Our centuries-long romance with coffee (and the mild neurotoxin caffeine) has spawned a thriving global subculture and one of the largest commodity and service industries on earth. As young roasters – especially in coffee-crazed Melbourne – Jesse and I benefit from the enormous local demand for interesting new flavours and unique cafe experiences that all this fashion and fuss has created.
Yet in contrast to all of this, my first exposure to coffee as a trade was not at all glamorous, but did perhaps resonate with the most enduring and worthwhile aspect of the coffee phenomenon: that coffee throws up accessible opportunities to interact with one other.
As a kid I would sometimes skip school (sorry mum!) to go hang out at a local cafe and just sort of help out. I didn’t realise it then, but amidst the various bumps and rough patches of youth, I had found a tiny, constructive community to be a part of and contribute to – to find meaning in. At first, I was really (really) shy and even after I’d learned how to get a decent espresso out of that silver box on the counter, it took me a while to open up and start enjoying and reciprocating the cheerful human contact that makes a cafe the sort of place that it is.
With time, I came to feel completely at home behind that counter – no matter what was going on elsewhere, within our bright, aromatic space it I was completely free and happy and could even share that feeling with my customers if I tried. The espresso machine, those cups, the grinder, tamper, countertop … these became a stage and props ready for a thousand little performances each day. Later, I realised that the opportunity to enhance another person’s mood, even for a moment, had become the real reason I was so drawn to this environment, and that the passion I felt for coffee was really a passion for engaging people.
Cut to last year and my best mate Jesse and I are getting noticed for the quirky coffees we’re starting to roast at home in our small bench-top roasters (complete with hand-wired multimetres hanging off of them for superior temperature control … ha!). We almost hadn’t noticed until we were supplying a serious quantity of beans to the place we both worked at the time (the awesome Lilydale General) that through coffee we’d accessed another vast, new and beautiful set of human interactions: commercial business transactions.
Our journey as a roasting company is only beginning and whenever we get a chance to grab the odd shift as baristas in one of the great cafes we supply, we do. For us it’s about getting near the warm steaming jugs and the bubble of people popping in for their afternoon fix. For the growing group of cafe owners we’re working with now, this ability to crack up a new customer, to warm up space with a certain vibe that radiates a love for coffee and people … this ability is rather sought after and prized.
We often find ourselves in conversation with owners, unpacking the front of house processes and approaches we’ve embodied over time, and while these chats soon veer off into a particular cafe’s marketing or some machine troubleshooting, the core of it always a focus the simple, good things people like to give and receive in the little in-between moments of our day.
What do you look forward to most at 11:52am on a Tuesday? Tell us.