They say the day hasn’t started until you get your shot of caffeine, and no-one knows that better than Atterbury’s own in-house barista. From her little kingdom on the fifth floor of head office, Lerato Sepeng chatted to us about coffee memes, whether it’s ever to late to drink a cup of Joe, and who is the most demanding coffee customer in the building…

 “A yawn is a silent scream for coffee”

How long have you been working for Atterbury and how did your paths first cross?
It’s about two years now. I used to work for Tribeca at Lynnwood Bridge and Atterbury ordered a LOT of coffee from us. So I approached them and suggested that they buy their own machine and get me to make the coffee for them. And that’s how it happened – Tribeca Coffee @Atterbury was born!

“You smell coffee? Me neither. Make some!”

How did you get to be a barista?
I started in Woolies Café… I’d been a host there for three or so years when I asked to be trained as a barista, it looked like a nice challenge. You always see male baristas and I thought that needed to change! That was four years ago.

“A day may come when I get enough sleep and don’t need coffee. But this is not that day”

How many cups of coffee do you reckon you’ve made in total?
Oooh, hard to say! Here at Atterbury I make 150 cups a day…

“Coffee. The Monday Morning starter pack”

How do you take your coffee?
I like it black and strong, no sugar!

“I don’t know what I’d do without coffee. I’m guessing 25 to life”

Can you do those fancy foam pictures?
I try… I can do a heart, and a bear, and I always make a buffalo for Louis van der Watt – he loves his buffalos!

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 “There is a time and a place for decaf. Never and in the trash.”

What do you really think of people who ask for decaf?
Well, most of the people who ask are women, who are pregnant, so I don’t mind! You can’t taste the difference anyway. Once when I was still working at Tribeca a lady had ordered a decaf and somehow she got a regular coffee. She came to complain and she was very obviously shaking from the caffeine. That experiece taught me to be very careful – people can have health reasons for not drinking coffee.

 “I drink coffee for your protection”

Who is Lerato when she goes home in the afternoon?
I am 30 and I live in Atteridgeville with my husband, Andries. We’re both from Garankuwa, and we have a seven-year-old son, Olerato, who lives there with my mother. I see him every weekend. Do I feed him coffee? Definitely not, he is way too hyperactive! For him I make a pomegranate soda, which he loves (I do homemade sodas too!)

“It’s one of those days when even my coffee needs a coffee”

When you arrive at work in the morning, what is the first thing that you do?
I wash my hands, put on my apron, and then prepare my equipment. Then I switch on my grinder and then, almost every day, I make Flip Smit, our CFO of Atterbury Property Holdings, the first coffee of the day. I get in early, before 8:00 and he’s usually already there.

“Coffee: because anger management is too expensive

What’s the secret of a great cup of coffee?
I think a cup of coffee made with love is the best cup of coffee. I love my job, so I really make every cup with a little extra love; I try something new. I know how everyone takes their coffee, how much sugar, how much milk, and paying attention to what people want makes the job easier and more satisfying… and makes people like you!

“Don’t worry about my coffee consumption – worry about what I’d do without it”

What’s the busiest time of day for you?
Mornings till 11:00, and again just before knock-off time, from around 15:00

 “May your clothes be comfy, your coffee be strong and your Monday be short”

Who in the building is the most specific about how they take their coffee?
James Ehlers, our MD of Atterbury Property Developments – he likes a short cup, with half a shot of coffee, not too much milk, not too much foam, in a take-away cup with a lid on top.

 “Why yes, I am drinking coffee at 15:00 in the afternoon. It’s 7:00 somewhere”

Is it ever too late to drink coffee?
Never! I drink about six coffees a day, and the last one probably around 20:00.

“Before I had my coffee, I didn’t know how awesome I was going to be today, either.”

If you could change anything about your job – different equipment, different place, different hours – what would it be?
Seriously? Nothing! I love my job and I love my machine, I call it my Maserati!

“Don’t forget that the most important meal of the day… is Coffee”

What do you like most about working for Atterbury?
I love the people, we have so much fun here. We have a great chef who cooks for us and I love her food. And mostly, I love having a Monday to Friday job, that’s what I always wanted, because in hospitality you’re always working on weekends when other people are off.

“It’s not an addiction, It’s a lifestyle”

And where do you see yourself in five years?
There is an operations manager position that I am interested in being trained for; I’ve discussed it with management. So I hope to be working in the managers’ department by then. But I’ll still help out, say, when the barista is away. I’ll never leave making coffee altogether; I love it too much!