Award-winning coffee roaster Rubra has put its stamp on the burgeoning WA boutique coffee scene.
FIRST it was lipstick, then alcohol, now the humble cup of coffee could be another of life's little luxuries that proves to be recession-proof.
At least that's the experience of Western Australian boutique coffee roaster Rubra, according to owner Allan McMurray.
Wholesaling to cafes and retailers from Broome to Esperance, Mr McMurray said demand for coffee had not abated during the current economic downturn, with the company having recruited for two extra sales reps to cope with demand.
"Speaking to the guys we supply, coffee consumption has increased in some cases, but the catering and food side of the business has dropped slightly," Mr McMurray says.
The company has doubled output every year since it opened in 2006, and now roasts between three and four tonnes of coffee a month at its O'Connor premises.
Rubra gets its beans from 26 different sources including Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru, and is one of only 11 coffee roasters in the world to stock Opus 1 Exotic, the first 100 per cent Arabica coffee grown naturally to have only 1 per cent caffeine.
Rubra has also grown to become one of the most awarded boutique coffee roasters in WA, winning three medals at the Sydney Royal Show's Fine Food Show last month in the espresso and plunger divisions.
Though relatively new to the scene, Rubra joins a growing band of boutique artisan coffee roasters across metropolitan and regional WA that has been well received by cafe operators and retail consumers.
Local brands such as Fiori, 5Senses, Essenza and Yahava have become commonplace in Perth cafes, providing a welcome alternative to the major coffee chains.
And that competition is a good thing, says Mr McMurray, likening the explosion of WA coffee roasters to that of boutique brewers such as Little Creatures and Gage Roads, which have gained strong consumer support.
"[Competition] drives the quality. Everyone is doing a great job and the upside of that is the customers and the cafe operators win," he says.
"Coffee roasters in WA are a bit like the boutique brewers; there's a lot of boutique brewers around. Now the local roasters are taking a bit more of the market share."
Being local also allows buyers who want to be more hands-on to create their own individual blend, a specialty of Rubra.
"Cafe operators are realising that coffee is food, if it's not fresh, if you're getting coffee from Sydney or Melbourne and it's got to travel 3,000 kilometres, the coffee suffers," Mr McMurray told Business Class.
"From a cafe operator's point of view, if they can talk directly to the roaster about their needs and wants that's got to be a good thing."
Ethical trading is a key part of the business. Rubra is a member of the Rainforest Alliance, supporting sustainable coffee farming in developing countries, and is also currently working towards gaining Australian organic certification.
Two other WA boutique coffee roasters brought home awards from the Sydney show.
Helena Valley-based certified organic coffee roaster Biobean Coffee won a bronze medal in the espresso class and a bronze in the cappuccino class.
Margaret River's Yahava KoffeeWorks won a bronze medal in the espresso class, a bronze in the cappuccino class and a silver medal in the plunger class.