THE CONVERSATION

Ray: This week, we are talking about South Africa’s Truth Coffee.

Kandace: I chatted with David. He’s got a lot to say about coffee, so I think we should just let him take it away for a moment.

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David: David Donde here. I’m the founder of Truth Coffee Roasting and hopelessly ADD!

Kandace: David started out as a hotel owner.

David: I knew that I needed fresh coffee, so I went to my suppliers one by one and I said, “Well will you guys deliver fresh coffee to me? Would you guys deliver?” Everyone said: “No, too far away.”

Eventually, one said: “Well, I’ll sell you a roaster. I know this guy whose got this one kilogram roaster for sale.”

I got lucky. He sold me the roaster, which was a one kilogram roaster. It was kind of fun. I could see what was going on. But, I had this hotel that was completely full on the weekends (100% occupation) and completely empty during the week.

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I had all this time to roast and then I got even luckier. I had nobody to teach me how to roast coffee!

I came from this engineering, design background and all I had was scientific method; you do something, you make careful notes, and then you have this feedback loop. I developed this empirical system of roasting coffee and roasting based on the feedback. Basically, I had no preconceived ideas of how dark coffee should be, how long it should take, which beans to use. I just had my palate to work with.

Kandace: He went from that to being noted as the coolest coffee shop in the world.

Ray: They’re cool. I mean, I haven’t been there in person.

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Kandace: He talked about chasing the flavor which I thought was really interesting, just figuring out what you’re trying to get out of that particular coffee.

David: Well, there’s been this old-school coffee tradition with really burned pots of filter coffee that are served piping hot. It’s what I call the cheap beer phenomenon, where if you got a really cheap, nasty beer, you just serve it cold enough you can drink it. When it gets warm, you actually taste it.

Coffee is the same. If you serve it hot enough, you can get away with anything. If you start caring about over over-extraction and under-extraction, then serving temperature gets really important and the brew, grind size, extraction time, and temperature are all interrelated. With a general brewing time that we’ve got, you just don’t want to serve it piping hot and kill your coffee before it gets started.

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Kandace: This is, for the fact that Truth will not consider themself an eco-friendly business…

David: We are primarily a coffee company, so we’re about the taste of the coffee. All of our coffee is bought to the relationship model. We paying way more than the Fair Trade price. I don’t need to explain to you. There isn’t a specialty roast in the world who cares about the Fair Trade price, let alone the commodity price. It’s just an irrelevance to us.

We do have deep connections with our suppliers, whether with brokers or directly, it’s all an engagement with the farmer. Our broker acting more as a matchmaker than as a traditional firewall. I think that’s essential.

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Then also, the limitations of fair-trade and organic and what people think they are buying and what they are actually buying. People believing that organic label is going to cause the best coffee, and the most naturally grown coffee they can imagine, and it’s not true. It involves organic certification. We know now of 150 certified organic insecticides with high residual toxicity. It doesn’t make them good, but it does make them organically certified.

Ray: He also brought up a valid point, which is that a lot of people are trying to make better and better packaging, but what would it look like if a bag to put your coffee in cost a hundred dollars? What would you then?

Kandace: I would dip that in gold.

Ray: Yeah, it would be a really frickin’ nice bag, wouldn’t it?

They roast on a roaster that is so vintage, it’s from the 40s. It was originally designed to roast on diesel, but interestingly, they’re using bio-fuels.

David: The heart of our roastery is the 60 kilo vintage throwback from the 40s. We not sure of exactly what year it was made. I think it’s the only roaster in the whole world powered by bio-fuel.

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Ray: This is good. This is Truth. It’s a very simple, simple label. Right now we are trying the Vengeance. One thing he said that he really wanted for the business, I thing you asked him, what his goal was or what was next and he said that he wanted…

David: I would love to be on Coffee Geek’s bucket list, and that’s what it’s all about. I don’t want to anyone’s favorite coffee, I want to be in their top five favorite coffees.

Kandace: Well, he’s made a pretty phenomenal destination.

Ray: Yeah, sounds like it.

Kandace: This coffee shop…

Ray: He gave us a brief tour, right?

Kandace: Yes.

David: We are roasting now. I think we have a mini roaster here today. Sorry, I was going to show you the plans but they aren’t ready. I hope this is giving you some sort of sense of what we’ve got … It is huge. We keep the sugar well hidden.

Ray: Truth Coffee, of Cape Town, South Africa.