from me, in Boston. There are quite a few roasteries in the area here.”

If someone had to offer you Ricoffy, would you drink it?      “Probably not! I haven’t found an instant coffee that impressed me…yet. I know in the States they have craft instant coffees but locally I haven’t found one I’d drink. I make fresh coffee every day.”

What’s the greatest length you’ve gone to to get a coffee?      “Does driving an hour and a half count? I was out of coffee and all the places close to me were closed, so I drove through to Strand for a coffee, which is pretty far from me!

Lastly, what’s your life motto?     “I guess it sounds a bit corny, but to live life to the fullest. Life’s pretty short, we don’t know how much time we have so there’s no reason to have a bad cup of coffee, or waste any time!”

A rare Mountain Barista selfie


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