The coffee culture in Durban was inspired by the café society phenomena dating back to the early 20th century when the young, the beautiful and the intellectual gathered at coffee shops to enjoy endless cups of espressos to argue politics, to laugh, to socialise and meet people. Pexels

For many years, tea was the go-to drink in many parts of the world. In the last few decades however, coffee has emerged as the beverage of choice. 

But what is the culture like in Durban? How has it grown? From what I know is quality coffee in our city has taken over, with roasteries and cafes on almost every corner.  

According to Durban foodie and journalist, Frank Chemaly said coffee culture in Durban has come a long way since the days of the mile high cappuccino in the early nineties, and this was usually filter coffee, often burnt from sitting too long on the coffee machine - topped with mountains of airy foam that was usually cold.

“Today we have our own roasters, some of South Africa's top baristas, importers of single-estate beans from some of the top growers in Ethiopia and Kenya and the world, and a public that knows its macchiato from its cortado, and demands the best”, said Chemaly.

Lifestyle writer and founder of Shrewd Food, Ingrid Shevlin said the coffee culture in Durban was inspired by the café society phenomena dating back to the early 20th century when the young, the beautiful and the  intellectual gathered at coffee shops to enjoy endless cups of espressos to argue politics, to laugh, to socialise and meet people.

The coffee culture in Durban was inspired by the café society phenomena dating back to the early 20th century when the young, the beautiful and the intellectual gathered at coffee shops to enjoy endless cups of espressos to argue politics, to laugh, to socialise and meet people. Pexels

Asked how it has grown, she said it is alive and thriving, thanks largely to Sunday Magazine’s Café Society competition which was launched nearly twenty-years ago. 

Shevlin said back then most coffee drinkers thought instant was best and did not know the difference between Arabica bean and a Robusta bean.

“Now they know where to find coffee prepared with passion, want coffee with flavour and body, and that expressed coffee is best. No more instant. Now they know what a barista does, they are discerning and demanding,” she said.

Another Durban foodie and coffee enthusiast, Dennis Ngxongo said coffee in Durban and its surrounds has grown significantly, both in the appreciation of a good cuppa and in the service offering.

Ngxongo said Durban has always enjoyed a slumbering good reputation for coffee, mainly at those establishment patronised by the privileged set, who have tasted coffee outside Durban shores.

“Certain institutions have improved their offering, with baristas competing first covertly then overly for the ultimate custom. Businesses have seen value in adding good coffee to their offering as an additional drawcard and this has made Durban coffee aware, to the point of seeking out the perfect bean for the perfect brew. This has happened against the backdrop of upward mobility, and so was eminently desirable and lauded”, said Ngxongo.