When you cross coffee, business savvy, and a real passion for what you do, you get Theo Snyckers. Snyckers is the owner of Kamili Coffee, a cafe and roastery located on the corner of Long Market and Short Market streets in the center of Cape Town, South Africa.
The start of Snyckers’s coffee journey started like many others: one flat white with two sugars, please. His curious nature got the best of him and he went on to discover that there was way more to coffee than meets the eye.
Through trial and error, Snyckers learned to roast on a restaurant bar counter. As his roasting knowledge and skills increased, so did his customer base, and it wasn’t long before his passion project wasn’t just a hobby anymore. That was five years ago, and Snyckers now has two cafes in the greater Cape Town area and a third one slated to launch this fall. He took the name “Kamili” from the Swahili word for perfect, Snyckers tells me—but he defines the word a little more generously than some coffee enthusiasts. “We have a different take on what perfect means when it comes to coffee,” Snyckers says. “If you’ve enjoyed your cup of coffee, then that was a perfect cup of coffee.”
“It’s okay for coffee professionals to take what we do seriously. But deciding how the average coffee consumer must drink their coffee is where we’re going wrong most of the time,” says the cafe owner. “For most baristas, it’s about controlling every element. When we sit down to drink a coffee we are evaluating it, whereas 80 percent of customers just want a warm, tasty drink.” Snyckers still believes in equipping his customers with an array of styles in which to enjoy wonderful coffee but does so without any social pressure.
“We serve Chemex, syphon, AeroPress, and V60 pour-over,” he says. “But a lot of people are in a hurry or are too embarrassed to ask about these brew methods. It’s our job to create an environment where they become approachable for the curious coffee drinker.”
All of Kamili's roasting is currently done on site at the Long Market cafe, with plans to move some of the operations to the new location. “These roasters that I use are probably a little unconventional for the Cape Town scene,” explains Snyckers when talking about the Israeli Coffee-Tech roast equipment that he uses. “They’re small and use infrared elements.” Snyckers believes he has more influence and control over his roast profiles with his particular roasting setup than others.
With an espresso bar on the bottom floor and a slow brew bar on the top floor, Snyckers’s new cafe will aim at being a functional solution in dealing with the dominant two types of coffee drinkers in Cape Town. The bottom floor will focus on preparing great espresso-based drinks for those with time constraints. The top floor, in contrast, will cater to those who would like to experience something off the beaten track. He is quick to add that there will still be an espresso machine on the second floor but hopes that it'll perform as a support act.
Snyckers’s inclusive approach extends to his team of baristas, who are involved in every facet of the business. This ranges from admin and stock-taking to roasting and working behind the espresso machine, to cultivate a better understanding and respect for what goes into each cup of coffee. He’s passionate about investing in his staff and, in turn, the South African coffee scene.
“If they leave and start their own place?” supposes Snyckers, unworried, “then all the better for the industry.”
Arno Els is a coffee professional and freelance writer based in South Africa. Read more Arno Els on Sprudge.