Tess Schmidt is the 2019 Western Cape Region Cup Tasters Champion (Photo: Justin Groep).
Newly crowned cup tasting champion, Tess Schmidt, from Sevenoaks Trading shares her coffee story with us. Tess met Leigh Wentzel from Rosetta Roastery in the Western Cape region’s Cup Tasters final, after beating Sharon Muto (also from Rosetta Roastery) in first round.
Tell us a bit about yourself? Where do you currently work and how did you get into coffee?
About 20 years ago I was introduced to coffee. I was asked to assist in setting up a coffee company. It was just myself and the owner. My knowledge of coffee was embarrassingly insignificant. It grew as the company grew and I was exposed to various aspects of coffee. I didn’t find coffee, coffee found me. I think someone else said that once, but it’s the truth.
I am currently employed by Sevenoaks Trading. I have been working for Carol Corlett since January this year. Our head office is in Gauteng and we sell green beans to roasters all over South Africa.
The Western Cape Region Coffee Competitions were such an exciting event this year, tell us more about your experience and how it felt like competing?
The venue was wonderful. It was such a pleasure to participate. There were some wonderful coffee personalities there and I felt very humbled by these wonderful coffee aficionados.
The sets were very challenging this year and it was very clear that the level of competition is improving. We have to prepare our palates to compete with the world’s best. The organisers clearly understood this and challenged us. I sincerely hope that this level of competition will continue to match up to the world event. Although very nervous, I enjoyed the sets and the different taste profiles. You have to zone out completely and the sets this year almost forced one to do so.
What are your interests outside of coffee?
I love to garden, cook and entertain friends and family.
What is great about coffee in the Western Cape?
Due to my work I get the opportunity to meet our customers at their roastery. It is truly exciting to see all walks of life; part time roasters, full time roasters, all complete caffeine addicts. All these people have one thing in common. They LOVE coffee and want to educate consumers to appreciate and love it too. There is much to learn and slowly but surely roasters in the Western Cape pull together to create this vibrant community. It is exciting to see this growth and people are empowered. Not only are jobs being created by this education, but the passion for coffee is ignited and then there is no turning back.
What is your favourite coffee at the moment, and why?
This is a difficult one. We are very blessed to have so many wonderful coffees in our warehouse. Mike MacDonald our Q Grader in Cape Town made up a lovely blend of Costa Rica Don Claudio and Tanzania Mondul that I really enjoyed.
Is there anyone you would like to thank or recognize, or who helped you to prepare for the Western Cape Region Coffee Competitions?
Honestly, I did not prepare much for the competition. I keep my palate fresh and clean on the day for the competition but I do want to thank my boss Carol and our Sevenoaks team. If you ever need a group of people motivating you and believing in you, then boy they are it. It is wonderful to work for such a supportive group of people. I get to taste a lot of different coffees due to my job and I really think that this has helped develop my palate.
What’s next for you and where do you see yourself in five years?
I would like to win Nationals and go on to the world event. At Sevenoaks there are so many opportunities to develop your talent, so in the next five years I could do anything in coffee. I enjoy meeting people and would like to continue supporting and sourcing more customers. I have not been to a coffee plantation as yet and would like to see a plantation for myself. Stick my hands in the soil and just be stupidly giddy about the fact that I am at the source of this wonderful commodity.
Thank you Tess for taking some time to share your journey with us.