The Department of Coffee: A Cuppa with a Kasi Vibe in Khayelitsha

A friend of mine recommended that I check out these guys and funny enough, I didn’t know about them.  So I set up a meeting and ended up spending a few hours with them….

The Department of Coffee is a vibey, fast paced and yet to a certain extent chilled coffee shop situated in one of Cape Town’s buzzing townships, Khayelitsha.  It is owned by three lively and enthusiastic young men; Wongama Baleni, Vuyile Msaku and Vusumzi Mamile.  After having worked together on two business models, a laundry and a car wash,  which are popular businesses in the townships, the trio decided on going for a unique concept – a coffee shop in the township.

The Department of Coffee opened their doors in July 2012 and they have been serving coffee to locals and tourists ever since.    A trip to The Department of Coffee is highly recommended as is it listed as one of the 40 things to do in Cape Town under R200.   Indeed, one spends less than R200, even after purchasing one of the Department of Coffee’s blend of coffee beans.

Who would have thought of having a coffee shop in the township? I mean, a lot of people would think, who’s going to buy coffee in the township?  People make their own coffee at home.

” You don’t know what you don’t know and you’ll never know what you can’t see and experience” says Vuyile when asked what made them think the locals would buy coffee.   One can never say there is no coffee culture in the township because the people have not been exposed to coffee shop facilities.  These guys saw that gap and came up with the coffee shop concept ekasi and believed in it. Looking at them run their business, one can’t help but notice the amazing support they are getting from the locals.   However, they also give back to the community that supports them in so many ways.  During my visit, I joined a Brazilian couple on a tour guided by Wongama around the area and we got to see, buy and interact with some of the street vendors.

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Well, next time you take a trip to Khayelitsha go say “Hi!” to these guys and join them in creating excitement!  There’s acronym they came up with – J.U.I.C.E.  (Join us in creating excitement!).  So, don’t be suprised when you hear them go J.U.I.C.E!!!

When you get there don’t expect to find a coffee shop environment you are used to.  The place is nothing short of excitement and interesting personalities (both owners and customers).  Chances are you’ll see this lady yelling “hey bantwana ndini!  Ndinikeni ikofu!” (hey you children, give me coffee!).   That’s how she buys her coffee! Haha!

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Or, see this fellow buying a cuppa and acting all cool with township swag layered on thick !

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For more info visit the Department of Coffee website:

Like the Department of Coffee page on Facebook:

Or follow the Department of Coffee on twitter:

Check out some of the tweets:


About Author


Thuli Gogela is a Food Technologist with 8 years of experience developing products in food manufacturing. She is dedicated to discovering wholesome traditional dishes and recipes with a distinctive taste from different parts of the African continent. Thuli is well known for her food blog, Mzansi Style Cuisine which was established in 2010. She saw a gap in the traditional food market that people were hungry for. From there, it didn’t take long to build her brand. In 2013, she started writing a recipe column for the Cape Times for and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in South Africa namely, Knorr, Nedeburg Wines, First Choice and Spekko rice. Not only does Thuli feature traditional African dishes, she’s also open to developing recipes, food consultations and brand collaborations.

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