The Truffle Guru of South Africa

 A Truffle Gerfuffel!

     The Black Périgord Truffle is the legendary culinary black diamond of the kitchen – Tuber melanosporum – we have long read about in European magazines and associate it with the good life of champagne, caviar and a luxe lifestyle. Ah, the good life!

Volker Miros, is the Truffle Guru, his interest in mushrooms at a very early age when mushroom hunting with his grandfather in the forests of around Stuttgart, Germany. Later in life, Volker’s interest in food steered him to become a prominent Food Photographer.

 “First, a confession,” says Volker Miros, “I am a microphile at heart. As a young boy in Germany, my grandfather trained me to search for wild mushrooms in the forest. The splendid mushrooms we found were then served at our Sunday lunch. This fondest of childhood memories left an indelible, aromatic impression on me. I tried to grow boletus mushrooms for years in South Africa and never succeeded. I am a South African farmer, so failure was not an option but a challenge. 

While researching our book, Koekumakranka, co-authored with Renata Coetzeé, I learned about the Khoi-Khoi culinary tradition of searching for and collecting the white Kalahari truffle, known as the “t-nabba”. Writing about the Khoisan lifestyle, what they ate and how they lived,  we found that truffles where a protein source for the Khoi-Khoin and were found mostly in the Kalahari. A wild truffle variety had then recently been found in South Africa for the first time on the chalk downs of the Southern Cape, assuring our scientists that truffles could be cultivated here.     

Through my search for t-nabba, I became interested in the other truffle, the Black Périgord Truffle. And so I began to research how to grow and inoculate black truffles here in South Africa. With the patience, determination and optimism of any good farmer, I succeeded.” 
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Over the years, Woodford has developed and refined its method of creating heavily mycorrhizal saplings ready for planting into the orchard. Techniques have been garnered from research across the globe. With international consultants regularly visiting and bringing new found techniques, they are constantly up to date with new developments in the truffle industry.

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Paul Miros of Woodford Truffles, SA, working in partnership with farmers and landowners says, “If you are interested in becoming a Truffle Farmer, your land should fall into a specific set of criteria that can be checked via our extensive database at hand. You need to send us your GPS coordinates. These can be found by setting a place marker in Google Maps and sending this to us.” 

SKILLS EXCHANGE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME – Meet Volker & Paul Miros of Woodford Truffles here…

Nicodemus Nabakwe, Avanti Coffee SA

Growing up in Kenya, Nicodemus Nabakwe had a keen interest in the tourism industry which is the second-largest source of foreign exchange revenue for the country. After finishing school, he decided to explore his curiosity further and enrolled to study tourism at the prestigious Kenya Utalii College for two years. Coffee was not part of the curriculum but existed as a beverage enjoyed by many foreign tourists in the various tourist sites which is something that really grabbed his attention.  

After completing his studies in 2003, his eldest sister who was working at Dorman’s Coffee in Nairobi encouraged him to apply for a position that they had available in business development as a barista trainer and sales consultant. He went through the interview process and was offered the job. It was here that his real love for coffee began. 

He was doing exceptionally well but wanted to learn more. Competing in Kenya in barista competitions soon elevated him to become one of the best in the coffee industry. These events were organised by AFCA, a regional member-driven association for speciality coffee professionals. His status earned him a trip to South Africa to train some of the best coffee professionals on how to compete in barista related events. 

The training was held at Hostex at Gallagher Convention Centre and Avanti Coffee was one of the exhibitors. It was here that he met John Frater, owner and master roaster. Their shared love for coffee formed the foundation of a long-standing friendship. John was so impressed by Nicodemus’ knowledge and passion and offered him a position as their Training Manager.

Unable to refuse a once in a lifetime opportunity, he returned to Kenya, resigned and packed one suitcase and arrived back in South Africa. Eager to teach and impart his knowledge to others, he joined SCASA, the Speciality Coffee Association of Southern Africa and helped out in his spare time. After proving himself, SCASA invited him to be a judge at some of their competitions and it was here that he met Carol Corlett, Manager at Sevenoaks Trading (Pty) Ltd.

Enthusiastic to know more about coffee in its purest form, Nico spent a lot of his spare time with Carol learning all about green bean coffee. She saw something so unique in him and she asked him to join her at Sevenoaks in 2015. Carol was a big support in his quest to become a coffee expert and so Nico suggested to her in 2017 that he enrolls for a Q Grading course which would make him one of the eight Q Arabica Graders in South Africa. He sat an exam of 20 specialty related coffee modules to complete the intense qualification and became the first black male Q Grader in South Africa. 

Nico offers a green bean course at Sevenoaks Trading to his customers, a two-day course on green coffee knowledge, roasting and cupping. He has also been part of the judging team in A Shot in The Dark competition which is a roasting competition, for the last two years and this year he was honoured to be the Head Judge.

His passion for coffee is stronger than ever but it is his love for sharing his knowledge and empowering up and coming coffee professionals that really motivates him. 

Coffee culture in South Africa is certainly catching up fast to this amazing international trend. We are doing particularly well in the coffee stakes – our Baristas are up there with the best, but to get there they need training and we start at the coalface with the One&Only Reaching for Young Stars entering their first Barista competition where they will have clear guidelines from Avanti SA who are pointing the way!


A stunning opportunity has been awarded to the 2019 One&Only Reaching for Young Stars; Oigen Kaptein (The Private Hotel School), Marcelle Strydom (The Hurst Campus), Luke Bergman (Sense of Taste Chef School), Wisani Marivati (The Private Hotel School) and Bevan Trimm (The Hurst Campus).  A five-month superb working experience in CAPE COD, Massachusetts at Winslow’s Tavern, a top heritage restaurant in an historic Federalist building in scenic Wellfleet with fellow South Africans, Chef Patron Phillip & Tracey Hunt. The 170 seat restaurant highly esteemed by food and travel guides; Trip Advisor, Fodor’s and Frommer’s, is staffed by an international brigade of highly skilled chefs who thrive on collaboration, camaraderie, fast pace and high volume producing an all American seasonal menu heavily influenced by coastal cuisines.  They will travel, hopefully, in 2021! See more…


The Skills Exchange Development Programme culminated with the ZOOM chat with Stephen Woodcock, Distell Distilleries Manager, Scotland ‘A Day in the Life’ – Where no two days are the same, tying in with three operational sites, managing any issues which arise at Bunnahabhain, Tobermory and Deanston Distilleries – no doubt seeing the recognition that their award-winning whiskies receive must be extremely rewarding!

SKILLS EXCHANGE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME – Meet Stephen Woodcock here…–4BFt2f4dffL2zYGKdISuq78Ke7/view?usp=sharing

And more… The distillery is located on the north-eastern coast of Islay, sitting right on the Sound of Islay, about 5 miles from Port Askaig; one of Islay’s two ferry ports. Tobermory, established in 1798, Tobermory is The Isle of Mull’s only whisky distillery and one of the oldest commercial distilleries in Scotland. Deanston Distillery is near Doune, Perthshire, Scotland.

What a fabulous line-up!

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