About Coffeebeans Routes
Storytelling, human capital and social justice – Watch this video below to learn more about the Coffeebeans philosophy and approach
ON THIS PAGE…
- The Coffeebeans Team
- Why ‘Coffeebeans’?
- The Storytelling Economy
- Sustainability & Best Practice
Coffeebeans Routes is a tour operator that prioritises creativity. We create travel experiences around South African stories. These are contemporary, urban, African experiences that provide nuanced insights and complexity. We offer scheduled day tours, private day tours, tailor made programmes, and multi-day programmes, to special events, as long as there are people and stories, we have a canvas.
We are creative and cultural travel specialists, recognised by the travel industry and international press as pioneers in this sector.
We are incorporated as a Closed Corporation in South Africa and as a Limited Liability Corporation in North America.
In 2015 we turned 10 years old. We were fortunate to mark our 10th year in business by winning two international awards: the African Responsible Tourism Awards, in the category Best for Engaging People and Culture; and the Skal International Sustainable Tourism Award, in the category Tour Operator. Early in 2016 we were awarded Sustainable Tour Operator of the Year for Cape Town in the Holiday & Tour Specialist Awards.
We offer accommodation, see some of our favourites listed on the site. We have agreements in place with many hotels large and small in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and handle accommodation for groups large and small as part of our programmes.
We also produce events and special projects, sometimes our own, sometimes for clients. See our Portfolio section for details of projects we have completed, including festival projects, video projects and concerts.
Michael Letlala (1st from left above) and Natasha Moses (2nd from left above) run the day to day operations. Michael handles everything to do with being on the road, managing content, and maintaining good relationships with our hosts and suppliers. He is our chief guide, and if there is a crisis, you want Michael around. Natasha handles everything to do with front of house and guest liason, and the books. She’s the chief banker. Iain Harris (third from left) is the founder and creative director, his work is strategic – content development and the overall growth and stability of the business. He also handles the customised and large group programmes. Our office is also our Creative Emporium, offering a curated selection of creative products linked to the tours, including music, literature, fashion, furniture and art.
And then we have a huge network of people – guides, cooks, musicians, artists, designers, architects, spiritual leaders, writers, landscapers, brewers, wine-makers, historians, entrepreneurs, poets, town planners, journalists… who make what we do possible by being willing to share their stories with the world. We are very grateful for their openness.
We are frequently asked why we are called Coffeebeans. Everywhere in the world, across all languages and creeds and borders, everybody understands coffee. It is the universal communion. When people share a coffee, it is implicitly understood that they are sharing stories.
The work that we do as Coffeebeans Routes is to facilitate communion across borders that are both real and imagined. To create the platforms that bring people together across boundaries, and in doing so, discover shared resources and opportunity. We create cultural interventions for economic growth.
Tourism is our key tool for unlocking economic potential through exploring our cultural diversity and legacy, and managing it by creating sustainable development.
A great place for us is one where the stories of that place are everywhere. Where local food is easier to find than food from elsewhere. Where mobility is not an issue. Where safety is not an issue. Where failure to make something of your life is due to squandered opportunity instead of lack of opportunity. We build experiences around stories because everybody has them, and because, in a city packaged on binary assumptions about people, culture, language and economics, when we are lead by stories, we cut through to the pulse of what is happening. In South Africa, where most of the population was legislated into silence, our stories can be equalisers. And this is tourism’s great opportunity.
We believe that responsible tourism is about the attempt to answer the questions of how we make the world better. In our case the primary question is: can tourism shift the dominant economic and social narrative, and position the least economically empowered at the heart of the mainstream?
Environmental impact starts with social justice. If radical social and economic disparities are reduced, if society becomes more equal, environmental sustainability is a natural byproduct. So the starting point for us is social justice, and our biggest impact is through a responsible approach to how we engage with people, communities and stories, and how positioning new narratives at the heart of tourism starts to level imbalances. When we start to take ownership of the environments we live in (given that so much has been taken away, making us indentured tenants rather than curators), we naturally minimise impact on the natural environment.
Our approach to sustainable and responsible tourism practice, therefore, is to focus on social justice, while in parallel implementing tangible environmental management systems where feasible. At our HQ we recycle almost everything, including organic waste, and send approximately 5% of our waste to the landfill. Our goal is to get that figure to zero. Plastic water bottles issued to guests are collected and recycled at the end of tours, and we are exploring installing our own reverse osmosis water system to cut out all plastic. The vehicles we use are new, fuel efficient and create minimum carbon waste. We use cabs as often as possible, many of our activities use public transport, and some of our experiences use bikes and feet as primary transport.
Our long term environmental sustainability strategy includes owning premises that deploy photovoltaic panels to charge electric vehicles, a biodigester to provide gas for cooling and heating, and a rainwater tank for toilet flushing. These interventions would take us almost completely off the grid in the summer season, except for sewerage processing. By establishing ourselves as an off-grid model of best practice, we can influence the suppliers we work with.
Coffeebeans’ founder and Creative Director lives in the Lynedoch Eco Village outside Stellenbosch, an intentional village seeking to address social and economic imbalances in a racially and economically integrated community, where houses are all built from alternative materials, solar water geysers or renewable energy heating mechanisms are mandatory, and sewerage is all processed on site. Coffeebeans takes much of its own approach from best practice learned through the village, and from the Sustainability Institute, based in the Lynedoch Eco Village.
- Be lead by stories. Stories are the common denominator.
- Use tourism as a canvas for stories.
- Create spaces in tourism for storytellers.
- Use tourism to create sustained, inclusive economic development.
- Focus on the narratives rendered invisible by our oppressive past and often oppressive present.
- Work to place these narratives in the mainstream of the tourism industry.
- Represent the diversity of perspective that exists in the places we work.
- Favour attractions, resources and services providers where sustainable ecological and cultural practices are in place.
- Implement environmentally sustainable interventions at every possible level of our business;
- Favour accommodation establishments that show a commitment to clear, effective sustainability strategies.
- Promote indigenous knowledge systems, expression and language.
- Promote an approach to culture that is evolutionary, stepping away from ossified notions of people culture.
- Pursue in the stories told and the experiences created opportunities to challenge binary notions of culture and people and place
- Seek to use progressive language, challenging outdated lexicon that exists both in the travel industry, and in society at large. Often the words we use entrench dangerous ways of thinking about and seeing the world.
- Ensure fair pay for services rendered by our network of hosts and storytellers, agreed upon by all involved, and reviewed regularly.
- Support suppliers through regular ongoing training and support opportunities.
- Launch at least one new, unique product each year in each city we are present in.
- Create access to locally produced creative products, with a focus on art, music, design, fashion, literature and cuisine.