“My Genio Mezzo coffee roaster operates like a military fighter jet, remarkable performance, amazing control and handling characteristics, maneuverable, user-friendly with state of the art technology, but still a hands on machine, offering you the ability to sense what is happening with the coffee.” Justus du Toit, South African Air Force pilot and Owner of Wings Coffee Roasters
At Genio Roasters we love to hear how are clients are doing and what they’re roasting at the moment. Since last year we’ve been featuring some of our clients’ roasting and coffee tales.
Meet Justus du Toit from Wings Coffee Roasters, one of Genio Roasters’ first clients, specialising in linking the passion of flight with coffee. Justus joined the South African Air Force ten years ago, where he spent the last five years flying Hawk Mk120 jets in a remote area of South Africa. Aviation and coffee have always had a close connection due to the high demands of his job, so naturally he has also spent the last ten years of his life drinking really bad coffee. A few great cappuccinos and a trip to Scandinavia provided him with the inspiration to research the possibility of making a business out of roasting coffee. Seven months later, he convinced his wife to purchase our half-a-ton Genio Mezzo roaster – now the business’s workhorse! What they do, in a nutshell, is select the finest green beans from around the world and roast them to the way Mother Nature intended them to taste…
We caught up with Justus from Wings recently to learn a bit more about him, his business and all things coffee…
1.1. How long have you worked in the coffee industry?
April 2015 marked my second year.
1.2 About Wings Coffee Roasters? How did it begin?
Wings Coffee started due to my love for aviation as well as coffee, and being a South African Air Force fighter pilot, I could not imagine a more fitting name to combine my two passions. The business plan started by me desiring great coffee at the Air Force Base, so I bought a Nespresso machine, placed it inside our pilots crew room and sold the pods to fund my desire. Shortly after that, the desire grew, and unfortunately the pods were not satisfactory any more. During a trip to Sweden, I discovered the magic of coffee roasting, and I knew that this was the next step.
1.3. Why aviation?
As military pilots, we are faced with high intensity physical as well as mental scenarios in the cockpit, requiring optimum alertness with only split seconds to react. Coffee and good training, of course, most definitely assist us to complete the task at hand safely and effectively. This is because the caffeine from the coffee assists with the brain’s ability to stay alert and recall information faster for up to twelve hours, and unlike sugary energy drinks, there is no “sugar crash” afterwards. This simple fact is evident around the world, thus a big part of my business is to supply great tasting “Wings Energy” to not only the South African Air Force flying squadrons, but also other Air Force squadrons stretching as far as Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Sweden.
2. What is the most rewarding part of the coffee industry for you?
As an aviator, I love a great adventure and the idea of traveling to the most remote places on earth. However, it is not always possible to just pack your bag and go, but through coffee, I can take an international flight daily, sometimes with several destinations (with a bit of coffee “jet” lag as result of course).
3. What do you like about roasting with a Genio roaster?
It operates like a military fighter jet, remarkable performance, amazing control and handling characteristics, maneuverable, user-friendly with state of the art technology, but still a hands on machine, offering you the ability to sense what is happening with the coffee.
4. Tell us about a special/magical roast you had with your Genio roaster? What origin bean was it, what settings did you use, what did the end product taste like, etc.
A true cliché, but EVERY roast with the Genio is magical. It’s an artisan’s tool, allowing complete sensory art stimulation. Like a true artist, when roasting on the Mezzo, the better I feel, the better she roasts… and that’s real magic!
5. What added features would you like to see in a (Genio) coffee roaster?
An afterburner and wings, then I can fly and roast at the same time! Just joking, the machine is fantastic, and I have absolutely no additional designs requirements. As we say in the military, it works consistently and safely, so that’s good enough for me!
6. What is the longest period that you have gone without coffee? What happened?
About two weeks. I challenged myself to see if I was addicted, the challenge was originally set at one month…
7. What is the most unique/exotic coffee/coffee experience that you’ve ever had?
It would be an experience: Making a Moka Pot inside a hanger on a propane gas stove during a military exercise, in full flying kit, awaiting the call to be scrambled to intercept the “enemy”.
8. What makes coffee special for you?
It’s one of nature’s most amazing storytellers, and if you listen carefully during the roasting process, she will tell them all!
9. What’s your favourite type of coffee/How do you enjoy your coffee?
I am a filter coffee lover, but have a soft spot for a great flat white.
10. What’s the feedback been like re: signature product/that one thing your customers just can’t get enough of?
I have a blend called “East-West”. West: Central America, Nicaragua, and East: South East Asia, China. Its my best seller because its offers some thing different and unique, imagine sipping on warm honey… my customers love it, nationally as well as internationally!
11. What’s the next step for Wings Coffee Roasters?
I just opened my first “Hangar” in Langebaan, we offer coffee roasting on site plus tasting via all the brewing methods known… The next step is opening an international Hangar in the Middle East.
12. Do you think South Africa still has a far way to go in a global coffee culture?
Not at the rate that we are moving currently, soon South Africa will start the latest trends on the international coffee seen.
13. What advice do you have for aspiring coffee: roasters, baristas and entrepreneurs out there?
Love what you do, and do it to the best of your ability, no shortcuts, no compromise on quality!
Take a look at some behind the scenes pictures of Wings Coffee Roasters’ operations