The coffee connoisseur who turned tragedy into opportunity


Sihle Magubane crossed the threshold to the Hilton Hotel with no idea what he was doing. The gig was preparing coffee for an arts festival, something he’d never done before, but he knew his work ethic would get him through. Magubane became the sole breadwinner for his family after his mother passed away when he was 16. He successfully navigated the four-day festival, and in the process tasted his first cappuccino.

A shocking delight compared with the instant coffee to which he was accustomed, the rich, smooth beverage engrossed his senses. His palate would never be the same, nor his outlook on life. With his mind made up before he’d drained that first cup, Magubane decided to learn all he could about coffee. Fortunately for the aspirant barista, Roberto Monterrage, who had organised the temporary job for him at the hotel, is a master of artisanal brewing.

Monterrage took Magubane under his wing and coached the fresh enthusiast until he earned a comprehensive International Barista Certificate. Qualified to enter the professional world of connoisseur coffee, Magubane worked at a number of cafés over the next decade before opening his own and marking it with a signature taste: Sihle’s Brew. He is now the beaming face of South Africa’s only black-owned coffee brand, an incredible success that grew out of a simple opportunity. He made it count.