What do you get – besides the heavenly aromatic whiff of freshly ground coffee – when you enter WINGS Coffee Roasters in Langebaan?
If you have time and the inclination, you can get (besides a taste of a unique coffee blend) your very first lesson in the origin, art and scientific process of sourcing, roasting and blending the very best beans to produce that super-drink that Arabians named the “wine of the bean”.
Now, most wine lovers who have developed a “nose” for wine tasting, will probably also have nursed specific coffee blend preferences . . . but I bet few knew that coffee beans have almost ten times more variables or characteristics to consider in the coffee making process than wine . . . and each blend also has its own so-called “personality” . . . ranging from fruity, floral, earthy and buttery to caramel, nutty, spicy, smoky, etc.
Nico du Plessis, who manages WINGS Coffee Roasters in Langebaan for his old Tzaneen high school fighter pilot mate Justus du Toit, is a fountain of information on the coffee making topic. He had to learn within a year to not only become a coffee connoisseur, but also to master the skillful art of sourcing, grinding, roasting and blending the best coffee beans in order to satisfy the palate of a variety of customers.
Nico and Justus’s mother, Cecilia du Toit, have been managing WINGS Coffee Roasters in Langebaan since its inception in 2015 while Justus comes regularly from Qatar to oversee things and check customer profiles. The roastery provides exclusive and unique coffee blends to more than 30 selected clients nationally – including a few in the Langebaan area.
“We profile each client and together we do the cupping and tasting so that every client has an exclusive and unique blend,” says Nico.
How did a fighter pilot, his mother and an old schoolmate land in the intricate coffee business?
“Justus and I know each other since our high school days in Tzaneen at Ben Vorster High School. Justus used to play hockey and I was into rugby . . . then he joined the South African Air Force while I moved to Nelspruit where I worked in the telecommunication business.
Photo: SA Air Force fighter pilot Justus du Toit who fuels his pulse with the unique potion he brews with pilot precision at WINGS Coffee Roasters in Langebaan.
“We always stayed in touch and when he developed a passion for making great coffee in 2012 while recovering from a knee injury due to a skiing incident in Sweden, I was kept in the loop . . . and when he eventually was ready to open WINGS Coffee Roasters in Langebaan, I moved down here with my family to help manage it with his mother.”
Photo: Nico with his wife Taryn and little Tyler (17 months) in WINGS Coffee Roasters in Langebaan.
The name WINGS and their slogan “Fuel Your Pulse” says it all . . . the substance that gives you wings and provides the exhilarating thrill that a fighter pilot is addicted to.
The website statement explains the rest:
“Discover the coffee born from a dream to bring the taste of flight and adventure to every cup. At WINGS COFFEE ROASTERS we want to be a part of your epic journey, every day, as a reminder that nothing is ordinary when created with purpose.”
Watching Nico prepare an espresso of their house brand – a delicious Rwanda / Brazil blend called P51 – he explains that their 8 coffee blends are all named after military air crafts. There is also a B52 Bomber, a Mig 29 and a Spitfire blend – all intended to fuel your wings! Their coffee beans are imported from specific countries for the superior quality and unique characteristics, namely Mexico, Rwanda, Uganda, Brazil, Nicaragua, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
The Brazilian coffee bean has a slightly nutty, sweet full-bodied flavour, while Mexican beans add a spicy quality. The soil in Ethiopia and Tanzania has the highest acidity, providing a different taste and variables.
A group of young German visitors from Namibia joined us and soon we were all intrigued and sticking our noses into different containers to identify the unique “flavours” of each country’s green beans. Which beans smell like chocolate, nuts or have an acid smell or taste? The raw green beans are solid and hard – a certain recipe to chip a tooth – and only one or two of the guests dared to crunch one to get a taste of the bean – which apparently tasted nothing like coffee!
We soon realized it will take practice to develop a “coffee connoisseur’s nose” to identify all the variables. The secret of making great coffee is a science that requires knowledge, skill, practise, passion, quality beans and top of the range equipment!
“Wine has about 100 variables while over 850 volatile aromatic compounds in coffee have been catalogued to date – making it a more intense process where the roasting of the beans plays a major role,” says Nico.
Their Genio Roaster and coffee machine are state of the art – “the Ferrari’s in the trade” and the grinder is calibrated every morning.
“I normally do the roasting on Sundays . . . so each client knows exactly when the coffee was roasted. Freshness is important and that is why we are not in retail stores or associated with our clients’ businesses, as we won’t know how long they keep it on the shelves.”
We learned about the differences between fully washed, semi-washed, naturally pulped and decaffeinated beans. Apparently Germany and Switzerland are the world leaders in the decaf process thanks to their superior technology and pure water.
It seems it all boils down to the roasting and blending processes . . . you have to roast coffee beans to produce the coffee’s “personality”. During the roasting process, the beans expand and change in colour, taste, smell, and density for each roast’s unique flavour. The longer it is roasted, the darker and more bitter it becomes and the least amount of caffeine will be left.
Most people prefer medium roasted coffee which normally have a stronger flavour than light-roasted and a non-oily surface.
From Qatar, Justus let us know: “A Hangar roaster in Stellebosch, owned by another pilot, is controlled via our Langebaan Head Quarters with pilot precision and technology to ensure the exact same roasting landings are executed.
“I am in Qatar opening the internation Hangar for the Middle East while flying here as well and staying true to the flying and coffee passion. A Johannesburg Hangar is to open soon as it’s in the initial flight testing phase by a third pilot operator.”
So . . . next time you crave a unique blend of superior, freshly ground coffee, pop in at WINGS Coffee Roasters and learn from Nico and Cecilia what makes this humble bean such a powerful, potent adrenaline-kicker that a fighter pilot started his own coffee roastery to fuel his pulse!
PS. They also sell their 8 house blends to the broader public. If you want to taste the unique blends custom-made for profiled clients, ask Nico or Cecilia which coffee shops or restaurants in the Langebaan area serve their magic and unique potion!
Visit WINGS Coffee Roasters in the Old Queens Cottage in Main Road, Langebaan.