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Where the big dogs are

The interior of the Big Dog Cafe shows off industrial materials.

As I walk through the glass doors of the café on a wintry July morning, droplets pattering on the paved walkway, I feel as though I have strolled into something very, very special.  On entering I am greeted by the dark, alluring scent of freshly ground coffee beans, with wisps of vanilla silking through the air.  At the counter to my left a barista is bustling, working magic.  Water droplets condense on a carafe with lemon water.  The smell of something decadent from the kitchen.  In the garden a willow tree blows listlessly in the wind.  But inside, it is warm, welcoming and friendly. Michael, the owner, is even more so.

We sit down at a beautifully uncomplicated table.  My first questions are why Terbodore and what is the significance of the dog in the logo?  He laughs.  “It’s what people used to call us, back when we started”, he reminisces, “where the big dogs are”.  The memories of humble beginnings are etched on his face and there is a silent, confident pride.  “Terbodore is a combination of my mother’s father, grandfather and aunt’s names.”  “But it was difficult for people to remember – so we decided to honour the Danes and call this the Big Dog café.”

This is the term affectionately used by locals to refer to a little family-run coffee roastery on a farm in the KZN Midlands, years ago.  What began as a nameless labour of love amongst rolling green hills, punctuated by authenticity, passion, quality of life and the antics of three large Great Danes, has grown into a brand as endearing as it is successful.  Having first come to Franschhoek in 2011, Terbodore has taken on an irresistibly inviting, fresh approach to coffee and the way we enjoy it.  The newly-opened Big Dog café, as opposed to Terbodore (which is now exclusively used to refer to the roasting aspect of the business), is a stage for Michael’s passion for coffee, food and design.

Brick, leather, bare concrete and wood adorn the interior of the café – a tribute to Michael’s vision of creating warmth with industrial materials.  A sliding glass door separates the interior from the garden – “we wanted as much glass as possible there” he says, for a sense of space and flow.  His wish is to make the mystery of coffee accessible to the public – not only through selling products (of which the edible ones are all made on the premises), but to in future offer lessons.  There is also a colourful, bold new face to the coffee packaging on its way soon.  The cafe serves a number of freshly made delights – a first for the brand, which Michael is incredibly excited about.

I am given a tour of the premises, and by the time I leave, my next visit is already planned.  I will certainly return to throw this dog a bone.