Meet SCASA Board Member, Neil Maree March 18 2019

Meet Neil Maree, new SCASA board member and Owner and Design Engineer at Genio Roasters in Johannesburg. Neil has built Africa's first coffee roasting equipment supplier from scratch and currently has six, fifteen and thirty kilogram coffee roasters in over 14 countries.

How did you end up working in the coffee industry?
I competed in the 2009 Barista Championship and completed my engineering thesis in coffee roasting automation systems.  

What excites you about the coffee industry?
The growth potential for the SA industry is phenomenal. There is so much more to explore, innovate and build upon and SCASA is one of the best vehicles to drive that.

Neil Maree with roasting client, De Wet Beukes of Red Truck Roastery 

Has South Africa’s coffee industry grown? Are we on par with the rest of the world?
We are certainly not on par in terms of size, but I think we are very close to on par with regards to quality and understanding within the specialty industry. The industry keeps growing year on year and will continue to do so as long as passionate individuals and companies keeps doing what they are doing now.

As a SCASA BoD member what you like to see more of in the future (in the industry)?
We are developing so many new opportunities for the industry and even the public to engage with each other and with the outside coffee world. All of these opportunities will exponentially increase SA’s coffee quality and culture. The biggest thing that I want to see is workshops; roasting, brewing, barista jams. Anything that brings the community together to improve their skills through sharing and cooperation. But these are not just pipe-dreams; they are already happening and right now is an exciting time to be involved in specialty coffee in SA!

Neil Maree exhibiting Genio Roasters at Hostex in 2015

What skills in your opinion should a barista or coffee professional have to be considered good?
The ability to teach and inspire others. We have many professionals in SA who have treasure troves of knowledge and experience, but they keep it to themselves or they do not have the platforms to share this knowledge with others. That ability and drive to educate others is what makes a good barista become a legend! 

What can coffee shops do to create more awareness for specialty coffee?
Interact with the greater coffee community. Be part of events like SCASA’s various competitions, travel to expos and exhibits, or even just participate in some way with other passionate coffee people. Awareness can be done with social media, but that only goes so far. The goal is to turn awareness into participation through education.

Any memorable SCASA coffee event moments you would like to share with us?
I think the best is yet to come. We are very actively working on expanding the SCASA platforms to become more interactive. Watch out for 2019’s competitions; they are going to be incredible!

Neil Maree serving Genio roasted coffee at Hostex in 2018

What is currently your favourite coffee, how are you brewing it, and why?
I enjoy a Chemex served in a glass. I don’t like cups because you loose something when you cannot see the coffee’s colour itself. As for origin: any fresh, properly roasted coffee with a development of 18-22% is good in my books! I enjoy experience any coffee like this because then its true colours come out albeit good or bad. Not all coffees are great, but they each have a story to tell.

What’s your advice or motivation to current and/or aspiring coffee professionals out there?
Look at our current barista champion Harry Mole and cupping champion Thabang Maluleka. These are people who have been runners-up for years in coffee competitions. But that did not stop or dissuade them. Instead, they kept pushing and pushing, year after year until they won. These are incredible individuals who we can all learn from. People like them motivate others to keep pushing and to never give up.

Photos: Genio Roasters