Winston Douglas Thomas
Coffee Professional, SA Barista Champion
Winston Douglas Thomas considers himself a coffee professional with an all-round skill set, working as a barista, trainer and consultant, he won the SA Barista Championships in 2017 and 2018, and the South African AeroPress championship in 2016.
With coffee at his core, Winston sees Cape Town as the hub of the South African coffee industry. While other cities are certainly catching up to the unique and fast paced culture of the Mother City, he feels that here we exist at the same pace as the rest of the world. Always inspired, always with people passing through or better still, starting something new. It keeps him on his toes, eager to learn and achieve more.
In Cape Town we are spoilt for choice when it comes to where to enjoy our coffee, and what origin of coffee to drink.
Having explored the coffee scene in New York, London, South Korea, Amsterdam and Auckland, Winston can confidently attest to the fact that the standard of coffee in Cape Town matches that of any major city elsewhere in the world.
Winston’s love for coffee was a process. Coming from Strand, a town on False Bay outside of the city, it was fuelled after he read a letter in a local newspaper where a woman who had moved from Johannesburg complained that there was no good coffee in the area, professing that she had to drive to Stellenbosch to get a good cappuccino. It sparked his curiosity and interest and he decided to learn more about what constitutes ‘a good coffee’.
Having graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering, Winston did a Barista course and started working in the industry. After the first week he was already falling in love. ‘Not meaning to romanticise the journey’ he describes how it fast became a bit of an obsession, an infatuation that drove him to want and need to know more.
Becoming the South African Barista Champion changed his life. In South Africa there is no form of qualification required for working in coffee as it is still an informal industry, and winning put him on a platform where his skills and ability are recognised. The media coverage has been valuable in connecting him with other coffee lovers.
He went on to represent South Africa at the World Barista Championship where the best baristas from around the world compete in the categories of ‘’Knowledge, Preparation, Serviceability and Presentation.” The aim of the competition is to not only find the best coffee and barista, but also an ambassador for speciality coffee. With about 60 national champions coming together, each is given 15 minutes to serve the judges three courses – Expresso, a Milky Coffee and Signature Beverage. The exposure to that level of passion for his industry, was a pivotal point in his career.
Winston does a lot of traveling to host Barista competitions and share ideas, working with other enthusiasts and training them in the hope that they will get better placement while competing in future competitions, especially within Africa. An African competitor has never won the World Championship, and it’s the continents goals – and Winston’s – to at least get an African contestant into the finals.
Any grand plans for the future will definitely involve coffee, ‘I’m in this for life’ he says. ‘I set out to change the world and I’ve use coffee to do that. There are always exciting plans to look forward to.’
Back to brewing his favourite cup of magic, he favours beans from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. As for how he takes his coffee, it depends on the time of day, preferring coffee with milk in the morning, filter coffee with breakfast and for the rest of the day either expresso or filter.
Where in Cape Town would he take his coffee? ‘Working in coffee since 2015, the three places he enjoys going to the most and that have been the most consistent over the years have been Rosetta, Espresso Lab and Origin Coffee Roasting. All favourites of the Cape Town Legends crew too.