Try Winston's Favorite
Urnex Product

"I use this product daily and in the most effective way. It has the biggest impact on my coffee of all the Urnex products. The Cafiza wipes have also been a big help cleaning grinders and stainless steel espresso machines."

Winston Thomas

Barista, Trainer, Consultant
South Africa
Banner Image


What is your current occupation and employer?

I am currently freelancing as a barista, trainer and a consultant.


List all the national and world coffee competitions you have competed in.
    • South African Aeropress Championships 2016 – 1st Place
    • World Aeropress Championships 2016 – First round
    • South African Barista Championships 2016, 2017, 2018, & 2020 – 8th, 1st, 1st, 1st place
    • World Barista Championships 2017 - 41st place
    • World Barista Championships 2018 – 32nd place


How did you get into the coffee industry? When did you know you wanted to turn your passion for coffee into a career?

A letter in my local newspaper by a new resident complaining about the bad coffee in town in 2012. This made me question the definition of a good cup of coffee, which led to a journey of exploration. Eventually I enrolled into a barista course in 2013 and after completing this I decided I wanted to work in coffee.

You won the South Africa Barista Championship in 2017 and 2018 but didn’t compete last year. What was the inspiration for returning to competition in 2020?  

I was dead set on competing in 2019 as well. I only pulled out of competition the day before my regionals in Cape Town. I just had this gut feeling that I shouldn’t compete. I was exhausted after competing in back to back WBC’s which were less than 8 months apart. By taking a break for 2019 it gave me a chance to get some rest and focus on family and work. This also gave me a lot of time to think about what I would want to say at competition especially watching the 2019 leg from the outside.

Can you tell us about your winning routine this year? How is it different than your previous competition performances?

My routine was based on the African Narrative. And how it is generally a negative portrayal, but it is changing, and coffee is partly the protagonist in this change. I used a coffee from a producer in Rwanda which is not often used in Barista Competitions, but it helped bring across the message of a changed Narrative especially given Rwanda’s past as well. It was different because I had more confidence to express my own thoughts and ideas and it allowed me to bring a level of authenticity and emotion to my set that I’ve never been able to do before.

Can you tell us about Winston Douglas Coffee? What is your inspiration for starting this project, and what would you like to accomplish with it?

I’ve been freelancing for a while and I’ve gotten to the point where I’d like a bit more stability workwise. I’ve also been stretched to a point where I’m not able to take on all of the opportunities that come my way as a 1 man show. So, I started Winston Douglas Coffee with the intention of opening a formal training space in Cape Town providing SCA accredited training and other forms of training such barista competition, service focused training etc. As the business grows and training becomes somewhat stable, I’d like to employ more people and set up more training spaces across South Africa and Africa. Employing others will also give me more time to generate business opportunities beyond training.

What is the reaction you receive when you tell someone outside the coffee community that you are a champion barista competitor?

“There are competitions for coffee?!” Followed by, “You pay the bills by working in coffee??!”

Describe the importance of cleaning or clean equipment in making the best coffee beverages.

Cleaning equipment is arguably as important as the quality of coffee and equipment you’re using. And in my opinion cleaning and cleaning equipment needs to be directly proportional to volume of sales and success at any place serving coffee beverages – be it cafes, hotels or restaurants. Go with me here. There should be a minimal requirement for cleaning in any given space. Let’s say a pack of Urnex Cafiza and Wipz used once a day and Rinza and Grindz for every week. As coffee beverage sales increase, so should cleaning procedures and these procedures should be as important for staff to learn as baristas skills such as grinder calibration and sensory skills.

What makes coffee culture unique in South Africa?

The coffee culture in South Africa is unique because of its infancy and its small size. The coffee professionals in South Africa are like a small family and together we try to educate the masses. In my opinion our culture is a hybrid of western third wave and traditional African culture because our diversity.

How was the specialty coffee scene in South Africa changed in the past few years since you started competing in barista competitions?

The biggest changed has been the number of cafes and roasteries that have increased. Specialty green has become a lot more accessible from local importers and information has become a lot more accessible in general. This has contributed in significant growth in the scene in South Africa.

What is one specialty coffee concept or trend you would like to see gain popularity this year?

Barista wages has been an interesting topic of discussion both in the US and South Africa and I think the conversation in moving into a positive and productive direction. I’m very excited to see how this progresses in the months to come.

What is your go-to beverage order at a café?

It differs based on region or country. Generally I like to start with filter, preferably V60 or bulk brewer. Then I’ll progress to espresso and milk.

What is your favorite origin country, region or farm?

Right now I’ve really enjoyed the coffee I used in SA Nationals which was from Western Rwanda along Lake Kivu. There’s been amazing progression in Rwandan coffee and I’m excited to see what they produce in the next few years.


What’s one thing you’d like an average person to know about specialty coffee?

There is a reason why specialty coffee costs more. Please give me 5 minutes to explain this to you.


Where would you like to be and what would you like to be doing 5 years from now?

I would like to be more settled in South Africa, in terms of business specifically. At the moment I am enjoying travelling and competing and learning during these travels and competitions. 5 years from now I would like to be using these experiences to push the specialty industry forward in both South Africa and Africa.