Pretoria, South Africa isn’t really on the coffee circuit. The administrative capital of South Africa, the city exists within reach of the sprawl of more well-known Johannesburg, and is home to countless government offices and administrative workers involved in running the country day to day. But Pretoria is also a city that celebrates South Africa's more leftfield trends and characters, with a mix of artists and performers like musician Karen Zoid, salt artist Percy Maimela, renowned designer Excelda Verwaayen, artist / folklorist Walter Battiss, and the enormously influential 20th century abstract artist Bettie Cilliers-Barnard, who passed away in 2010.
If Cape Town gets the country's tourism, Pretoria has its creative sap. And so it follows, of course, that the city should be home to a fine cup of coffee.
Spout Coffee Company is an eye-catching new Pretoria cafe, and yet, this is not just another hip joint that could be on any continent. The vibe here is more about “gut feel”, as Spout owner Philipp Exter tells me, on “gut feel” and feels utterly at home here in Pretoria, a town known to march to its own beat beyond the administrative buildings and worker bees. For starters, the space has been built on unused lot space in Pretoria's Hazelwood neighborhood, with the cafe occupying a pair of recycled shipping containers stacked on top of each other. It's the first such recycled container space in the city, and the design touches throughout the small space help the bar to stand out.
As for the name, it just stuck with Exter and his wife, Veronica. With a dry one-liner Exter explains, “There are a lot of spouts in a coffee shop.”
The shop opened in May 2016, after some years of Exter running mobile coffee services around the city. “Having an outlet that serves to provide excellent coffees seven days a week made sense as a natural growth phase in our business,” says Exter. “It’s been quite a big learning curve for a lot of the locals—being introduced to new flavors and methods of brewing—and they have taken really well to the espresso bar concept. The speciality coffee industry here is very young; nothing is cast in stone, and there is a big enough playground for various companies to create their own brand.”
On the roasting side, Spout sources its green coffee from Seven Oaks, an importer based in the Kya Sands neighborhood of Johannesburg. “We have access to all the major growing regions and their many varieties,” says Exter.
The look of the cafe itself is attracting attention from both locals and out-of-towners. The glass house upstairs has seats for a lucky few, and also houses a 5-kilogram small batch roaster. From this perch you can look down across multi-restaurant development The Village, with its multitude of bistros, juice bars and gelato joints.
The constraints of being inside a shipping container help inform the space's design. “Because we are located in a shipping container, we wanted to keep as many natural textures as possible, with touches of retro details here and there,” says Exter. In fact, there's no shortage of details that help Spout stand out, from those exposed textures to the packaging, the decor, and the gorgeous handleless cups.
Other secret weapons include the cafe's standout banana bread, as well as a newly added baked chocolate paté. “We serve this dotted with an espresso sabayon and finished with chocolate shavings and praline chips,” says Exter.
Don't let all this food talk obscure Spout's raison d'etre. “I was introduced to Italian coffee machines 10 years ago,” says Exter of his path. “The Wega coffee machines we use at our mobile locations have over the years proved themselves to be extremely good workhorses.” Upon taking the permanent location the Exters decided to treat themselves to a La Marzocco Linea Classic AV, supplied by two Mahlkönig grinders close by, the EK43 and the K30 Air.
The menu of drinks covers the basics and then some, from flat whites and long Americanos to, in Exter's words, “playful” dessert drinks such as an espresso with dulce de leche cream and an espresso with Indian tonic served as a summer coffee cocktail. “As our customer base has grown, we are gradually introducing pour-overs and AeroPress brewing methods,” he says, adding that coffee flights and food pairings are also in the works.
Once in a while a genuinely authentic and original espresso bar concept just dazzles you. In Spout Coffee, Pretoria has a winner.
Daniel Scheffler is a Sprudge staff writer at large. His work has appeared in T Magazine, Travel And Leisure, Monocle, Playboy, New York Magazine, The New York Times, and Butt. Read more Daniel Scheffler on Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Rita-Mari Ludike and Spout Coffee Company.