Australians like to drink coffee and the numbers confirm it, with 2.1 billion cups consumed outside the home in 2012 alone. In this month’s Feature Food, we take a look at some of the baking businesses that have made the most of the coffee boom.
The Baker’s Arms: Woolloongabba, Brisbane
If you can’t judge a book by its cover, then youcan’t judge The Baker’s Arms by its name. Ifyou didn’t know any better, you might think itwas a pub – the kind where locals come for adrink and stay for the company – and its darktimber walls, pendant lights and wallpaperpatterned with London landmarks go a longway to creating the kind of mood that wouldsuit a traditional drinking establishment.
But instead of pints and schooners, TheBaker’s Arms in Brisbane’s Woolloongabba isa high-end bakery that specialises in servingcups of coffee, straight from its custom leather-bound La Marzocco FB/70 espresso machine.
Owner Eugene Phua, manager Jesse Holtand baker Louise (Lou) cranston havelong associations with coffee. Eugene wasresponsible for bringing the campos brandto Queensland, Lou worked for camposcoffee in Fortitude Valley and Jessemanaged one of Eugene’s espresso bars inBrisbane’s inner city – so, when they formedtheir collective venture they decided to focuson what they do best.
For Jesse (pictured on page 30), this meansworking front-of-house on the bakery’sespresso machine where he serves up cupsof tea and coffee for customers. Beforeopening The Baker’s Arms, he managed a tinyespresso bar in Spring Hill, where he craftedconsistently perfect cups of coffee with just theright combination of skill and craft.
The expertise he developed from years ofpractice and perfection is now essential toboth The Baker’s Arms experience and the business’s bottom line – the bakery hasa reputation for its coffee and its bakedgoods, and both are in equal demand fromcustomers.
“We’re a bit of a crossover between caféand bakery – we don’t sell any bread andmost people stay here to eat what they buy.People want a coffee with their cake or pastry.So if you’re taking the baking seriously andmaking a really high-quality product you needto do the same with the coffee or you losecredibility,” Jesse says.
The bakery serves campos’s flagship Superior Blend as a standard in all their espresso-based drinks, but also has exclusive access to campos’s Organic Espresso blend and a single-origin feature coffee that rotates every month. It also offers alternatives to espresso, such as pour over coffees and cold drip, which, Jesse says, fit into the bakery’s philosophy of encouraging people to try new things.
“In terms of quality assurance for coffee, weonly use the best available equipment andingredients: Mazzer grinders, a La Marzoccoespresso machine, campos coffee beans andgood-quality milk,” he says.
“consistency is key. Our baristas are rigorously trained at campos and we’re always checking for quality before a coffee goes out. If the milk is too hot or bubbly or the coffee ran through a little fast, it gets thrown away and done again. You can waste a bit this way, but quality and consistency win out every time.”
In the kitchen, where homespun classics likebrownies, carrot cake, croissants and ANZAc biscuits are baked, Lou (pictured on page 30)has a similar philosophy.
“I have never sent a product out into thedisplay window, or boxed it to be sent outfor wholesale without having tasted it first,”she says.
“Everything has to taste bloody good.”
On paper, the bakery’s products soundtraditional and homey – the kind of comfortingfare whose flavour is enhanced by memoryand nostalgia. But a closer look at theiringredients, which include olive oil, chia,millet, kamut and rice syrup, sets The Baker’sArms apart from its predecessors. Yourgrandma’s baking this ain’t.
“We’re trying to offer Brisbane locals food anddrink they’re unfamiliar with as well as cater for modern dietary requirements,” Jesse says.
With all its baked goods, Jesse says the duolikes to challenge people’s ideas of foodand indulgence. The bakery has a strongemphasis on ancient grains and wheatalternatives – including spelt, teff, millet andkamut – but wants to avoid the health foodstigma that’s usually associated with specialtydietary requirements.
Health food can sometimes meancardboard-y or bland, but Jesse says there’sno compromise on taste at The Baker’sArms – just an exploration of less common,sometimes more nutritious alternatives andthe flavours and textures that come with them. This often means a lot of taste testing andexperimenting.
“We challenge ourselves to createhandcrafted products to suit the needsof all sorts of people’s tastes and dietaryrequirements, whether they are dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, sugar-free, coconut-free, soy-free, high protein,vegetarian, meat lovers or lovers of sheerdecadence and indulgence,” Lou says.
“Our caramel slice is made on spelt flour,ANZAc cookies with rice syrup and millet, andour carrot cake with chia seed and olive oil.”
The bakery bakes its goods fresh everyday from 2am and only in small batches.This eliminates the risk of products tasting’fridge-y’ or stale and also gives Jesse andLou the opportunity to experiment with newingredients and flavours – last week it wasstrawberry, banana and Toblerone muffinsand the week before it was peanut butter andjam brownies.
coffee and baking are a natural combination,and Lou says the seriousness and innovationthat are invested into the baked side of theirbusiness has to be matched with the coffeeside. There simply isn’t room to compromise.
“coffee has to go hand in hand with a goodproduct,” Lou says.
“It’s the foundations of a good bakery-café. Ithas to marry well with the sweet selection andit always finishes a lovely meal. Without thegood coffee we would be compromising ourwhole venture.”
Fortune Cookie: Fremantle, WA
As its name suggests, Western Australia’scookie Dough Biscuits is known for itscookies – perfect, plump little treats that areslightly crunchy on the outside and soft andcreamy on the inside. They’re the result ofsix months of product development andexperimentation by Lisa Walsh – the bakery-café’s owner and innovator – who started thebusiness after failing to find a sweet treat inPerth or Freo that really hit the spot.
“I would go to my local café for a coffee andjust a ‘small’ treat and found what was onoffer was a large slice of cake, a sickly slice,or large, saucer-size cookies that were ashard as cardboard,” Lisa says.
“I just wanted something small that tastedgreat and wasn’t overly covered in icing! I hada couple of biscuit recipes that I loved andstarted experimenting with different flavoursand shapes. After six months of producttesting I was ready for my first Perth marketwith a total of six flavours.”
At the market, Lisa’s biscuits were met withenthusiasm and, before the day was through,customers had bought every last biscuit she’d baked. She says this was the moment sherealised she had something different to offerand started developing ideas about openinga little cookie shop – something small andsimple, where she could sell her cookies topeople who wanted a delicious treat.
At the same time, in the post-GFc economicclimate, Lisa recognised she would have tooffer more than just cookies, which is whenshe had her next big idea.
“coffee just seemed like the perfect partner,”Lisa says.
“Being incredibly proud of the cookies I hadcreated I knew I would have to make equallyfitting coffee.”
Lisa knew a bit about coffee – before shebaked cookies full-time she travelled theworld as a handbag buyer for David Jonesand worked with people who were “seriouscoffee-heads”. Her job took her to the streetsand laneways of Newtown in Sydney, wherecoffee is a revered part of the morning ritualand artisan and speciality roasters, suchas campos and Mecca Espresso, serve upconsistently perfect cups of joe.
Importantly, these experiences also taught her about the consequences of serving bad coffee. Bad coffee was something that always stood out. People talked about bad coffee – it was something that could ruin reputations swiftly and without mercy. Lisa wasn’t an expert, but she knew her coffee had to be smooth, rich and full bodied – the kind of coffee people would talk about for the right reasons.
“Because I was new to coffee, businesssupport from the coffee company was reallyimportant,” she says.
“After several months of researching, Di Bella[a Queensland company and Australia’slargest specialty roaster] literally came to us.We were in the store renovating and the DiBella car drove past and the rep had stoppedto chat to our new landlord. I am thrilled withboth the quality of the coffee and the supportof the company and at the time they onlyhad 16 accounts in Perth – so it ticked all theboxes for us.”
After opening earlier this year, cookieDough Biscuits’ reputation now surpassesits name – it’s considered both a standalone coffee destination and a destination cookieshop in a permanent location on GeorgeStreet, East Fremantle.
Since opening, the shop has hosted acoffee master class, where customerslearn about coffee from crop to cup, and the baked menu has expanded to 19flavours, including walnut espresso andmocha, which combines the best ofboth worlds. The kitchen also serves upcafé-style breakfasts and lunches andhas become a favourite spot for localsand day-trippers keen to make the mostof the port city.
During its opening hours, it’s rare to finda moment when the ovens aren’t baking,the stovetops aren’t firing and the coffeemachines aren’t grinding. Business, Lisasays, is booming.
“coffee is essential to our business.People know coffee – it’s a social aswell as a need product – so if you don’tget it right it can really be detrimental toeverything else you do,” she says.
“It’s funny, I have noticed our regulars who have been coming in just for a coffee are now saying, ‘I’d better try a cookie,’ and they’re surprised by how much they love them. Business just grows from there.”
The Perfect Pour: Penrith, NSW
Melissa Hall (pictured) has been making coffees for Muffin Break in Penrith for the past six years. Earlier this year she was crowned the Australasian Foodco Barista Champion, where her four cappuccinos, four espressos and four signature drinks were considered the best in Australia and New Zealand. Here she shares some of her coffee-making wisdom:
Tell us about the first time you ever made a cup of coffee:
The first time anyone steps up to a professional coffee machine is an intimidating experience. The first coffee I ever prepared was stressful because we had a line of customers and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to produce a coffee that was up to the high-standards of the other Muffin Break baristas. Unfortunately I didn’t submerge the steam wand enough and milk spilt everywhere – but I definitely learnt from the experience and never made that mistake again!
How much training have you gone through to get to where you are today?
I’ve made coffee in-store for six years now and for the past three years have spent almost all day, every day perfecting my barista skills. Muffin Break provides extensive training for all baristas, not only when we first start working but also at regular intervals to ensure we are kept up-to-date with all coffee trends and innovations.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt since becoming a barista?
There are three key lessons I have learnt through being a barista:
1. Practice makes perfect
2. Always be consistent
3. Don’t do it if you don’t love it
What’s the most difficult part about making a coffee?
Extraction is the key, but there are many elements that play their part. Consistency in tamping is always a hard one to get right.
What’s your idea of a perfect cup of coffee?
The perfect cup takes me on a journey. I love speciality coffee and experimenting with flavours. The experience you have while tasting them is unbelievable.
When you were crowned australasian foodco Barista of the year the judges said they were impressed not only by the consistency of your coffees, but also your inventiveness and gave you top points for your “tropical piccolo”. how did you go about inventing your drink?
I’d had the idea for a tropical drink and just starting spending time out of store hours experimenting with flavours and different combinations. I first tried mango and pineapple but when I tasted the lime with the Muffin Break blend, I fell in love and started adding the coconut and the maple syrup until I was 100 per cent happy with the mix.
What gives you the most amount of satisfaction working as a barista?
I think educating people about how much effort, thought and for me personally, love, goes into making their daily coffee. Changing a person’s perception about coffee is great – I love when people start to enjoy the pleasure of the coffee experience rather than simply using coffee for the caffeine hit.
What muffin, or menu item do you think tastes best with a cup of coffee?
A Berry muffin is always a winner for me. A nice Boysenberry or Blackberry muffin with cream cheese icing and a smooth cappuccino complement each other perfectly.
What’s your drink?
My heart is torn two ways with my coffee. I love a beautiful long black, but I also love to savour the taste of a piccolo latte. Our blend is really complemented by great milk. The coffee I drink most often though is a long black and I have three or four each day.
17 Things You Need to Know About Coffee
1 AeroPress is a way of brewing coffee that uses air pressure, nearly boiling water and finely ground coffee bean to extract a light and smooth coffee flavour.The process was invented in 2005 and has gained a dedicated following – it has an annual World championships, which were held in Melbourne this year.
2 Beans are available in blends or single-origin varieties.
3 Crema is the layer of golden-coloured foam that forms on the top of a shot of espresso.
4 Drip coffee, filtered coffee and pour over all involve pouring hot water over ground coffee beans, which are sitting in a filter. Unlike the espresso,which is brewed under high pressure, drip coffee is gravity brewed and is, in general, less dense and smoother than espresso.Different types include chemex, cone drips and electric drip brewers.
5 Espresso is an Italian method of coffee extraction that involves forcing hot, pressurised water through finely ground coffee beans. The result is a thick shot of coffee that can be diluted with water or milk to make espresso-based drinks like cappuccinos, flat whites or long blacks, or consumed straight as a solo (single shot of espresso), or a doppio (double shot).
6 French press is a method of preparing coffee where coarsely ground coffee and hot water are mixed together before a plunger is used to “trap” the coffee grinds. Along with the stove top espresso, it was one of the more common ways of making coffee at home during the mid to late 20th century.
7 Hit of caffeine, which varies and depends on how the coffee is extracted and the type of bean used. 200ml of drip coffee has about 150mg of caffeine, while a 50ml shot of espresso contains about 100mg of caffeine.
8 Java, Indonesia is an island famous for its coffee plantations. In some countries “Java juice” is slang for coffee.
9 Kahlúa is a coffee-flavoured liqueur from Mexico.
10 Lungo is Italian for “long” and is a style of espresso made with twice the amount of water than usual. The lungo shouldn’t be mistaken with a long black, or Americano, where espresso is added to hot water.
11 Milk is the primary ingredient in many espresso-based coffees, including the latte, flat white and cappuccino. the ideal temperature is between 600c and 700c – anything hotter may burn both the tongue and the lactose in the milk, resulting in a painful and unpleasant tasting experience.
12 Water temperature: 85°c to 93°c is considered optimal during coffee extraction. anything hotter may burn the coffee.
13 Oils, which are naturally occurring in coffee beans, contribute significantly to the final flavour of coffee. Oils first appear on the surface of beans during roasting. The process of grinding then releases more of these oils, which are then further extracted when mixed with hot water.
14 Piccolois an Australian-style espresso drink. piccolos are miniature lattes – a single shot espresso topped up with a small amount of textured milk.
15 Turkish coffee involves boiling extra finely ground coffee beans with sugar and spices in an ibrik – a small copper pot with a long, wooden handle. The result is a dark, bitter and fragrant cup of coffee.
16 A rosetta is a fern-shaped pattern drawn into espresso-based coffee drinks when the milk is bring poured. It’s a practical illustration of the texture, consistency and temperature of the milk.
17 Vacuum or syphon coffee was first invented in the 1830s and uses two chambers where vapour pressure and vacuum produce coffee. Coffee is placed in upper chamber and cold water in the chamber beneath it. As the water is heated it travels through the narrow tube that connects the two chambers. Once the water has mixed with the coffee, the heat is removed and the force of gravity and atmospheric pressure pushes the water back down to the lower chamber. Syphon coffee is delicate, smooth and almost tea-like.