Many people cannot start their day without a decent cup of coffee. However, for Surine Viljoen, Chief Executive Officer of Tribeca Coffee Company, coffee is much more than a kick-start to her busy day. She is an industry specialist and is passionate about African coffees.
Surine graduated with an MSc in Food Science from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences during the recent virtual Spring graduation ceremonies of the University of Pretoria determining the effect of selected growing regions in Africa on the sensory and physicochemical characteristics of the coffee beverage. She used coffee grown commercially in Brazil as benchmark.
According to Surine, “Coffee is an extraordinary product and it elicits passion and compassion in a world-wide industry. So much goes into the cup we drink as part of our daily routine. A few years ago I set a personal goal for myself to achieve an MSc degree, not only to improve my own scientific knowledge and understanding of coffee and its sensory aspects, but also to engage in a worldwide network of academic professionals researching every detail of the product. As an industry professional, a large part of my daily routine involves evaluating the sensory aspects of coffee and this has truly inspired a love for African coffees.”
Explaining her research, she says, “information on the sensory profiles of coffees from African origins was very limited and I wanted to describe the subtle sensory differences of the coffees from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Rwanda to name a few. The knowledge could improve the marketing of these coffees, but also optimise quality along the value chain.”
Surine enjoys working with coffee and is fortunate to have access to remarkable coffees. “I must admit that I got discouraged on several occasions while doing my MSc. During my studies, I had to cope with a very demanding full-time work schedule, as well as with the arrival of my two children. I often felt overwhelmed and exhausted. However, in the end, success was inevitable due to my love and passion for coffee, encouragement from my family, support from the University and my supervisor (Prof Riëtte de Kock from the Department of Consumer and Food Science).
As she reflects back on her studies, she emphasised it was well worth the time and effort. “I will always be grateful for the guidance and encouragement I received from UP and from my family.”