Nov 25

Barista by the Sea

Marck Barter knows my husband’s name, and his favourite beach breaks. Which boards he likes to use for each break, and who made them. He knows my daughter’s names, where they go to school and when they are writing exams. He’s seen them grow from hot chocolate to cappuccino. He even carved birthday presents for them out of wood he brought back from Canada. Marck is our family barista.

Every Wednesday for the past five years, my three have been stopping “at Marck” for coffee on the way to school. Marck is on the round-about, cross-peninsular coastal route we take to school as an alternate to the also beautiful, more heavily travelled vineyard/forested drive.

The route we take has less traffic, more bends, and the best place to drink a cup of coffee at 7:15 am. With endless blue ocean shimmering at your feet, the marine air slapping your face and a great coffee in hand, it’s a beautiful start to the day.

Marck’s coffee trailer is called Detour Espresso Bar, and he parks it in an ocean overlook parking lot off Victoria Road, between Oude Kraal and Bakoven, every Monday through Friday (except when there are gale force winds and rain). Ninety percent of his customers are regulars, and they are business people, creatives, families and surfers. They stop, chat and exchange stories, while coffee is made and sipped.

“I don’t sell anything,” he says. “I offer coffee.” He has a disdain for commerce and marketing and is not on social media. He prefers to think of his customers as friends and supporters, and when he misses a day, he texts his regulars to let them know they should switch to Plan B.

When he’s not making espressos or chatting with customers, he’s watching the non-stop entertainment of crashing surf, ever-changing weather patterns, mountains and wildlife. The day I’m there chatting to him for this post, he tells me about the young dassie (Cape hyrax: a cute local rodent) who was abandoned by his mother when she moved the rest of the litter to another position – he’s not just telling me, he’s stressed about whether it will make it or not. He’s seen black eagles land in the parking lot, albino Southern Right whales swim past, watched the antics of a resident pod of dusky dolphins and super pods of hundreds and thousands of common dolphins thrashing over baitballs of fish, and the frolicking of scores of seals.

Marck grew up in Clifton Beach, 10 minutes away. He left when he was 20 for Canada, where he spent 25 years, much of it at a resort on Lake Huron, where he learned about good service. He missed the sea though, seeing it and being in it.

Making coffee here in this magical place is his livelihood, in that it allows him ‘to live’: to be outdoors, go off and surf when the waves are great, and have the freedom to shape his own life. “It’s selfishly based around my lifestyle, and the customers are way more important to me than I am to them for that reason.” Since he started five years ago, he’d steadily built up a clientele. Some have been coming since the early days, some are word-of-mouth and others fall into the group of those who have been driving past, sometimes for years, who decide that “today, I’m going to stop.”

Lattes are Marck’s specialties, although he’s got a menu of drinks named after customers, like the Bernie, double shot in a small cup. His coffee is good and made with the care and finesse that stems from love. He’s comfortable in this small mobile space overlooking the Atlantic. And so are we, his customers, or should I say friends. The line is blurred, but the magnificence of the setting is always crystal clear.

You can find Marck at Detour Espresso Bar, Mondays through Fridays, from 7:00 am to 11:00 am, on Victoria Road between Oude Kraal and Bakoven (except during heavy rainstorms and severe winds).

Source: Finding Umami