Pouring beautiful lattes, waiting tables and putting your goals and career aspirations to the side are what we've come to expect from hospitality. How are Melbourne’s specialty coffee roasters providing opportunities for people with skills in sustainability, community and design?
Since Charlie made the move to Melbourne from his hometown of Auckland to chase his passion for education in coffee, he's achieving his personal goals including a trip to origin and launching his own coffee blog.
We sat down with Charlie and asked him how he's balancing the expectations of a demanding role with personal and professional fulfilment.
Coffee for many people starts out as just part of the job. Tell us about how your relationship with coffee came about.
Coffee for me transitioned from a job to a hobby and from a hobby to a passion. Through my part-time Barista role at a takeaway drive-thru coffee business, I learnt to make coffee, and a lot of it. It was high volume, mainly takeaways, no latte art, nothing.
Within a year, I realised that I wanted to be in the coffee industry. I wanted to experience what it was like to work in a cafe. I used my time as a Barista to chase knowledge for myself and figure out where I wanted to go within the industry.
I soon landed a Production role at AllPress Espresso. On any given day I was roasting, bagging coffee, and assisting with online orders. Within 4-6 months, a position came up to assist with quality control within AllPress. It involved a heavy amount of sample roasting, and analysing green bean samples from origin to be used within the blends. It was a lot of tasting and palate work, and analysis of espresso from what the team was roasting not only within AllPress in Auckland, but what the guys were roasting in London, Sydney, Melbourne and Tokyo. Understanding the coffee culture in different parts of the world really excited me.
You could argue that New Zealand has a strong specialty coffee presence, so what inspired the move to Melbourne?
Within the coffee culture in New Zealand at the time, I didn't feel that there was immense support and encouragement to turn coffee work into a full time career.
I had two goals; to get my Q Grading certification and participate in the Brewer’s Cup. I got back from a European holiday and went straight to my manager at AllPress and told him I was going to start looking for work in Melbourne.
My first interaction with Melbourne coffee - and Padre - was through the coffee subscription service 3000 Thieves. They’re a company that showcases beautiful coffees from a different roastery every month, in Melbourne and Sydney. The subscription service is great as it gives the the consumer the ability to try coffees they otherwise wouldn’t come across.
I specifically remember receiving a Rwandan coffee from Padre and going nuts over it. I was tasting all these amazing coffees from Melbourne, and knew there were so many roasteries opening up. I was chasing education and was hungry to learn more, so I knew I needed to put myself in the position to be able to achieve what I wanted within coffee.
You mentioned that many roasteries were popping up, which I'm sure you were following quite closely. Why Padre?
At the time, I was aware of what many Melbourne roasteries were creating via social media, but I didn’t pick up on the human element through anyone else but Padre. Working here now, it’s clear we’ve always looked at things from a people and coffee perspective. We try and push both equally, and anyone that’s receptive to that will pick up on that.
Padre was a company I really saw myself working for - I wanted to be in a company that focused on retail and education.
I applied for the advertised wholesale position, and interviewed for it (over Skype from NZ!) but missed out.
It didn’t break my spirit. I was determined to move to Melbourne and work in any capacity within coffee, and I was offered a role in the Brunswick East retail store, which of course I accepted.
Within two months, I moved from the store to the Wholesale team. When I began at Padre, there were two espresso blends, one filter blend on the menu, along with six different single origin coffees.
The scope and variety of the singles origin coffees got me excited. We had two Ethiopians - a washed and natural, and an Indian coffee. We also had a Colombian, a Guatemalan and Costa Rican coffee. Each different origin has its own unique characteristics. There was scope to learn and it was exciting to approach brewing each of these so differently.
How does your current role as a coffee professional fulfil your passion for education?
I love that coffee is the platform for communication and connection. I particularly love releasing a new coffee and cupping that coffee with the Roast Team. That also feeds into the account management side of things, and providing the wholesale customers with useful knowledge and information in order to better their cafe practise, and personal brewing practise.
A lot of the goals we set for ourselves in the wholesale team take time to come to fruition, so it’s always nice to have that sense of accomplishment in a day when I’m scheduled on packing duty.
Tell us about your blog SOW Coffee Project.
SOW came about because I was learning so much and I felt I was in a position to educate people. I wanted to create original relationships, original content, and highlight the people that I have existing relationships with. I wanted there to be an element of authenticity and to share what’s happening in my life and what’s brewing in my cup! SOW is really fulfilling my desire to connect with the global coffee community.
You needed to select a coffee for the Brewer's Cup - what was the link between this and Costa Rica?
Yes! Costa Rica actually tied in perfectly with my goal of competing in the Brewer's Cup. The first fruit flavour that I noticed in a cup of coffee was blueberry - it was a coffee originating from (Costa Rican farm) Las Lajas. That was the motivation behind me coming along on the trip after being invited by our green buyers Cafe Imports. I was able to experience origin and source a coffee for the competition. I love creating content, photography, and telling stories, so it was awesome to be able to chase down that story.
Padre will assist me with importing and roasting the coffee, which is a real testament to their support. It's awesome that I'm able to achieve my personal goals alongside the core aspects of my role.
Stay tuned for a full Costa Rica blog update!
(L-R: Padre Noosa Roaster Vanessa, Padre Director of Coffee Fay, Charlie in Costa Rica)
Thought about a career in coffee? We love hearing from like-minded, driven individuals. Visit our Work with Us page.
"Forming relationships with our partners and helping in any way to ensure their business is growing and thriving to its full potential is a mainstay of what we do. My role is very much a people facing role (which I love) so of course with that you do build genuine friendships and mutually beneficial relationships with customers."