Katrine Anker-Nilssen meets Kloof micro coffee roaster Laura Hayes-Foley.
Laura has always been around good freshly roasted coffee.“When I was young there was only one roastery in Durban – Colombo Tea and Coffee in Gale Street. I remember going there with my mom and seeing and hearing the big coffee roaster – buying freshly roasted beans from Mrs MacFie.
“In my early twenties, I started buying a few kilos of green coffee and experimenting with roasting coffee … in a popcorn machine! Needless to say, I think I burnt out well over thirty popcorn machines. It was then that I progressed to a small Gene Cafe 250g coffee roaster.”
Laura used to take her coffee beans, grinder and a small espresso coffee machine everywhere – it stayed in her car boot. Eventually her friends and colleagues started asking if they could buy her roasted coffee, and this initiated her little coffee business, Artisana.
During this time, The Sunday Tribune started an annual event –The Cafe Society Magazine. “I was a part of a panel of judges. We went around to all the coffee shops and judged cappuccinos, incognito,” says Laura. She also got involved in the KZN Barista Championship, and was trained in the judging of this event.
“My business grew, and I found that I was not coping with my little roaster,” says Laura. “My brother-in-law, who also is a roaster in the Eastern Cape – we both sell under the same brand Artisana – had already designed and built his five kilogram roaster. He offered to build me one, in conjunction with his brother – they’re both engineers.” And so Laura is the proud and delighted owner of her beloved “Red Devil”.
“My main job and a huge love of mine has always been teaching – I have taught at St Mary’s, Fulton School for the Deaf and Roseway Waldorf,” says Laura. But since being retrenched in 2021, Artisana has become her main source of income.
“My late husband loved a well-made flat white, as does my daughter – who is a graphic designer and helps me with all my social media and design work,” says Laura. “My son is a trained barista and in his spare time, when he’s not coding, he helps me with deliveries. He also works with the coffee shops that use our coffee, helping their baristas to get their coffee right.”
What makes Artisana unique? The coffee is roasted in small batches weekly – ensuring it’s ultra fresh. And Laura allows her customers to mix and match the coffees, to get exactly what they enjoy drinking. “A lot of my customers even have their own special blends, which I keep note of,” she says.“I offer a variety of seasonal single origin coffees, and I grind my customers’ coffee to suit the needs for their specific coffee machines,” adds Laura – who does a lot of personal deliveries herself.
Laura has also started selling her coffee at the uMhlanga Farmers Market. “This led me to start selling other products which are close to my heart – such as real raw honey (from my hives or a beekeeper I know), kombucha, sugar free granola and homemade egg pasta (using free range eggs from my own chickens),” she says. “I have also started selling at the new Kloof Farmers Market. The first one, a great success, was in February. We hope to grow this market and offer local people a great variety of artisanal products and fresh produce.”
Going forward Laura hopes to grow her business, but most of all to continue to offer high-quality coffee – roasted with passion and care. “I just love roasting coffee and seeing it come out of the roaster at the perfect optimum colour and smell. It is incredibly satisfying, and it is truly my passion to give customers beautiful coffee.”