Activities / Western Cape

A Trip to the Department of Coffee Open Day

Updated Friday, 26 May 2017

When was the last time you went on a train to Khayelitsha? Let me rephrase that, when was the last time you even thought of taking a train to Khayelitsha? This wasn’t on my radar at all until a few days ago when a friend suggested we head out to the Department of Coffee (DoC) open day.

You might still be confused, so let me give you a little bit of background, because this was something completely new to me as well. The Department of Coffee was started by Wongama, Vusumzi and Vuyile and officially started serving cups of java in July 2012. Wongama and Vusimzi had a dream of opening a coffee shop in a shack and with Vuyile’s skills as a barista this dream became a reality. You’ll find their shop outside the bustling, vibey hub of the Khayelitsha train station.

Department of Coffee
Photographs — Left: Street art / Centre: More street art/ Right: The Esplanade train station

This was the fourth open day that has been held and there was a prearranged train that left from the Cape Town station and returns later in the day. If you had a bicycle you were encouraged to bring this along so you could cycle around the area and up to Lookout Hill thanks to the Velokhaya cycling academy.

We weren’t able to make the 09h15 train and so decided to make our own little mission there. I met Mo and Shireen at their home in Woodstock and we made a short walk to the train station. The walk was an exciting mix of culture and art and a vibe that you completely miss while driving in a car.

We bought our tickets to Khayelitsha (R14 for a single) much to the amusement of some of the staff, but once we explained where we were headed there were nods of approval. Clearly the DoC is quite popular. After being guided to the correct platform, we needed to make our way to a different line, we sat on the concrete waiting for the next train. We did have to ask a number of people if we were indeed on the right one.

Department of Coffee
Photographs — Left: The men of the DoC / Right: Outside the DoC

After passing through stations such as Langa, Nyanga and Bonteheuwel we arrived at what we thought was the Khayelitsha station only to disembark and find out we were one stop too early. We waited for about another 20 minutes for the next train while and were assisted by a really friendly gentleman who made sure we got to where we needed to be. And finally we made it.

The Khayelitsha station is a complete buzz, there are stall holders selling anything and everything from cd’s, fresh produce, clothing, jewellery, shoes and even barbecued chicken feet.

The DoC building is instantly recognisable with its red walls and we headed straight there. The vibe was electric with a mix of both locals and foreigners. We ordered our latte’s and for only R32.50 we walked away with two latte’s, a freezachino and a chocolate muffin.

The team inside was having so much fun it is hard not to smile! What a bargain and what delicious coffee! After browsing at the various stalls selling local crafts and very funky t-shirts we found a shady spot and sat down to enjoy the activities.

Department of Coffee
Photographs — Left: Enjoying the entertainment / Centre: The little boy who stole the show Right: Market stalls

We watched as a variety of performers and musicians showed off their talents. Another great thing the DoC is doing is allowing these youngsters to show off their talent and perform to appreciative crowds. While things happened and the music was playing a little boy of probably three or four years stole the show with his dance moves and absolute confidence in his captivating performance.

While sitting on the train on the 45 minute train journey home I reflected on what the day had shown me. Leaving the city and heading through parts of our city where so many live in homes made from various materials that have been collected yet still finding the beauty of the spirit in both the members of the DoC and Khayelitsha itself.

Seeing how these young entrepreneurs are changing the face of the coffee culture in the townships and making it affordable to one and all. And realising that all of your dreams can be turned into reality with hard work and perseverance. It was a good day, a positive day and one I will cherish for years to come

Department of Coffee
Photographs — Left: The bustling hub of the train station / Centre: The DoC from the train centre / Right: Homes seen from the train

I’ll be back to the DoC and hope I’ll see many more people there to. The next open day is Saturday 15 June 2013. Find the Department of Coffee at 158 Ntlazane Str, Khayelitsha. They are open from Monday to Friday from 05h00 to 18h00 and on Saturdays from 08h00 to 15h00. Contact the DoC on +27 (0)733009519 /+27 (0)78 086-0093 or +27 (0)78 316-2918.

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