Barista patents coffee-in-a-cone food innovation
There’s a new kid on the block in Joburg’s Melrose Arch selling a novelty that is drawing customers in their droves. What is it, and who is he? Helen Grange finds out
What are your two favourite treats? The answer, for a good number of us, is coffee and chocolate. Join these together – never mind the logistics – and what do you get? Coffee in a chocolate-coated ice-cream cone.
It sounds as logistically impossible as you can get, but millennial barista Dayne Levinrad, 29, was so determined to pull it off that he did.
Now his #coffeeinacone is the most Instagrammed coffee in the world and he often has morning queues for it at his coffee shop, The Grind Coffee Company in Melrose Arch in Illovo, Joburg.
“I left school at 16 and started waitering, then I went to study coffee in Australia,” he says. “I began my career as a consultant barista, working mainly in the US and Brazil.
“I opened The Grind in January this year, and had this idea of making something to eat and drink, using people’s favourite flavours, coffee and chocolate.
“My mother started experimenting with a chocolate in her kitchen, to find the recipe for the leak-proof, heat-resistant coating for the inside of the cone. Put it this way, there was a lot of spilt coffee, and we were starting to lose hope.
“But with the help of chocolatiers and cone-makers we finally got the right formula, which is a series of chocolate compounds. I’ve patented the recipe and process, which isn’t easy to copy, and now there’s a full production line in Pretoria making the cones, and another in Braamfontein making the chocolate,” says Levinrad.
The cone is thickly coated in chocolate and filled with an espresso macchiato or cortado (not enough space for a cappuccino), which you’re handed and must hold at a slight angle so as not to spill.
As you sip the steaming coffee, you can take nibbles from the chocolate-laced cone. The combination of bitter and sweet is a delicious surprise to the palate, although for some coffee nuts, it’s sacrilegious or just too sweet.
Since he introduced #coffeeinacone, Levinrad’s cafe, which is cleverly integrated into an upmarket cycling shop, has been swamped with people wanting to try it.
“It started with WhatsApp orders from people working in the Melrose Arch precinct, but now I have streams of customers walking in, and people from Bloemfontein, Pretoria and Cape Town are coming here just to experience it. We’re being approached to supply #coffeeinacone at corporate events, and to supply other coffee shops. Right now, though, we don’t have the capacity to make more than four a minute,” he says.
Social media has essentially done all the marketing for him, and Instagram is particularly potent because people like to take cellphone snaps of their novel coffee and post it online.
“Social media has been an unbelievable asset to us, and on eatout.co.za, The Grind Coffee Company has had more than 200 000 hits on the page. Instagram called me because I was trending in the top three curated coffee feeds worldwide. So we are serving between 500 and 600 people a month here, and the numbers are steadily growing,” says Levinrad.
Underpinning this hugely successful coffee innovation is Levinrad’s desire to push the boundaries of a beverage that has traditionally been served hot, with milk and sugar.
Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after crude oil, and he believes it can be served in a much wider variety of ways.
Thus he has introduced a gas-infused coffee stout, poured cold from a 20-litre keg, which is enjoyed enough to sell 40 litres a week.
Also coming up on his menu is a draught latte, to join a milk-based matcha (green) latte.
“We’re about changing the game in coffee, but people are particular about the temperature of the coffee as well as the porcelain cup, so it’s a matter of shifting perceptions,” says Levinrad.
Levinrad uses exclusive arabica coffee beans, traded directly with the farmers in South America and North Africa “so there’s no middle man”, and pays his baristas, all under 30, a share of the revenue to encourage passion for the product and reduce shrinkage.
“Also, skills development is key. There is continual on-the-job training behind our counter,” he says.
With its international trademark, #coffeeinacone is clearly headed for bigger things. It’s an inspiring story of innovation against the odds, and a good showcase for the “no limits” attitude of young entrepreneurs using technology to drive an idea. Not least, it’s proudly South African.