While everyone else was swept up by the hype around Starbucks launching in South Africa, I had the privilege of attending the unofficial opening of the new kid on the block – ZARIS Espresso Bar.
Located in Parkhurst, ZARIS offers fair trade, organic African coffee, as well as exceptional service at an affordable rate. What sets ZARIS apart for me is theatmosphere. Many other restaurants and coffee shops on 4th Avenue have seating on the pavement, which can sometimes be a part of the Parkhurst experience, but can also be somewhat unpleasant. ZARIS is located away from the busyness and allows you to enjoy Parkhurst without feeling like you’re in the way. The premises also has plenty of plug points for patrons to use, making this the perfect place to hold lunch meetings or get work done away from the office.
There are a combination of sweet and savoury eats on offer. Whether you’re in the mood for the cake of the day or are just popping in for lunch, you’ll find something to satisfy your hunger. Not only is the food great, but ZARIS prides itself on top quality coffee and other warm beverages – perfect for those chilly Joburg days.
The decor is fresh and modern, combining organic textures with industrial elements. Something I thought was a nice touch is that the wall in the upstairs area has a fence mounted onto it where visitors can attach a Love Lock! The look and feel of the space is inviting and comfortable while still being edgy, which is no surprise as the shop’s owner and director, Schalk du Plessis, comes from a design background.
Not only was I one of the first to experience 4th Avenue’s latest addition, but Schalk was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
1. What inspired you to start ZARIS?
The idea of ZARIS started when we were visiting South Africa (after living in Europe for two years), we were dying for a specific type of Iced Coffee we came to enjoy on a daily basis. But we couldn’t find it anywhere here. So we made a joke about opening an Espresso Bar. Then after a few months of fooling around with the idea (never imagining that it would actually happen), we got funding and decided that we will stay and give this a go.
2. Where does the name come from and what does it mean?
So originally when we were playing around with the idea, we wanted to do a fixed price shop. Basically meaning everything in the shop would be the same price.
At the time, we decided to register a name, so that if we do decide to go ahead with the idea we’re set with a name. So we started the idea of a fixed price at R15. So how does this translate to the name? Let me explain. I wanted to use the ZAR (South African Rand) and played around with the numbers a bit. We eventually got to ZAR15 and just turned the 15 into an IS. Thus ZARIS was born. Obviously after doing some proper research, we came to realise that R15 would just not be feasible. As you know everything is set at R20. But that is the story of our name.
3. What is the inspiration for the design of the shop?
The design of the store came firstly from the idea that we want to ‘liberate coffee’ as our slogan says. We want to give coffee a new life, making the best African, organic and FairTrade coffee available to everyone. Staying true to that idea, we wanted a fresh and different interior, matching the freshness of our concept. Looking at most other coffee shops, the general feel of ‘coffee’ is the same across the board. Also looking at most of the materials used, we tried to repurpose as much as we could as our motto is to reuse or recycle as much as possible, therefore contributing to the sustainability of the coffee and other industries.
4. What do you hope to bring to Parkhurst with your espresso bar?
It all boils down to amazing coffee, and amazing experience as well as affordable prices. Coffee has become such an important part of our lives, that there is no excuse for bad coffee. Looking at Parkhurst, there are quite a few different markets. Mainly residents and employees of the retail spaces in the area. To the residents, we want to offer great coffee, a friendly place welcoming people walking their dogs or just on a morning stroll through the neighbourhood. Looking at the employees, they can’t always afford a Parkhurst lunch. We want to offer them the chance to enjoy a lovely lunch and coffee every day, not just once a week. Over weekends we see a lot of people coming to Parkhurst to experience the friendly, walking neighbourhood. The people of Johannesburg love going to fresh places and exploring their options. We hope to offer something that most people would find enjoyable.
5. What are the next steps for this venture?
The future. Oh, the bright future. ZARIS is only a baby still, we have so many plans and ideas. Firstly, working behind the bar ourselves is an integral part of the development of ZARIS. We want to connect with the people and give them a personalised service. And then we get to expanding the concept to small kiosk spaces in key areas of Johannesburg. We want to put up a new store every year for the next five years, we might also introduce a ZARIS Premium as well as ZARIS Health. Both of these concepts would be add-ons to what we currently have, but will run more or less the same concept.
So the next time you’re desperately in need of a coffee while in the area, check out ZARIS and tell them Dan says hi. 😉
Still not convinced? Watch the video here:
To find out more about ZARIS, get in touch or visit their social media pages: