Tell us more about your own background in coffee?
As a teenager and in my early twenties, I worked in a few different restaurants on the coast and in Newcastle. I used to be so proud of making towering cappuccinos with piles of fluffy milk! I feel so sorry for my former customers, they must have tasted horrible! I would never have considered drinking black coffee and always had syrup in a huge latte to make it drinkable. The standard of barista skill was quite the rude awakening when I was looking for work in Australian cafés. Needless to say, I was never allowed behind an espresso machine again!
In Sydney I had a La Marzocco to play on, in the basement of Alex’s folks’ café, so I started to learn more and practise under proper instruction there. I love to watch Alex working as it’s absolutely second nature to him. He’s a great teacher and his enthusiasm is infectious. But what I’m particularly interested in is the people who grow the coffee we buy. Their working conditions, remuneration for their crops, issues of forced labour and how they are supported to use sustainable agricultural practices. Speciality-grade coffee is particularly vulnerable to our changing climate, so it’s really important that we, as roasters, continue to buy the more expensive, higher-quality green coffee.
Our main importer has built great relationships with the growers they work with and continues to help break down barriers to the international market, such as in Ethiopia, where lots of families grow coffee in their garden or small-holding and would struggle to sell their coffee for a good price without a co-operative. They champion women growers who, as a rule, tend to feed profits back into their communities – our Colombian coffee is grown by women – and they work with growers to improve access to sustainable technology. In the future, we would absolutely love to visit some growers and establish our own personal relationships with them. I love that we are a small, family business doing our best to honour the coffee grown by other small, family businesses all over the world!