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Coffee man

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Coffee roaster Jommo Nkunika shows off another finely roasted batch.

Walking towards the entrance of the Big Dog Café the same thought always pops into my head: I wish that aroma could be bottled! The aroma in question varies a bit; sometimes it’s a bit fruitier and sometimes more chocolatey, but it’s always enticing. Regulars will know that the source of the aroma is the Terbodore Coffee Roastery that one passes on the way to the café. The roastery is the domain of head roaster Jommo Nkunika. The Tatler paid him a visit to find out a little about what he does.

Jommo, who seems to wear a permanent smile, has been with Terbodore Coffee Roasters for five years.  He started in the production team doing things like loading and offloading and packaging. Like cream, he rose to the top and was soon training as a roaster, before eventually becoming head roaster. It is clearly a role he relishes.

Terbodore hand roasts all their coffee; nothing is automated. This means Jommo has to keep a sharp eye on what’s happening to the beans in the roaster and keep meticulous records to maintain consistency between batches and ‘vintages’. As a wino, I was struck by the similarities between blending coffees and wine. Like grapes, coffee beans vary based on the varietal, their origin and the particular harvest’s growing conditions.  All these factors and even the ambient temperature and humidity in the roastery have to be considered to ensure that any particular blend tastes the same from one year to the next.

Like winemaking, coffee roasting is part science and part art. It is clear from watching Jommo control the roaster that he has successfully mastered both parts.  There is no time for slacking.  Between feeding the hot belly of the roaster with a fresh batch of beans; controlling the temperature; visually inspecting the roasting beans; listening to and interpreting the crackling of the beans; emptying the roaster; cooling the beans and writing down every detail in a log book there is barely time for, well, even a coffee!

The coffee-drinking public will be happy to know that they can share in Jommo’s coffee wisdom by making a booking for Terbodore’s “Cupping Experience” on Friday afternoons at 15h00. (Reservations essential, max 8 pax)

Jommo may have been raised on a Malawian tea plantation, but today he’s truly a coffee man.

Text & Image: Editor