It’s the same with coffee, as a Cape Townian I know where to go and what to expect when I go there and because of this I rarely if ever have a bad coffee experience. I guess that makes me a winner and winning does not only feel good but it tastes great too.
Sadly this is not the case when I travel.. When traveling I am a loser who’s had so many terrible experiences that I can publish a book with lots of 4 letter words describing my experiences. I called on Winston to help us help ourselves when we’re playing away from home.
Winston Thomas is a seasoned coffee professional who holds more titles than Mike Tyson, he’s a humble guy with an open face (whatever that means) passionate about coffee and this is his gift to us.
After my recent blog on my 5 favourite coffee experiences in South Africa, the MoreFlavour team asked me to do the same on my favourite cafes in Durban. Earlier this year I went on a little “tour” of cafes around the country working shifts in some and visiting others.
We also had creative coffee week a couple of weeks ago and I had another chance to visit a few new spots in Durban. Now, let me make this clear. This is based on café spaces NOT best quality brewed or roasted coffee. That would be a completely different topic which is way too subjective to narrow down. The quality of coffee does play a role but I am commenting on the overall experience of the spaces mentioned. First some ground rules – contributing factors range from coffee, food offering, service, staff and even parking (which can be a deal breaker at times).
I first visited Colombo at the original space when I was in Durban for my first National Champs in 2016. Back then the café space was known as the factory café although it has since moved to Durban North. As I remember this was an institution in Durban with many of the now leaders in coffee being birthed here. The new spot is very conveniently located (based on my few visits to Durban) with plenty of parking – both free and payed parking. What I enjoy most about Colombo is the options. I’m a milk in the morning, filter and espresso for the rest of the day type of guy so having options is always a plus in my book. On my visits there the seasonal blend is usually the espresso option and more for filter however, if you happen to be in the good books of the staff then anything is possible.
I am not one to sit and work in a café all but the WI-FI is good and they have simple food options. The central location does mean that there are other food choices close by if the mood is for something slightly more filling. Second to the coffee options has to be the staff. A diverse crew full of energy, I always enjoy engaging with the Colombo team!
Started in 2014 by the infamous (and SA Barista Champion of 2014) Craig Charity, Lineage Coffee has become somewhat of an institution in Hillcrest KZN. The space acts as a 3 in 1 as I like to call it. Café, Roastery and Tech space. At first I thought I would find Craig avoiding all admin work and trying to spend most his time behind bar, instead I found him avoiding all admin work and spending time working on equipment in the tech department. He has an impressive collection of refurb projects which are visible to customers who choose a table close enough to this section of the space.
This is about Durban cafes though and not the life and times of Craig Charity. The reason why I mentioned Craig escapades though is that, because of Craig’s impressive coffee ability, one would think that the reason by behind the success of this establishment is because of his presence behind bar. It is quite the opposite.
Lineage has a bad ass team of staff who are more than capable of producing a world class coffee experience whether or not Craig is behind bar. I watched Barista Kgune pull of a morning rush like no other and master roaster Fanie jumping in when needed. There are no waiters serving tables, everyone is coffee focused. Similarly to Colombo there are light food options, both espresso and filter options for coffee.
I like to call them the new kids on the block. I was lucky to fit in a visit shortly after my arrival for Creative Coffee Week. This space belongs to Jamie and Dylan Da Silva, the dynamic duo as I like to call them. The couple have been involved in the coffee scene even before I joined in 2014. They recently spent some time facilitating barista competitions throughout the country while still running the wholesale coffee business. Now they finally have the opportunity to open their café space. And it is beautiful!
A modest sized café space with the addition of a patio in front of store and a very cosy courtyard out back creates a different atmosphere in each space. The best way to describe it is “people friendly” and I marvelled at how community focused the space seems to be, having been open for such a short period of time.
Quite a few people were parked off either for a meeting or to work, making the most of the capable wifi connection. The coffee offering is only espresso based (for the moment) but barista Ceejay makes the most of this, decorating the flat white and cortados with beautiful latte art.
“A space that is void of distraction, an escape if you will, while providing an exceptional coffee experience. An experience that educates and exceeds expectations.” This was taken directly from their website and if I had the ability to describe my experience as eloquently as this I probably would. Situated in the stylish SMH store, prodigy is the birthchild of Dylan Botha (Noble Coffee) and Craig Smith (Ground Coffee House – which is high up on KZN spots to visit!).
This was my first coffee stop when visiting Durban a couple of months ago – literally taking an Uber straight from the airport, baggage and all. The location seemed rather unconventional at first and I initially thought my driver had taken a wrong turn. Then out popped the SMH building. I was very happy to find Dylan in store and he proceeded to give me the lowdown on the store. The rest of the “prodigies” were extremely friendly. Barista Nelly made me a tasty flat white and was more than happy to smile for photos. Judging on the beautiful interior the space she must be used to it. One cannot help but snap a few shots.
In Conclusion. My pick for KZN will be Colombo Coffee with Skyline coming in at a close second! They say there is no substitute for experience and Colombo have definitely made the most of their long standing experience for coffee and people and provided a space that ticks all of my boxes. If I were based in KZN this would be my staple coffee hangout. That being said there are quite a few spots I have yet to visit in KZN so this time next year you might find a completely new list.