I breathed in the aroma of deep, rich, dark coffee and gave a contented sigh.
Both hands were folded around my hot coffee cup. I admired the intricate design adorning my freshly brewed cappuccino and gave a sigh of pleasure. How I loved my morning coffee at Beans About Coffee.
Jarryd, one of the barista guys, approached me.
“Yesterday I saw your Absa film. You had me crying and I don’t cry easily. It was great!”
“Thanks, Jarryd,” I replied, “I so enjoyed making it and we’ve had an incredible response. Tell me,” I asked as I took a blissful sip of coffee, “do you own this place?”
“I wish! I’m only the manager” he laughed and pointed to a man walking through the door. “There is the owner. Stefan!” he called. A dark haired man turned towards him. “This is the girl in the film I was telling you about.”
“Hi there, I’m making myself a coffee,” Stefan said, “Would you like another cup?”
“Who wouldn’t?” I responded with a laugh.
Stefan Jamneck is a big man with eyes that grin at you. He owned La Maison, a restaurant in Pretoria, where he worked front of house. However, he longed to be more involved creatively. He envisaged spectacular creations coming out of the kitchen and found it frustrating when they didn’t appear. He wanted to produce food with flair and panache. And so, at the age of 32 he ‘went back to school’ and trained as a chef.
In 2006 he moved to the Western Cape, where in a beautiful old railway station, beside a quiet lagoon in the tranquil town of Great Brak River, he established his hugely successful restaurant, Transkaroo. Here he dished up plates full of passionately created South African cuisine made from the finest ingredients . In 2011 he won the Nomix Garden Route Chef of the Year award. Quite clearly, Stefan Jamneck didn’t do things by halves!
He loved his time in the Transkaroo restaurant. It was in the kitchen he finally found his feet and felt at home. He was like a sponge soaking up the new experience and creating fresh and novel delicacies. His meals became an art in themselves and his clientele flourished.
Stefan Jamneck is a perfectionist. One thing bothered him with his cuisine. When the meal concluded with coffee, instead of finishing on a high as it should have, the “fireworks” fizzled and went out. Where there should have been the flash and sparkle of unbelievable colour and taste, there was simply a damp hiss. The problem was….. the coffee. Something needed to be done.
Typically, instead of looking for a different coffee supplier he decided to take the matter into his own hands. He and his brother attended an exhibition all about coffee and coffee manufacturing in Singapore. They discovered what was required to make superb coffee. A coffee that causes your mouth to tingle with a desire for more! Through local agents, he imports coffee beans from all around the globe – South America, Central America, Africa, Indonesia. And his piece de resistance is a fabulous coffee roaster manufactured in the Netherlands. He showed it to me at the back of his coffee shop. It is a beautiful piece of machinery that carries with it all the gravitas that a roaster implies. A machine that is able to convert the raw, green coffee beans into dark, exotic beads of taste, ready to be secretly blended, ground and brewed. I didn’t ask Stefan how long the beans are roasted or at what temperature. I just know that this is one of the reasons why his coffee tastes so extraordinary. A formula known only to him and his workforce. It is during the blending stage that Stefan’s creativity can really run riot! Sidewalk, Piazza, Black Gold are some of the delectable blends his hands passionately craft.
He has now opened six branches of Beans About Coffee on the Garden Route: two actual coffee shops in York Street and Kerk Street, three in-store coffee bars in George and his latest project a coffee bar located in Spar at Plettenberg Bay. I found myself admiring not only his brilliant coffee roasting and blending skills but also his wonderful business acumen. Two years ago he sold Transkaroo. He told me the reason why he had sold the restaurant, that my admiration turned to liking.
He needed to spend more time with his wife and children.
Although he liked the pace and creative excitement of a hot kitchen, he missed not being home with his family at night. Not being able to spend Sunday’s with them was dreadful. He sold Transkaroo and suddenly his life was transformed into that of a normal father. At five o’clock he is able to ‘shut up shop’ and go home. Now he can sit and drink a glass of wine with his wife while his children regale him with their exploits at school.
Too often in life, one settles for second best simply because it is easier. Stefan doesn’t consider this an option. If he thinks he can achieve perfection, he’ll give it a good try.
To me, he is a reminder that we all have so much potential. When something fails in our lives, we mustn’t plunge ourselves into a chair and think: That’s me done for!
We must see the world as Stefan sees it.
A place filled with endless possibilities and fabulous coffee!