Our Story

The Colombo Story

James Brown Richardson (fondly known as “Jas B”) moved to South Africa in the early 1910’s. He first worked for Thornton Tea and Coffee which he left after being drafted for The First World War.

When James returned from the War, he found that his old employers had gone out of business. He would have to carve his own path in an industry for which he garnered an unbridled passion.

In 1917, Jas B opened his own shop in Johannesburg, South Africa and began to provide Tea and Coffee to the mines in and around the Transvaal (Gauteng).

A challenge presented itself in 1922 when miners striking for the Rand Rebellion refused delivery and threatened violence forcing James to pack up shop and move to Durban.

In 1923, Jas B together with his son, Norman Richardson (only 17 at the time) founded The Colombo Tea Agency in a basement of the old Barnes & McFie Arcade in Durban.

The Colombo Tea Agency, specialists in Tea, Coffee, and Cocoa, would make its mark on the people of Durban. It was a place where people gathered to drink from the specialty menu, learn the news of the day, and meet with other locals.

Fast forward to the early seventies – the business rejected offers on their West Street property made by a large corporation who wanted to develop the property. By refusing to give way to a large corporation, Norman Richardson, then MD of the company, became a hero of the people, receiving a flood of appreciative letters from all over the country.

Over the years, Colombo Coffee & Tea has undergone many changes. Our values, however, have remained the same and thus our commitment to bringing you the finest coffee and tea lives on today. If he could see us now, we’re sure that Jas B would be very proud!


Colombo Today

Colombo Coffee & Tea is a young and vibrant team of roasters, baristas and tasters. We source the finest green coffee from growers in Africa, South & Central America and Indonesia. We recognise the personality of each single origin bean and set roast profiles to emphasise each unique personality. We offer a wide range of both coffee and tea brewing apparatus with great advice, catering to all coffee and tea lovers from the individual to major players in the hospitality industry. We are one of the longest standing Micro-Roasters in South Africa with a great story to share.

We focus on specialty offerings and continue to evolve in this light. Like our coffee, our specialty loose leaf teas are sourced with the same passion and enthusiasm. Focusing on quality, not quantity, each of our teas is selected for its unique characteristics.