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Can a cafe get away with poor quality coffee?

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Australians love their coffee, and they are becoming increasingly fond of a freshly ground brew made by their local barista as opposed to the instant variety.

More than ever, the average Australian is familiar with different coffee roasters, and they can tell when a coffee is burnt or the beans fresh.

There is no doubt that a perfectly executed coffee accompanied by a great meal will keep a customer coming back, however a poorly produced brew could very well drive them away irrespective of the quality of the meal.

So can businesses afford to serve up mediorce coffees? According to the people behind two successful cafes, the answer is a firm "no."


Sarah Hendriks, the co-owner of Bondi’s Porch and Parlour recognises there can be great margins in coffee, however a cafe must employ the right staff and top quality coffee beans.

“It is best to work with a really great roaster that supports your business and to not skimp on milk and a good barista.

“Coffee is increasingly becoming about reputation. We use [Sydney based coffee roaster] Will & Co and have a really strong relationship with the guys – they understand our brand and our culture and we work together on growing our business with them,” she explains.

Hendriks says demand for the cafe’s coffee has increased significantly throughout the past two years.

“That being said it’s increasingly competitive. The market has evolved with almond and rice milk becoming popular options, especially in Bondi, as well as cold drip coffee.”

To execute a great coffee, Hendriks believes multiple, equally important elements must come together – and it helps that Will & Co are equally passionate about this process.

“From the machine, grinder and crockery to taste, flavour and the environment and presentation of the coffee – it’s all important stuff and it all works together to create the end-to-end coffee experience.

“Our roaster is very much focused on the full coffee experience as opposed to just dropping you a machine, grinder and beans. Consistency from day to day is really important for us as locals want the same experience, which means training and constantly monitoring the quality of our coffee is crucial,” she explains.

Food forms an important part of both a restaurant and cafe’s offering, however coffee can make or break a cafe business, Hendriks explains.

“The foundation of a cafe's reputation is built on its ability to produce a fine flat white. Takeaway coffees are also a lucrative part of cafe trade so it makes sense to spend more time and money on getting it right.”

Quality coffee will no doubt boost a cafe's business, however Hendriks believes a truly successful cafe is not only based around coffee, but the space itself.

“I think successful cafes are different to restaurants – there is more of a focus on the balance of lifestyle within a space. We find the best cafes are central in their community – they operate as a friend, a listening ear, a hangout, a living room or even offer a moment of solitude in this crazy, fast paced world of ours.

“With coffee now so heavily immersed in our culture, a strong emphasis on coffee is imperative to the success of any cafe. I think when these two mediums come together harmoniously you’ve got the perfect little space,” she adds.


Coffee plays an equally important role at Melbourne’s cafe-of-the-moment, Top Paddock, particularly as competition in the city is fierce.

“Food, coffee and service in a beautiful environment is what we are all about, so all of these elements are super important to our business,” says co-owner Sam Slattery.

“If you don’t make a good cup of coffee you are in trouble in Melbourne because chances are the cafe down the road does.”

He says most customers order a coffee with their meal, and it seems the cafe’s coffee-only trade is rather lucrative.

“Each week we have a large number of customers who just come in for a coffee. Being located at the front of a large business park we understand not everyone has time to get their coffee in the morning, which is why we have a separate machine for takeaway coffee – we do between 350 and 400 takeaway coffees each day.”

Top Paddock coffees are made using a house blend by 5 Senses Coffee, a speciality coffee roaster based in Western Australia.

“We have had a strong relationship with 5 Senses Coffee for a long time now. They roast our house blend that is used in all milk based coffees and supply a number of espresso roast single origin and filter coffee blends.

“We have also collaborated with the Coffee Collective in Copenhagen – we use their filter roasts, which have been incredible, and we do a small amount of in-house roasting, mainly for filter,” Slattery explains.

He says milk based coffees including the latte and cappuccino are definitely the most popular with customers, followed by the long black and espresso.

“We also offer filter coffee, which is slowly gaining a strong following within the coffee community,” Slattery adds.

He firmly believes a cafe must offer quality coffee, and the venue devotes much of its time to coffee specific training for staff.

“A cafe should be all about the coffee. If you’re not focused on quality it’s a wasted opportunity in my eyes.

“We spend a number of hours each week training and educating our baristas and floor staff about coffee. This can be through on the job training or after hours cupping sessions. In my opinion the customer will benefit from educated and trained staff – it means they will be able to deliver a better and more consistent product."

Images: Porch and Parlour, Top Paddock

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