State 5’s Denis Vaden, a barista, innovator and entrepreneur, and Chocoloza’s Vicki Bain, a chocolatier, offer a glimpse into their respective worlds.
Vaden’s journey started in a room from his home. He recalls, “I had two boxes of coffee, selling for a guy in Cape Town. I would buy Italian coffee and sell it in Johannesburg. It’s been 11 years since I’ve gone from buying and selling for him, to importing my own Italian coffee under a brand called Caffé Corsini.
“Then we went to a local roaster and said, ‘Could you roast some coffee for us?’ Then we got our own green beans, gave them to a roaster and asked them to roast it to our specs so we could sell to corporates and coffee shops. Two years ago we started roasting our own coffee under the brand State 5.”
Throughout this time, Vaden gleaned insight into coffee and the processes that make it great.
“The level of detail you require in coffee is quite a beautiful thing,” he says.
Vaden adds that you could have two farms producing the same green beans, yet they could be completely different.
“One can be terrible and the other could be fantastic,” he notes.
“That’s all due to their process, if they use less or more pesticide and so on. Assume we buy a fairly decent green bean from a farm in Brazil, I can make that coffee taste a thousand times different by changing the temperature, time and quantity inside our roaster. It could be a difference of roasting from 10 minutes to 11 minutes or from 215°C to 218°C.”
Not content with just making great coffee, Vaden says they are constantly exploring innovative ways of preparing it.
“We are also the first in the country to do cold-brewed coffee in bulk, a completely different process. You immerse the coffee in filtered cold water for 18 to 24 hours because it is slow-steeping process - the oil releases on its own.
“But you get a beautiful dark chocolate flavour you don’t get in other coffees.”
At the upcoming expo, they will be living up to their reputation.
“We are busy chatting to Tipo Tinto,” Vaden says.
“We are hoping to have that at the show, where we will be doing rum shooters, cold-brewed coffee in pear and vanilla rum. We also have slammer shots, potentially with champagne.”
The objective of the company is to position themselves as an international brand, he says.
“We are introducing locally roasted and craft coffee to the world.”
ON A SWEETER NOTE...
Vicki Bain is tempting South Africans with home-grown ingredients and freshly made chocolate.
Owner of Chocoloza, Bain comes from an environmental health and safety background.
A few years ago, she got the chance to work in France for 18 months, but the universe had other plans for her.
“You know how life goes, I ended up in Belgium. After I discovered Belgium chocolates, I ended up training there,” she laughs.
“Being a chocolatier comes down to a combination of science and art, which I love. So if I’m tempering chocolate, I need to make sure the temperature and humidity are correct. And the timing, too.”
Temperature control is also important when moulding chocolate.
“It’s a very technical, very unforgiving process but, at the same time, very creative as well,” Bain points out.
The two top sellers for us are the lime and basil dark chocolate and her salty tango range.
Asked about the top three things chocolate lovers should be mindful of, she shoots back: “If there is more sugar in there than anything else, it’s probably not good quality chocolate.
“For a white milk chocolate, that is to be expected. But for a milk or dark chocolate, you really don’t want too much sugar. Sugar works like a preservative in chocolate.
“The more you put in, it extends the shelf life and also masks the flavour. That’s why we use very little sugar in our lime and basil chocolate.
“The second thing is palm oil. Good chocolate should be made with cocoa butter. It should never contain palm oil or even shea butter. Palm oil is very cheap, it gives you that sticky feeling at the top of your mouth. It’s not good for your heart and doesn’t taste good.”
Bain’s third piece of advice is to check those expiry dates. If chocolate is good for six months, it’s not fresh.
At the expo, Chocoloza will be sponsoring the wine and coffee pairing workshops. They will also offer samples of their tasty offerings, which include a wicked hot chocolate.
“It’s been called the, ‘Best hot chocolate of your life’ by a popular food magazine,” Bain says. “It’s pure Belgian chocolate with fresh organic milk.”