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The business of bean blends

THE catch cry “let’s meet for a coffee” has evolved into a well used communication tool during the past decade.

Let’s meet for a coffee means so much more than just sitting down and ingesting a brew that is essentially nutritionally void of any goodness except for the stimulation boost from a whack of caffeine. Meeting for a coffee with your boss could mean ‘I don’t want to tell you this in the office so bring your briefcase’, it could mean ‘I really like you but this isn’t working for me, I need some time on my own’, or it could mean ‘hey, I haven’t seen you for a while, let’s meet for a coffee’.

Coffee has its own language its own agenda.

Mark Rogers of King Street Café told me over a fine hand-crafted brew that the coffee culture in Perth essentially had its origins at the ‘Forum Café’ in the Hay Street Mall around the time Abba was top of the pops. I remember going in there with my mother during school holidays and being surrounded by women huddled close together in booths nattering away, I think it was a kind of twighlight zone void of men. Now, it is now socially important to meet for coffee and the more street frontage the better, men and women embracing the brew and checking each other out, young and old united in the quest that is ‘let’s meet for a coffee’.

Mark Rogers explains that King Street was pivotal in starting what became the massive business of coffee in the early 1990s. In fact, Dome originally had it beginnings in the King Street premises before the partnership went separate ways in 1992. Mark tells me they still have the original 1939 Danish Roaster used in the early days of King Street, which is still used on the odd occasion.

At King Street, only top quality Arabica beans are used in all their coffee blends. Mark invests a lot of time, effort and money in training his staff to ensure a high standard of coffee is served. He explained to me that, although the price of beans has increased significantly during the past decade, the price average price of a coffee has increased only moderately over the same period (in 1991 a coffee was only $2, now the average price is $2.9). Given the higher cost associated with making a brew for the educated consumers of today, that doesn’t quite add up to an increasing bottom line, and all business owners are interested in the bottom line.

So how does Mark like to drink his coffee.

“It depends on the time of day, but I love an espresso with a good cognac and I enjoy just as much a flat white with a great biscotti, it is a must,” he said.

Clyde Bevan from Friends restaurant buys his coffee from Vittoria and uses 100 per cent top of the range Arabica beans. Clyde tells me the service offered by Vittoria is the main reason for his choice of supplier. Their back up in terms of staff training is fantastic, he says.

Clyde is adamant that all staff know how to make a good coffee and, vitally important, they must understand the need for a very clean machine. Good coffee can only come from a clean machine, he says.

Clyde also explains that some knowledge of coffee culture is a bonus.

Both he and his wife Leslie spent some time at the Vittoria Café College in Victoria to improve their knowledge. Clyde’s favourite brew depends on his mood, but it’s a flat white in the morning and a short black towards the end of the day.

Mareno Berti, manager of the Re-Store in Leederville, begins his views on coffee by remarking that it “is a very personal thing. I am always trying to get people to try different things”, he said.

“The trick to great coffee is fresh coffee, freshly roasted and freshly ground. I have tried coffee that tasted great when I was in Italy but in some instances when you find it here it has got the freshness and it disappoints because it hasn’t been able to retain the freshness in the journey, Mareno said.

He buys his coffee beans from Brazilliano and has 20 different types. The best, in his opinion, is the Silvana. Mareno also puts together his own blend and, like all blenders, his brew is classified top secret.

Moreno likes short blacks, an espresso. Plunger coffee is not a favourite, as it loses heat and you miss out on flavour.

I may be a little biased here but my favourite brew is made at Cino To Go, however I am no coffee wizz so I called up Cino’s master brewer Christian in an attempt to find out what goes into their blend.

He told me it is called a mid-city roast – essentially a medium length roast with nutty sweet flavours. Their blend came about after many hours of sipping different flavoured beans across the coffee spectrum. It is an art, just like blending the components in a wine. Christian said it ultimately was the roasting that made a good coffee great – you can have all the right ingredients but 30 seconds too long in the roaster and its all over red rover. The Mid City blend is made up from Arabica beans from Brazil, New Guinea and Columbia, but the percentages used in the blend remain classified. Chritian is an espresso kind of guy or occasionally a long machiato. He dreads that cappuccino word, explaining that they are just high maintenance.

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