#MelaninMagic: The black owned coffee brand we are loving

Image: Lesedi Mothoagae

Tumi Khobane is the general manager of Monate Coffee, a 100% black-owned startup that is not only brewing coffee from the finest beans in Africa but making a difference.

What does your role as general manager entail?

I’m involved in many things, from ideation, admin, human resources, policies and procedures to production, purchasing, marketing and business development — no day is the same. Where were you born and raised? I was born in Cape Town and, for the most part, raised there.

What skills do you need to do your job?

I’m still learning, but here are a few vital lessons I have picked up: exercise patience; understand how to creatively solve problems; have the ability to delegate and a hunger to learn; learn to communicate and lead constructively; within the chaos, find a way to organise; remain proactive; and be flexible.

What inspired you to get involved with Monate Coffee?

As a budding entrepreneur, I’m genuinely passionate about the ability to lead and build from the ground up, and Monate Coffee allowed me to do exactly that.

You’ve been with Monate since the start. Tell us about your journey.

Coffee has become such a significant part of my life — it no longer feels like a job but rather a lifestyle. My eyes have been opened to the intrinsicchallenges and parallel rewards that come with taking a leap and being a part of a startup.

Image: Lesedi Mothoagae

What sets Monate apart?

We’re taking advantage of the strong entrepreneurial energy driving the country at the moment, especially within the black community, and using coffee as a vehicle to drive socio-economic change.

What’s the story behind the brand name?

What we’re saying is that our coffee is simply delicious, ke monate. We also hope the name indicates our idea to change the market by opening up its demographics.

The Monate blends have creative names such as Shaka’s Rock, and Freedom Brew. Talk us through them.

The names we have chosen speak to our history, and the movement within — allowing us to interrogate the rich texture that exists within our identity as Africans on different levels.

Give us a sense of what’s it like running a black-owned coffee business.

Our target audience strives for black excellence and so do we with our coffee. It’s world class, it’s premium, and it’s proudly South African. The fact that the industry hasn’t diversified or transformed much over the years is not a deterrent but rather an opportunity.

What do you love about the industry?

The idea that it is inventive. There is something special about creating a taste profile that is your own. We are not in competition but rather trying to grow our footprint as a community in a space that is still predominantly white-owned.

How does Monate work to empower South African youth?

Mosong Capital, a black investment company operating in the business acquisition and management space, founded Monate Coffee, the first of its entrepreneurial projects. As the company grows, we look forward to developing youth driven opportunities beyond the appointment of employees. We aim to provide a space in which there is opportunity for ownership, so through specially crafted programmes we’re hoping to see a movement from making coffee to managing and owning mobile stations.

What advice do you have for people who want to get into the coffee industry?

Understand where it is that you want to exist within the coffee universe. The world of coffee is extremely diverse and complex, and every tier within the value chain is as important as the next. Take your time in determining where your passion lies, and thus where your journey starts. You aren’t able to be an expert in all facets of the industry from the get-go, but with patience and consistent hunger to learn, you will get there.

This article first appeared in print in the Sowetan S Mag June 2018 edition.

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