“Will you be taking any sugar with that?”: The barista behind the coffee

South Africans, like so many around the world, boast a big coffee culture. We have a passion for our hot beverages and make a point of sharing these experiences with each other, from coffee dates with friends to Instagram posts bragging about our latest, steaming ´cuppa Joe´. Our beautiful Mother City (Cape Town) has a variety of spots for all kinds of vibe-seekers, with all kinds of coffee palates. From hidden gems nestled on quiet street corners, to big coffee houses with big reputations, we have them all! Cape Town also boasts a great variety of skilled baristas who put the ‘G’ into the genius behind those steaming ‘cuppas’.

Just such an individual is Tinovonga Masawi, a 21 year old, Zimbabwean barista at Kahvé Road in Cavendish Square (Cape Town).  Tino´s love and passion for coffee began in 2006,  whilst inquiring about a job as a waiter at Origin in the city centre. Here, he met a barista who, unbeknownst to him would spark a mentor-mentee relationship between the two of them.

One of the biggest factors influencing Tino’s love of coffee came about when he learnt about the struggle of coffee-farmers, worldwide, in the agriculture of coffee beans. Tino describes how many of these farmers live their lives harvesting coffee beans, yet have never tasted the beans in their hot-beverage form. This sad reality is what spurred Tino on into his work as a barista.  His passion is centered on a need to help these coffee farmers and represent them and their produce in his daily barista-work.

“It was all about making a difference for them […] it´s up to us to help them.”

Coffee Drinkers Make Better Lovers: Coffee consumption worldwide.

(Coffee Trivia. Image source:Coffee Drinkers Make Better Lovers)

After his introduction to coffee in 2006, Tino began studying the ins and outs of coffee, until ending his school-level education in 2012. The real work only began after school, when he decided there was “more” he needed out of life than a career path, he had previously anticipated for himself, in sport. After getting in touch with his mentor again, Tino’s skills truly started blossoming as he learnt the art of coffee-making.

As Tino says, ”coffee is my comforter, my best friend. Whether I´m stressed or having a bad day, it brightens up my day and completely changes everything for me.”

Tino’s professional career as a barista started out at Knead Bakery, before he moved to Coco Safar. His most recent position is at Kahvé Road.  Tino and the other baristas at Kahvé Road, make coffee in a one-of-a-kind, Dutch machine called the Spirit. The Spirit is a mixture of the old-school, spirit coffee-machine, which used levers for manual coffee-making; and the later mirage machines, which had steamers and other advanced functions. The Spirit is, thus an optimum blend of coffee-machine craftsmanship and guarantees the best results for every cup served. Tino´s barista abilities allow him to make everything from affogatos and ice-lattes to the good old cappuccino and espresso blends.


Kahvé Road baristas Tinovonga Masawi and Cliff Namawa doing what they do best
(Photography my own)

Tino makes the task seem like an easy feat, but making coffee is really a science in itself with all kinds of factors to consider, from the temperature of the milk to the undertones of your blend (which may range from toffee to citrus). For most people, everyday house-brands of instant coffee from  Nescafé to Ricoffy, are the go-to when caffeine cravings hit. The desire to get coffeehouse-level beverages have increased, however with the rise in cafés and coffee-shops and the relative affordability for those willing to spend the extra bit of cash. For those who may not know or understand the lingo flying around and bouncing off the walls in your nearest Vida e Caffé, or the genius behind what makes a good cup of coffee, here is the low-down:

Tino explains coffee house lingo:

  • Affogato: double shot of espresso and a scoop of ice-cream (served separately, enjoyed together).
  • Iced latte: a double shot of espresso, milk and ice.
  • Cold brew tonic: coffee which has been slow-brewed in cold water for at least 48 hours.
  • Coffee can range from espressos to lattes. Lattes being the milkiest and espresso being milk-free.
  • The main difference between the often-confused flat white and cappuccino is the coffee to milk ratio, flat whites having the least amount of milk when compared to cappuccinos. Flat whites also have less foam than cappuccinos.
  • Robusta coffee: usually in the form of the instant coffees and contains a higher caffeine level.
  • Arabica beans: highest quality beans, usually used professionally, less caffeine content.

Learn more about the differences between robusta and arabica coffees here.

Tino’s tips:

  • Cortados are usually the best indicator as to what the rest of the coffees on a particular menu will taste like. This is due to its overall balance of milk and coffee, which guarantees all elements will be experienced.
  • The cleaner your coffee-making tools, the better the taste of your coffee.
  • Coffee´s flavour is affected by temperature and sunlight. The best time to get your cup of coffee would be in the morning (as its cooler) and the optimum conditions for keeping your coffee would be in a sealed holder and stored in a cool, dark place.
  • Ever wanted to get those perfect café-quality designs in your coffee? Tino says the process is split into two separate skill-sets: 1. free pouring (foamed milk is held up and swirled as you pour, in order to create a design). 2. Scratch drawing (designs are made using a metal stylus-like tool). Learn how to free pour here.


I am sure we can all agree that some things are best left to the professionals. The individuals mastering the art behind the beauty that is coffee should be applauded! Now, there really is only one more question to ask, “will you be taking any sugar with that?.”

[Watch the short video below to catch some glimpes of Tino’s behind the scenes work:]



6 thoughts on ““Will you be taking any sugar with that?”: The barista behind the coffee

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