Women in Coffee: Simnikiwe Mkhize August 20 2019

(Simnikiwe with her beloved V60. Photo: Misha Lee)

Celebrating Simnikiwe Mkhize this Women’s Month! A decorated barista from KwaZulu-Natal originally, now living in Cape Town, has become a beacon for many aspiring female coffee professionals. Her dedication and strive should be an inspiration for all. Simnikiwe is currently preparing to compete at the upcoming Western Cape Coffee Competitions (4-6 September 2019) in Woodstock. We connected to learn more about this woman in coffee.

(Simnikiwe on the left and colleague Sharon Muto on the right. Photo: The Traveling Barista)

Thanks for taking the time Simnikiwe. Where do you currently work and what do you do for them?

I currently work for Rosetta Roastery in Cape Town, and I am the cafe manager and barista for the Woodstock location.

How did you end up in the coffee industry?

I was head hunted from a cinema job, but initially started as a kitchen hand for a small coffee shop in Umhlanga (Durban) and the barista there trained me to make coffee for those times, days when he will not be at the shop. We traded skills so the customer wouldn't suffer in anybody’s absence. I suppose that's how the fire started.
Great story.

You’ve been in the industry for a while. Tell us a bit about your 'Coffee Achievements'?

2015 KZN Coffee Society: Barista Personality of the Year
2017 KZN Regionals: SCASA Barista Competition Winner
2018 WC Regionals: SCASA Barista Competition Winner
2019 Coffee Magazine Awards: Barista of the Year
Wow. A regional champion in two regions, that’s special.

Your favourite coffee at the moment and why?
It’s a tie between two completely different coffees. I’ll mention one because the other I have decided to use at the WC Regional SCASA Barista Competition coming up in September. The one I will mention, actually surprised me because I have always avoided certain coffee characteristics, it’s from the Frinsa Estate in the West Java region of Indonesia. It has a full body and very obvious herbal and spicy notes, and that combination finished with brown sugar sweetness just struck me.
We’re curious to learn more about the other one at the Western Cape Regionals.

In your opinion, what would like to see happen more in the industry?
As coffee professionals or as baristas we need to stop viewing ourselves only as button pushers, we need to redefine our roles and contribute to the customer education and experience.
Fully agree. Thanks for sharing.

What’s your advice or motivation to current and/or aspiring female coffee professionals out there?
Don't be discouraged.There are those customers who have the perception that a female will not make a satisfactory cup of coffee. You know yourself, make it anyway and aim for more than just being basic or average, leverage all the opportunities that may come your way.
Thank you Simnikiwe, wishing all the very best with your coffee journey.

Don’t miss Simnikiwe competing at the Western Cape Region’s Coffee Competitions, 4-6 September at GOODSpaces in Woodstock. Entries are still open, but close 31 August, if you would like to join Simnikiwe on the competition stage. Click here for more entry details for competitors and judges.

Photos: SCASA / Misha Lee / The Traveling Barista