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Posted on: Friday, 18 September 2009

kwaLapa – telling the stories of food

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kwaLapa in Newlands

kwaLapa in Newlands

It’s my week for visiting food stores. And kwaLapa in Newlands Montebello Design Centre, just recently opened, is about to take the southern suburbs organic-and-green-for-lunch crowd by storm.

It’s not just their catchy byline – telling the stories of food, where the store weaves the stories of its suppliers into the very fabric of the walls – but it is also the menu, filled with organic, wholesome options that include buttermilk flapjacks, raw muesli, organic soup of the day, delectably filled wraps, a freshly tossed salad of the day served with a cranberry or blueberry dip, and various organic coffee and tea options that make one fairly burst to sit and sip, whilst waving one’s hands in the air for them to ‘bring it on’! …

Not since Organic Living in Plumstead closed its restaurant doors and absconded to Constantia Village (where it remains a thriving organic health store), has a deli held so much promise. And when you see their venue, you will understand. KwaLapa is set in amongst the trees, sheltered beneath a bedouin tent, its central fulcrum a huge, old tree that lends the space an incredible feeling, with wooden, temporary walls at various heights that both keep the weather at bay, and allow in the wonderful natural surrounds at Montebello.

By Right Mukore

By Right Mukore

Fey light fittings designed by Street Wires cascade from the roof, there are handcrafted tables from recycled materials at which to sit, made by Weyers Marais, and the long central table found in the shop proper (the part of the shop that is inside, as opposed to outside), as well as two other, were handcrafted by local Montebello artist Right Mukore (you can visit his studio directly across from kwaLapa).

KwaLapa have been very quiet about its opening. They’re postponing their official launch until November, in time for summer, which also allows them to get through the initial teething problems that apparently beset all such ventures. But it’s difficult to see any sign of these.

It’s true that the store is not teeming with products – I’d be worried if it was as there is a derth of truly certified organic, local products. What they have on their shelves are carefully handpicked products that reflect the ethos of the store and local community projects, like Beanthere coffee, an Ethiopian, Fairtrade, single estate coffee, truly free-range eggs handpicked at Splash farm, milk, feta, rusks and jam from Camphill Village, and some gorgeous dried flower arrangements in baskets that urge on to indulge.

Beenthere Coffee

Beenthere Coffee

And speaking of indulgences, after Emily, one of the four partners involved in kwaLapa, has finished showing me around and pointing out the finer points of many of the products, it is difficult for me to resist whipping out my debit card as a ‘shopping spree in the making’ hits me from a dizzy height. I’m here, after all, to scout the place out for a write up, not to satiate my desires. But go on, a cup of your wild hot chocolate, made from organic cocoa, wild honey and spices (no sugar) would definitely tempt me!

And so I sit and listen to the various stories behind the food. There’s Sky, the young farmer with a farm in Philipi who supplies their fresh organic produce on a weekly basis. They’re waiting on a delivery from him as we sit and chat, and moments later he arrives, denims tucked into wellies – a parody of the Constantia horsy crowd who parade in their jodpurs and boots. I hear about the already mentioned tables, their eggs and dairy, their organic sausages (to which I succumbed) and their plans for the future.

Biophile Magazine

Biophile Magazine

There are the fine pottery tea cups and saucers, locally designed and made, and even a reference section in the shop where you can sit and read backdated versions of local green magazines like Biophile and Shared Earth, and local books like Bending the Curve and the Beryn and Peter Daniel’s latest raw food (un)cook book.

There is a general lightness about the store that is hard to describe, and has a lot to do with the obvious passion that the 4 partners involved, Emily, Patrick, Bruce and Paula, have poured into the store. If food could speak, what would it say to us? Would it tell us about its friends? Who’s cared for it, carried it around, the things it saw along the way, the places it visited, the people who raised it, its ancestory and its dreams?

Find Kwalapa:
31 Newlands Avenue, Newlands, Cape Town
Telephone +27 (0)21 687-9314
Website: kwalapa.co.za

Useful Links:
For lots of ideas for places to go see our section on Things to Do in Cape Town. The section includes Art Galleries, craft and flea markets, farmers markets, cafes and eateries, places to shop … and a whole lot more! And if you are a tourist see Cape Town Attractions for all the recommended things to see and Hotels in Cape Town to plan your trip!

Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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