In the beginning it was an ordinary cafe – for coffee. But the Afro Coffee shop at Church Street in sunny Cape Town, South Africa, took it a step further and started designing a tasteful range of products around the beverage: not only beautifying the packaging design of their coffee brand Afro Coffee, but also designing the whole interior of the cafe and eventually enhancing the assortment with their own special tea brand, and fabrics – and even fashion like super cute bags with an African spirit! PingMag talked with the Afro Coffee member Grant Rushmere about more than coffee.
Written by Uleshka and Verena
Afro Coffee’s Afro Tea from Cape Town in a delicious looking 75 g tin.
The Afro Sac Bag from Afro Coffee, a leather and fabric combo.
First, let’s begin with: who is Afro Coffee?
The members are myself, Grant Rushmere, and two Austrian partners who have facilitated and assisted me in developing the brand, with a view to taking it slowly into the wide world. Design and branding have been a passion of mine and these are realized through the Afro Coffee brand and the fun merchandising we develop. One of my partners has an international network of advertising agencies and the other has developed and owns a world leading brand. With their experience they have and will continue to guide the development of Afro Coffee.
Detail of the bag with another pattern on the fabric…
…vividly colourful! Same detail in a varied colour.
And how did the whole project start?
It started out as a cafe in downtown Cape Town. Our concept was to harness a Pan African view of contemporary urban Africa. The pop art nature of African design inspired us to create our own brand of coffee instead of the usual Italian coffee that most cafes use. Our goal was to refocus people to the origins of coffee – that it in fact originated in Africa before being discovered by the Arabs and from Yemen, exported around the world. Many people don’t know this, so we attempt to capture and celebrate this African spirit in our packaging and all we do.
Detail from the bag pictured above with an afro bikini girl in green…
…and, woah, what a pink!
Another fabric motif, equally stunning…
…and in a slightly different colour.
What is your Afro Cafe mission?
Our mission is to communicate the joys of Africa through our Afro Cafes and our Afro branded products. The fact that the African people are so wonderfully not self-conscious at all, their humour and freedom and their style and design. Hopefully we can convey this spirit and enhance the lives of people who consume our product and sip coffee listening to Afro Tunes at our cafes. For South Africa, we try to show just how cool Afro culture actually is and instill a sense of confidence into people to make them realize what they already are. Lofty ideals but we’ll have a go!
When did it become bigger, being not only an ordinary coffee shop?
After being discovered by my Austrian partners, the funds were available to develop the brand further: firstly into a tea brand called Afro Tea, a collection of loose leaf teas flavoured with fruits and flowers – all using African tea bases, like Rooibos. We then developed and designed our own fabrics, inspired by the West African religious cloth fabrics, which we had converted into oil cloth table cloths for the cafe. They turned out so beautifully that we felt we had to make bags from them as well, and so now we print these designs on high quality fabric and combine it with leather to make Afro Bags. This will never be as widely distributed as our tea and coffee, but it allows us to express the lifestyle that inspires our brand.
What sort of products do you sell else?
We sell Afro Coffee and Afro Tea in the cafe. We are also starting to distribute these into select stores, first in South Africa and then into Europe and hopefully further, in time. Our merchandising product is sold in the cafe as well, with a very limited distribution in Cape Town. Our online store will be live within the next 2 months on our website and will finally allow people to purchase our products from anywhere in the world.
Now, who designs your cute and colourful products?
Psst! Soon to come – more fine looking crockery.
It is a combination of myself, my sister, Tracy Rushmere, and our designers Peet Pienaar and Heidi Chisholm from the Cape Town-based company Daddy Buy Me a Pony from 9November Union of Companies.
And who produces them?
Except for tea which will be available from this year, all our products are made by a range of South African producers that contribute exclusive, original products for Afro.
Do you have events or parties in the Afro Cafe, too?
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings we have live African music playing at the cafe. The bands are from Senegal, Congo, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and many other African nations.
From the Afro T-shirt section: football for girls…
…and more of the happy patterns.
What people come to your cafe?
Thankfully a very eclectic mix of all ages and origins. People involved in a very wide range of creative disciplines are the ones who capture the spirit of adventure most readily – but so do children.
As I heard, your shop was so successful that it expanded a bit…?
Indeed, the next Afro Cafe will open in Salzburg, Austria, in early May.
We wish you all the best, and eagerly wait for a branch in Tokyo… Even more, in the PingMag office, we are totally hooked on your delicious Afro Tea with its totally aromatic Rooibos, rose and elderberry flavour! Thank you, Afro Coffee and Grant Rushmere!