Cast Iron Coffee Co. - Who We Are
“Buying coffee is a very personal thing. Each person has their own and very specific way of obtaining (their idea of) the perfect coffee. Some religiously squeeze the bags to smell what’s currently good on the shelves. Others argue that it is the price that determines the quality, which in turn affects the flavour – kind of like a 1-1 ratio. We believe in offering a balance of all those things. Fresh roasts and great quality coffee beans – you won’t ever go wrong with this approach. That’s what makes us stand out.“
"From observing people and using my own experiences, it hit me. Somewhere along the line, everyone had a cup of coffee that got ingrained into their memory – the best cup of coffee. It could have been the place they were at, the people they were with. But what seems to be the most likely, is that it was super fresh. People really just want freshly roasted coffee. Having that type of access to coffee is a game changer. The coffee just tastes different. I want to provide that accessibility to people through Cast Iron Coffee."
Michael Irons | Founder
Our Story | How It All Started - 1
Originally I wasn’t the most avid or regular coffee drinker. Sure, I liked coffee; on the odd occasion, especially in Stellenbosch – man I had some great lattes there. But here at home in Barberton, I didn’t drink much coffee at all, except for the odd instant coffee.
That began to change with a certain little bean-to-cup machine at work. Not mentioning brands, but you can order it online really easily. Suddenly coffee started to taste like it did at cafés. I liked that – a lot. As time passed, I started to drink a cup of coffee everyday – not normal for me. It never tasted as good as the café coffee at home, but that’s why I never had it that often. That little machine really changed my perception of coffee.
Now that I had a better and more recent appreciation of good coffee beans, I headed down to the local supermarket to see what I could get for a cup of coffee at home. I then found a brand I’d had in Cape Town. Perfect.
Fast forward to making the coffee at home – it didn’t taste anything like the experience I remember. I checked the date: roasted 4 months ago. Hmm…, drinkable but not great. I had a vague idea that coffee was a bean that was roasted, then ground and enjoyed with hot water – couldn’t be too hard right?
Our Story | The Real Beginning - 2
Well, that’s how my coffee journey really started. I went online to look for green coffee beans and came across my current supplier. Which company that imports TONS of beans would sell a kilo or two to a home hopeful? None. Okay, almost none – bar this company. To be fully transparent, they were the only company that actually even replied back to my oddly suspicious Gmail addressed email.
Their response? Sure thing, what do you want….? And that’s how I got my first batch of green coffee delivered to me. On receiving the beans, I was expecting an amazing and coffee-like smell to come from the bag. Wrong again. It smelt nothing like coffee, and to be completely honest, like nothing I thought raw coffee would smell like. Slight regret at trying to get my own coffee thing going.
I realized shortly that was the least of my worries for now. I had to roast the coffee. (Disclaimer: Yes, I did just buy green beans online and not figure out how I was going to roast them. Super clever .) So, I watched a couple of YouTube videos, like every expert does that can’t figure out the next step. From the whole 2 videos that I watched, I decided to follow the advice of the burly and bearded American roasting coffee over a cast iron skillet on a campfire. Mainly because, if he could do it – surely, I could too?
So, cue myself with a cast iron pot, a wooden spoon (for stirring of course), my green beans and fire. My fire was simply a little gas cylinder with a cooker attachment. Much smoke later with blackened beans, I had roasted my first coffee. Very proudly, I decided to grind some up and taste. I’m sure you can imagine what it tasted like – because I didn’t. I actually made a cup of coffee from it, not so clever of me, should have binned it. So, amid the flavours of varying smoke levels, there was a slight taste of ash and oil. Utter disappointment! I decided I would just carry on with store-bought coffee from then on.
Our Story | The Change - 3
A few weeks later I got an email from my supplier saying that they were offering a course on green beans that would go through the whole production process. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go, still scarred from my first roasting attempt.
I did the course over a few days and then suddenly things made sense – everything made sense, at long last! With my newfound excitement and a fresh variety of green coffee, I went home to try my hand at roasting again. I must just note, I was the only person at the course that had attempted hand roasting and didn’t have plans to go into the coffee sector – yes, I did get some looks and funnier questions.
I applied what I’d learnt and voila! I had some super decent coffee that I had roasted myself. I was pretty happy then, finally had coffee that I liked at home.
Our Story | The Spark - 4
So come Christmas, I decided I’d make up some roasted coffee packs for friends as small gift. I’m quite a big fan of homemade treats as a gift. I roasted up my favourite varieties, bagged them and wrapped them up….. and sent them off and forgot about them in general.
A few weeks later I got a request for some more of the coffee I’d given out. I was a bit shocked as I’d thought I would be the only one to enjoy it. So, I did some more up. Then again and again. And that’s where it hit me – access to decent fresh coffee…..
And that’s where Cast Iron Coffee started. After some encouragement, I decided to start the little roastery, in Barberton. Coffee in Barberton? Definitely. I started with a cast iron pot, some beans and some generic coffee bags. That’s how I got the name – Cast Iron Coffee. And no, it’s actually got nothing to do with my surname, that was really just coincidence – a nice one.
Our Story | The Now - 5
From that small (and unplanned) beginning, we are now at a point where we have a commercial roaster, our own brand and happy customers. I’m still amazed at where the company currently is and how we got here. But more than that, the company is still growing – and that’s a great feeling.
My unexpected foray into coffee has made me realize how people and coffee are so inter-connected. It’s a beautiful thing seeing how one can make a positive difference with coffee. From the conversations around it to making someone smile when brewing them a cup. Coffee is about people. And that’s why I’d like to thank our customers for being part of where we are. I hope that you will also join us on our journey, and of course – enjoy some great coffee.