Bilbo Steyn

Who is Bilbo Steyn?

This is a very tricky question, it feels a bit like an online dating bio!

I’m just your average 31 year old chick who can make a party out of almost any occasion and always have the essential ingredients on hand for a slap up meal. My life is busy with work but I ironically work very hard to balance it out and retain some sense of spontanatiety. I have a really good career and life in Cape Town, I am blessed with a ridiculously awesome family and my friends are loving, generous and heaps of fun, so I try to spend as much time with them as possible, yet I’m very independent and can happily do my own thing.

What is your best childhood memory?

The truth is I had a very happy upbringing, we toured Southern Africa extensively during school holidays (my parents were both teachers) and always spent Christmas holidays surrounded by grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. There are vivid memories that stand out, my mom would always offer us coffee (note, the instant coffee most of us were raised on) after supper time when we sat down to watch whatever sitcom was on the TV that night. She would make it quite weak and with very little sugar and always in these small yellow plastic mugs. She still has them. Once we moved into town, I would ride to the local park and dam every day. There were fish in the dam and we would spend hours catch and releasing them. I even once organised a mud fight between our Grade 5 class’ boys and girls. I’m pretty certain the girls ruled that game. Adventure has always coursed through my veins!

How did you get into coffee?

It all started for me when I got a job as a sales rep for an Italian company. One of my biggest sellers was a well known Italian coffee and I realised very quickly that people were stealing my business because they offered barista training etc. So, I started learning little by little and offering my services to my customers. I soon joined Dylan Cumming and Charli Denison at RedBerry coffee, all the while growing and learning more. Unfortunately I was made redundant some 18 months later and I ended up joining the team at Origin Coffee Roasters. It was here that I refined my skills and placed Top 6 at 2 Nationals. My 3 and a half year journey at Origin came to an end last year February when I was approached to join the beverage department for the Woolworths Cafés in the Western Cape.

If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently?

I would definitely have been more focused at Maths and Science in high school, maybe gone to school at a later age as well. In high school, all I wanted to do was backpack across the globe (and I did a fair bit) and party with friends after our weekend work shifts. I believe I might have studied something interesting like Food Sciences, Architecture or Astronomy; who knows, I might one day go back to school.

What do you feel most proud of?

Nothing beats bumping into people that I trained in my 9 years working with coffee. It is incredibly rewarding to hear their stories, how they’ve grown, improved etc. Knowing that I made even a small difference in their lives is what motivates me to keep doing what I do. I am also in the same breath, pleased with my own skills that were honed by watching people, asking questions and partaking in lots of competition. I have failed numerous times, cried many tears at our barista competitions, but always kept going back with the support of my family and coffee peers. It has made me a stronger coffee person and I have true appreciation for the art of coffee.

Getting it right
Photography by Guy Platt

If you could only keep three possessions, what would they be and why?

I am by no means a materialistic person; but I would really hate to lose the following:

  • My great grandmothers 1951, 1st edition “Kook en Geniet”. Every single page is riddled with her handwriting, notes on recipes, other recipes enjoyed with friends and even some boere-raad! She is the only great grandparent I knew and died in her afternoon sleep on my 7th birthday.
  • My dad’s watch, it was bought many years before my birth and I wear it with immense pride, my father lives very far away, so it’s a lovely reminder of his love for me.
  • A collection of letters my mom wrote to me while I lived in England. She wrote one every week and they contained the simplest messages of love, hope and devotion.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

Here lies Bilbo. Patiently waiting for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Nah- just kidding!

It would hopefully say something like this:

“Loyal daughter, jovial sister and fierce friend”

What’s your favorite kind of coffee, brew method or coffee origin?

When I drink espresso based, I prefer Americanos and I’ll sometimes have it with milk. Every now and then a Cortado will do if I’ve skipped breakfast. I adore my Chemex, Aeropress and V60, and I’ll gladly brew anything in it. But I’m partial to Kenya’s and Ethiopian’s and I prefer my coffee on the lighter roast spectrum.

In which coffee shops are we likely to bump into you?

6 days a week you’ll find me at a Woolworth’s café, and if my off day doesn’t fall on a Sunday, you’ll most likely find me as Espresso Lab or Rosetta’s. I also enjoy going to Boston Coffee because they ooze friendliness.

What does a perfect day look like?

Oh! Too many scenarios!

But if it’s my day off…waking up naturally to a clean flat! A quick breakfast and off to meet friends for coffee and lunch, maybe cook up a storm for evening guests and getting philosophical and silly over lots of good wine and music. An Uber into town for some late night dancing and ending it all off at the Kimberley Hotel (where granted, nothing ever ends classy). Or throw in a beach picnic, hike or general lurking around with the spaniels and I’m a happy camper.

 

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