Speciality Coffee Shop – Research

Ever wondered what goes into setting up a small coffee shop? Or what type of research has to be done before the big day?


It just so happens we are in the process of opening a speciality coffee bar in Knysna. Because I value service and appreciate good coffee, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. But that was not enough. I wanted to take it to the next level. Often I have been disappointed by the lack of creativity from South African coffee shops. So, I will be trying my best to set the bar very high and to do something South Africa has never seen before. Are you ready? Here goes nothing!

For fun and games, and for the curious entrepreneur, I decided to document the progress and to share the adventure with everyone. Over the next couple of weeks I will post regular updates. Feel free to join in, to share your thoughts and input on our social media platforms. On twitter you can interact with @PolvoCoffee and on Facebook there is a page for Polvo.

Okay, so where do I find myself at the moment? Before you even start thinking about setting up shop, there is something that must be done. This is a golden rule: research, research, and more research. Before even registering the company, I have done loads of research. I wrote an article about coffee shops for The Coffee Mag, and from there I never really stopped researching the coffee trade. At times it went into the early morning hours, much to the annoyance of my wife.

Research done, I began planning the shell of the business, the legalities. Not unlike giving birth to an idea, the business needed a birth certificate, an Identification document, and a name. I acquired the necessary documents from our accountants and prepared everything. While my fancy pondered the abundance of coffee-sounding names and the play of words only a crime writer could enjoy, I began focusing on the other important part: the coffee.


This is a daunting exercise! If you are planning to open a coffee shop, then be unique. With all the competition in the Garden Route, we had to plan something so unique that when the customer tastes our coffee, they would remember who we were and where they bought it. A return customer is usually a loyal customer, and loyal customers are bread and butter. Here my wife and I set out on a coffee- and tea-sampling mission, meeting with coffee roasters and tea merchants until we had an idea what we were looking for. Here I often hit the Net looking for info. Yes, that qualifies as research as well.

IMG-20140524-00297 Where to open? The key rule to opening an eatery has always been location, location, location. But how important is that when you are planning a speciality destination coffee bar? It is still pretty important, but in essence it is far less vital than people make it out to be. We looked at the town through new eyes. Over a couple of weeks we examined traffic, type of client, weather, public transport, and we analysed all this information. It became clear that our target customer cancelled out a number of promising venues. So, I went back to town and took more notes, scouting for the prime location. I did warn you that research is important.

Then the theme of our coffee bar, became a focus topic. What would make us different to other coffee shops? How would we perfect the coffee experience? And how would we be able to squeeze all of that into a small manageable shop in Knysna? More research!

Now we have prepared the paperwork, a name was on the verge of being formed, some great coffees have been sampled, some great venues have opened up and an idea of a theme has appealed to us both. Our baby was taking shape.

Next entry I will elaborate a bit more on the above points and some new ones, like shop fitting, logo design, marketing, cutlery and more.


Finally the part of the journey that makes the skin tingle and the mouth salivate. Well, I guess its true if you are a wine buff or an alcoholic. Either way, let’s look at the wines.


Wine is a diverse indulgence. I do not object to viewing it as a living breathing animal, that engages with a drinker on many different levels. As such, each wine and each drinker generates a series of variables which differentiates wines and drinkers in exponential terms. What might be heaven to one, is madness to the other. It might be Mozart vs Eminem, or Gewurztraminer vs Cabernet.

We began the morning with a visit to Arabella, where we were fortunate enough to see the unveiling of two new wines, the Natural Sweet White being the finer of the two.
Weltevrede cellar tour
Next we attended an underground cellar tasting at Weltevrede estate with the wine maker as our host. As an event this was by far the most intimate and most educational experience. We were led through old wine compartments, which had been broken through to reveal a cement maze underneath the present winery. Philip Jonker, winemaker and heir to the Weltevrede estate, explained the Methode Cap Classique process in detail, belayed his passion for wine making and spoke about his experiences in France, all the while allowing the flickering candles and mystical atmosphere to add to the romanticism of wine.

From there we hopped from estate to estate until there was no more hopping left. There were so many wonderful wines to sample, from whites at Springfield, the delicate Blush at Bon Courage, to the dominant ruby red at Robertson. From a masterful Bonnievale Chardonnay, a deep and soulful Cab at Viljoensdrift, to a Cigarbox red at Weltevrede, and a brave Wolvendrift Red Muscadel.

arendsigWe rounded off the day with a visit to Esona and Arendsig, where I spoke a bit with winemaker, Lourens, about his unique approach to viticulture. His isolated block farming method allows the winemaker to accentuate the power of the grape. He is a man who makes a call on instinct, and it is seldom a wrong call. From experience I can assure any collector that Arendsig wines mature fabulously!
James and Marlene Fouche Alas, here are the wines that ruled the day…

Bon Courage – White Muscadel

This dessert wine has a growing list of accolades. It is demanding in the mouth, yet subtle enough to help rounding off a meal. The Bon Courage signature is the lingering flavour. For some reason it made me think of a yellow honeysuckle flower.

Springfield Estate – Life from Stone
EC Life From Stone 2013
Rooted in quarts stone, this Sauvignon Blanc has a pleasant ruggedness on the tongue and a refreshing mineral aftertaste. The wine has a history in its design, something wild and concrete. A fascinating wine.

Weltevrede – Entheos Brut

Gray in flavour and subtle on the tongue, this Methode Cap Classique – Chardonnay Pinot Noir ultimately has a happy romantic electricity about it, and it is the embodiment of the Jonker family’s passion for wine making.

Arabella – In Unison ReserveAttachment

This is what red wine is all about! It is strong and full-bodied, aromatic and deep. Think of a ripe plum, so perfectly ripe that it might burst any second. Then imagine biting into it. Add a hint of oak and spice, and that’s what this wine tastes like on the pallet.

But the reigning champ, unrivalled among the plethora of wines on offer at the Wacky Wine Weekend could only be:

layout_r2_c2Bon Courage – Inkará Shiraz


“I don’t know how he does it,” I said, staring at the glass in disbelief, taste buds not sure what to do.

Bon Courage’s Shiraz and Cab offerings is more than just a personal favourite. It is a challenge of excellence. With every new harvest, I prepare myself so that I’m not stunned by the complexity of their reds. I challenge myself not to be impressed, but I lose every time. I don’t know how the winemaker does it. The smoky and sweet spice on the tongue with that chocolate coffee aroma was enough to impress. But the silky berry feeling afterwards is what makes one remember it.

And that is my humble breakdown of the best wines at the Wacky Wine!

Now for the Arabella competition:headline

Simply share your best wine experience as a comment on the blog or tweet it to @james_fouche or use #bestwackywine when you tweet. The prize is a box of Arabella wines. Entries open to folks living in South Africa. Please share the competition with friends.



RWV e-Map 1

When we travel somewhere I prefer to set out before sunrise. Best to hit the tar before trucks crawl out of hiding and snail along your intended route. My wife first concluded her exhausting packing regime, then it was my turn. I’m a plotter so most of the packing takes place in my mind. Ten minutes later my suitcase was added to the mountain of luggage by the door.

The following morning the car was loaded, dogs and bunnies fed, and cat shooed from underfoot. Before long we were on our way to face the Wacky Wine madness. As we climbed onto the main road the headlights happened to pass over the flattened corpse of a bird. Then I heard the sniffing. My wife was whimpering, cheeks glistening with fresh tear tracks.

“What about her babies?” she sobbed. “They are waiting in a nest for food. What’s gonna happen to them now?”

“I think that was a male bird. It had bright feathers,” I said, hoping it would diffuse the situation. It made it worse.

We held a number of eulogies along the way, for fauna across all species.

Late morning we arrived in Swellendam. We stayed at Impangele guest house, a pleasant and affordable stop-over for people travelling through. We were offered a hearty welcome by the hosts and were shown to a leopard-themed room. There we were able to read up on how Impangele came about, with pictures detailing the progress of their guest house.

With the launch of my latest novel, KING OF SORROW, finally around the corner, we both agreed we needed a bit of pampering at the Rain Forest Day Spa. I had the elephant walk massage. Now I know what you’re thinking: crime authors sound like a bunch of sissies. I don’t care if you judge me. It was an hour of absolute bliss, and affordable enough for anyone to enjoy. I left feeling refreshed and ready for the weekend and the coming book launch.


I was tempted to load pics of the massage room, but it included me in my undies. I’m afraid – and quietly hope that – most readers would find that distasteful. Once you see it, it can’t be unseen. Oh, remember to check out the Rain hamper competition at the end of this post.

The next morning we visited the Wildebraam Berry Estate (@WildebraamLiq) to do a liqueur tasting. It was a bit too early for alcohol but we did the full tasting anyway. Strange as it might sound, the guava liqueur was triumphant over all. So, half-drunk on berry nectar we made our way to Orange Grove Farm in Robertson, where we would stay for the next couple of days.

By far, this was the travelling highlight. We were met by our personal guide and taken to our cottage. The cottages are at an elevated level over-looking the vineyard, so the views were amazing. The accommodation itself was of the highest standard. As an author I’m quick to pick up silly things that others might consider inconsequential. I immediately noticed two small fire extinguishers, clear exit signs, a fire blanket in the kitchen, and a first-aid kit in the bathrooms. The conventional toiletries included the OGF1812 personal care shower gel and lotion, containing diamond dust and luxury coffee colouring. I had never experienced this attention to detail at a self-catering venue before.


Later I would discover that the owner, Carlos Araujo, has a mining background so he regarded the health-and-safety aspect as first priority. We briefly discussed his chequered past and his humble beginnings. He is a colourful character. The fact that he encourages staff to read a book a month, warmed this author’s heart.

The next morning I officially began the Wacky Wine Weekend. Every other concern faded away. I was there to celebrate the grape and to taste what the different wine makers were able to accomplish with it. My next post will detail the variance of wines, the tasting highlights and what happened at some of the estates.

50ae31f677b90Next week I will also be giving away a box of Arabella wines so follow the blog or check in to see how you can win.

That brings us to this week’s competition. Here is how you can win the Rain hamper. Answer the very difficult question below and send your answers to @james_fouche on twitter using this hash tag: #myrainmoment or e-mail answers to domaingrp@yahoo.com


My rain moment is:774e0e8b1d684a2abba94a07cf1f7299

1. Coffee with in-laws

2. A rain massage

3. A triple brandy & coke



Fiction authors, a naughty bunch by nature, swim through never-ending dreamscapes to mould their tales, feeding off of their imaginations and accentuating the senses. Because of this it requires mental restraint when reviewing wines or wine estates, restaurants or chefs, coffees or baristas. However, during the Wacky Wine Weekend there are so many of these wonderful elements and it needs to be shared. I decided to break it up into three separate posts: the food, the travel, and the wines. I thought it wise to start with the food because there will be competitions and sponsored prizes during the other posts.

My wife and I travelled via Swellendam to Robertson, and when the Wacky Wine was finished, we drove through Barrydale back to the Garden Route. Just one note, during the festival there are few places to sit and eat because most estate restaurants can’t service the large number of visitors. Instead a portion of the ground is sectioned off and a large market-style food stall is erected under tent-cover to feed the masses. Though it serves the purpose and I’m usually first in line for traditional local foods, I do not review boerewors hotdogs and roosterkoeke.


Cafe MaudeI visited Bon Courage just prior to the Wacky Wine because they stock some of my favourite wines and we happened to be passing by. The restaurant is owned by Maude Bruwer, sister of the winemaker at Bon Courage. For breakfast one had Eggs Benedict and the other had Eggs Florentine. Being a stickler for detail, I immediately picked up the chef’s signature. It was the tomatoes. Something about them contributed to the overall brilliance of the meal. The tomatoes had been lightly grilled, drained of excess water and drizzled with balsamic. It became such a feature that it overshadowed the magnificence of the rest of the meal. Well done!


Bourbon Street incorporates an American theme with an adapted American-styled menu. Prices are very competitive while the food, as well as the presentation, were in keeping with the unique theme. I can strongly recommend the Springbok and Kudu burger or the chicken chimichanga. Even the Moroccan couscous is spectacular. Considering the competitive price and serving size, one has to be realistic about preparation time and availability. But consistency should be a non-negotiable attribute of any restaurant, whether peak season or not. During these challenging times a restaurant should be a smooth machine. We visited Bourbon Steet thrice. Let me detail the minor inconsistencies: First visit was quiet with good food, muted atmosphere with adequate service. Second visit was loud, great service, long wait for food and not the same serving size as before. Third visit was good food, adequate service, and very loud atmosphere.


IMG-20140606-00330When reviewing restaurants I seldom visit the same place more than once, unless there are no other places available. This time I couldn’t resist going back for more. Delicious home made veg soup, tasty cottage pie, surprisingly light cheesecake with subtle berry compote, decadent choc-orange-coffee cake, and smooth coffee formed part of a collection of surprises. Then add to that the crackle of a fireplace on a rainy day and caring hosts, and an author’s world makes sense again.


Delightful surprise in the heart of Montagu, which is a short drive from Robertson. The lasagne had a gentle herbs-and-spices preparation, opting for a muted, less intense flavour. It worked well. Their chicken, cranberry and camembert salad reigned supreme over all salads on offer during the trip. The large rose water flavoured meringues were fascinating as a dessert. Decent portions and friendly service sealed the deal.


At the peak of the Wacky Wine we were searching high and low for places to eat. Most places were fully booked (a reviewer’s worst nightmare!), so we discovered this gem in Bonnievale. It was the perfect end to a perfect day, which is what you expect from a restaurant. From the food, the creative shop fitting, the light atmosphere, to the complex Bonnievale CCC house wine, all was enjoyed. The calamari portion, as well as the ribs, were sizeable enough and proved to be good value for money. Preparation was timed well and the service was excellent. Both Karins were present and a delight to speak with.


It was immediately clear that the restaurant was either new or under new management, something which was confirmed later. This in itself is not always a bad thing, so do not let that dissuade you from visiting De Vagebond. They might be in the early stages of something amazing. Their biltong and blue cheese soup was amazing, not too creamy. The smoky bacon salad made an impression because care had been taken to prepare the bacon in a maple syrup, something that adds character to the dish. Though the waiters seemed a bit new and over-eager on the job, the service was still very good. De Vagebond is a work in progress, and the sky is the limit.


In the next post I will explore the travelling side of things. I will show everyone what an author does to de-stress (don’t worry, I’ve deleted all the explicit pics) and I will explain why people think we are obnoxious, when we are actually trying to be charming. In the next post there will be a Rain Biologie hamper* up for grabs. And in the final post featuring the wines, there will be a box of Arabella wines on the line.

Rain Biologie


*Picture is only a representation of the hamper. Products might vary. Prizes only available to folks residing in SA.









There are 2 routes to travel between Cape Town and the Eastern Cape. One is with the N2 national road. The never-ending stretch of tar accommodates many trucks, taxis and other nervous motorists. It’s not the most scenic trip, either. At times, the ocean is visible in the distance. Other times, there are hours of bland countryside, not a soul in sight.

The other route is with Route 62, otherwise known as the wine route. The R62 takes the traveller through the Langeberg region, the heart of the Western Cape winelands. It snakes along scenic countryside with breath-taking mountain ranges, through beautiful towns like Bonnievale, Robertson, Ashton, Montagu and Swellendam. Within the Robertson Wine Valley there is a fine network of roads linking to all the wine estates. Why people opt to take the other route is beyond me.

Every year the Wacky Wine festival calls all the attention to the region. This year the event runs from 6 – 8 June 2014. Most of the wine enthusiasts find themselves drawn there, and rightfully so. There is so much to do for the whole family. Whether going from estate to estate for wine tastings, enjoying the local cuisine, braving the many outdoor activities on offer, or engaging with the locals, it is easy to lose oneself.

For the next month or so I will do a series of blog posts about what an author gets up to at the Wacky Wine Weekend festival. I will be in the area for the duration to review some of the restaurants and guest houses. I will also critique the finest SA wines, try out a much-anticipated spa treatment, attend a speciality coffee tasting, do a bit of hiking, and much more

There will be competitions for readers, with great prizes up for grabs, so watch this space. Next blog post will be very soon…



Coffee and the cult

Hoping to finish my next book, I took a trip to Cape Town. I was looking for places that would boost or at least aid the writing process. By means of a twitter pole, locals began recommending worthy venues. Soon my trip became a mission. 10 coffee shops in 10 days. Here was what I thought of my favourite spot.

Truth Coffee Cult (Buitenkant Str, Cape Town) twitter: @TRUTHcoffee


The mother of all inspiration, and by far my most productive stop in Cape Town. Truth Coffee Cult has managed to blend the fascination of the early industrial age with a childlike sense of adventure. It felt as though I was boarding the Nautilus (Captain Nemo’s vessel in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) or stepping into The Time Traveller’s laboratory (as described by HG Wells in The Time Machine). I was transported to another place, where every sensation and every emotion could be scrutinised and documented in detail. It was steroids for the imagination. All the furniture and accessories that made up the decór, had been purposely added to the collective whole to baffle the mind. And then, the coffee…


For a change I ordered the Café Mocha, a drink I am most critical about. It was superb! Being able to drink a Mocha without sugar and without milk, is a tricky thing to accomplish. If the chocolate element is too creamy, one is inclined to add sugar and if it is too sweet, one is inclined to add milk. If the combination is done to perfection, the intensity of the coffee grabs hold of you, and the intricacy of the dark chocolate lingers on the palate long after the cup has gone. This was all I needed to plough through my writing work. Well done to the baristas! You are artists, all of you. I have even decided to mention Truth Coffee Cult in my next book. How could I resist?

At Truth Coffee in Cape Town with my wife, Marlene.
At Truth Coffee in Cape Town with my wife, Marlene.

It is very stra…

It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon it says, “Work!” After beefsteak and porter, it says, “Sleep!” After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup, and don’t let it stand for more than three minutes), it says to the brain, “Now rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature, and into life: spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity! – JEROME K JEROME

This quote by Jerome K Jerome describes how I wish to proceed with this venture. I wish to focus mainly on food, drink and merriment. The first couple of posts will be introductory posts, just me settling in.

I am open to suggestions in line with the themes mentioned. If there is a wine, a venue or a particular feature you would like to see here, then let me know. Companies wishing to market themselves or to be reviewed here, can do the same.

So, until the time comes when we will be denied anything enjoyable and wholesome, let us cling to every second, passionately.


Food, wine, travel… An author's escape.