Cape Town’s coolest barista Moses Lebofa on celebrating African coffee

By Jess Spiro, 4 March 2021

Meet Moses Lebofa, the man behind Moses Coffee, whose cups have been seen popping up in some of Cape Town’s coolest spots. He talks to us about his unsuspecting journey to becoming a barista and shares some sage advice for others who want to follow in his footsteps.

1. Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What was your earliest introduction to coffee? Was it always something you loved?

I grew up in the northern Free State, I come from a small town wedged between Kimberley and Bloemfontein. I grew up on tea. My mom loved a good cup of tea, we never really kept coffee in our house growing up. My love for coffee started when I moved to Cape Town in 2008. I was amazed by the culture of coffee shops and the people who drink coffee, and the almost cult-like, ritualistic behaviour of coffee drinkers and their favourite coffee spots. Before moving to Cape Town I didn’t even realise how coffee was roasted. It was all new to me and it really sparked an interest.

2. How did you become a barista? Can you tell us about the journey you took to get to your first job as a barista? How did that lead you to where you are today?

I became a barista by pure coincidence. I was ready to pick up any new job or any new skill. The job market was flooded with people looking for employment and I was looking for anything to add to my resume to be slightly more employable. I received in-house training with a really good barista, who became my mentor. My employer at the time was very supportive of my passion for coffee and started investing in reading material and formal training for me and from there I just took it upon myself to learn as much as possible about the beverage, those who drink it and its impact throughout different periods of history. There is a lot of literature available about understanding the culture behind coffee. I love reading and problem solving so I took it as a challenge to upskill myself by collecting as much information as I can about coffee. It became my main interest to gather knowledge and to understand the logic of how to better apply what I have learned about coffee.

I still do the same today – there is always new info about coffee – whether it’s new brewing methods or new drying techniques, so I try as much as I can to stay clued up about anything new in the industry. I love following the work of other baristas locally and abroad. The whole idea is to keep improving and understanding how to optimise the experience I want to offer.

3. You’ve opened a space at Makers Landing, how has this process been? What do you think this will mean for your business?

It has been a bittersweet experience because we opened the space right in the middle of a pandemic with little or no support. It’s a massive financial investment and we’re trading way below capacity. The whole idea of the market was to serve the captivate audience coming from the cruise liners at Cape Town’s cruise, but the next expected cruise liner will only dock in Cape Town maybe towards the second half of the year. Initially we anticipated trading five to seven days a week, but we’re only trading three days a week right now. We had to shift focus and had to do massive restructuring of operations to better suit our current situation. The positive thing is we get a lot of local support from Capetonians who have now made Maker’s Landing their spot to come and taste what South Africa has to offer. We offer a very authentic experience with lots of amazing local food creatives. I’m very honoured to work with a bunch of such talented people. This opportunity will give me the platform to focus on the main goal of the business, which is to start directly sourcing and roasting only African coffees.


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A post shared by MOSESCOFFEES (@mosescoffees)

4. Can you tell us a little about the details of your business? Where do you source your beans? What do you love most about them? What can people expect when they come visit you?

To me Moses Coffee is a celebration of the local coffee scene and an opportunity to create, offer and curate a uniquely local coffee experience using ethically sourced African coffees curated by young black artisans. You can expect a really good cup of African coffee served for its high quality by qualified artisans who really love what they do. Each batch of coffee has a very unique story. We mainly serve East African coffee, all of it is Fair Trade and most of it is grown by women. It’s roasted by young black South Africans and we select our coffee for its quality not by price. People can expect really good coffee coupled with really good service.

5. Having firmly established yourself in the coffee industry, what are your thoughts on the coffee culture in Cape Town? Is there something you love most about it?

I love the people we serve and I love the new revolution of local independent businesses that have created one of the biggest coffee scenes in the world. I just love the level of professionalism and the diversity of offerings, there is something for everyone.


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A post shared by MOSESCOFFEES (@mosescoffees)

6. What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a coffee business? What are some things you wish you’d known early on?

My biggest advice will be to start with or without the right support. If your idea is the right business idea it will attract like-minded people. There is no wrong or right time to start anything, sometimes you just have to put yourself out there. Never be afraid of failing, I’d rather start something and fail than not to start at all. You will never regret pursuing what you love. Also go into business for the right reasons – we all go into business to become millionaires but we also have to invest a lot of our time and money to eventually start making a living from it.

7. Do you have anything else you’re working on at the moment? What can we look forward to seeing you do next?

I am constantly working on something. My current focus is our single-use coffee sachets, we have collaborated with Southland Coffees to produce a unique, easy-to-carry coffee sachet. It’s originally from Japan and Southland has the exclusive production rights to the technology to produce the coffee sachets. Our intention is to offer the same great coffee for those on the go. We sell the sachets in house at our Maker’s Landing store and you can also place an order on Uber Eats to grab a box. We’re also looking for anyone who is looking to collaborate and create something exciting.

To keep up with Moses, follow him on Instagram.

Photographs: Jan Ras for TASTE magazine

Jess Spiro

Article by Jess Spiro

Jess Spiro is a freelance food writer, chef and restaurant critic based in Cape Town, who can often be found in search of the next great plate of food. Follow her on Instagram @jess_spiro to see what she's eating.
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