To say Ishan Natalie is passionate about coffee is an understatement. As the National Beverage and Training Manager for Gauteng-based TriBeCa Coffee Company, Ishan monitors coffee quality through barista training and upliftment, manages the upkeep of equipment and more. He’s also South Africa’s reigning barista champion, and at the recent World Championship in Seattle, was ranked 18th in the world.
Where did it all start?
In 2001, while studying for a BCom Accounting degree and working part-time at Woolworths Cafe in Gateway. Then, while working as a waiter, I was asked to assist behind the coffee machine (I wasn’t the best of waiters). That’s when my romance with coffee began. I wanted to be the best barista in the company and then, South Africa. I eventually moved up the company to manager, but still spent half my day in store behind the coffee machine. This kept my skills sharpened and the company quickly realised the opportunity to start a barista academy to train all baristas for consistency. That has been my main role since then.
What does being the SA Barista Champion entail? Being an ambassador to the coffee community and baristas. The champion represents SA at the World Barista Championship in the goal to win that ultimate title, and does appearances and workshops for SCASA (Speciality Coffee Association of Southern African). What was it like to participate at this year’s World Barista Championship? It was a fantastic experience. It was my third time there but this time I’m a lot older and wiser and have put a lot of time into growing and preparing. I achieved my best performance at the World stage by moving up 20 positions in the rankings since the last time. I took back that I have what it takes to win the title; with a little more work and time, I will achieve it.
What is it about coffee that makes you tick?
It’s forever evolving and is one of the world’s most interesting products. I love the flavour and aroma of high quality coffees; it’s very similar to wine and pure cacao.
So what’s next for you?
I’ll be driving a new micro-roastery we plan to open in the next few months. I want to focus on roasting and working hard on many ideas I have in the goal to produce the best quality coffee and towards winning that World Barista Champion title.
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