Blackstar Coffee Roasters
Marty Richards recounts the process of making the perfect coffee – a 20g double ristretto shot – with the same complexity and passion as any winemaker preparing their next vintage.
Marty is the owner of boutique coffee roaster and café – Blackstar Coffee Roasters in Brisbane’s eclectic suburb of West End, where caffeine junkies flock for the very best 160ml flat white and weekend breakfast. What started as a coffee roasting business in 2007 expanded into a retail café the following year to meet the insatiable demand for fresh, boutique coffee.
It was in the middle of the global financial crisis and Marty was determined to fulfil his vision of running a coffee roasting business that attracted like-minded people with a real passion for intricate coffee flavours and the art and science of coffee making. With limited cashflow in the start up phase and knowing the very best equipment was just as important as the roasted beans, he looked at several financing options to fund the Blackstar dream, including Silver Chef’s rental product.
“We started Blackstar in the middle of a recession, with no prior experience running a café business, so preserving capital early was a high priority for us,” Marty said.
“Silver Chef finance really allowed us to get off the ground as we couldn’t afford to buy the equipment we wanted and didn’t have equity for a bank loan.”
“We had the product but needed the capacity to get it to the retail market,” he added.
And establishing a café, serving your own branded coffee, is an expensive exercise. You are only as good as your last coffee.
The successful wholesale coffee roaster also brokers coffee equipment to aspiring café owners who are in the same position he was in four years ago – with an entrepreneurial spirit but in need of a helping hand to acquire equipment.
“To produce top quality coffee you must invest in top quality equipment. The best coffee equipment comes at a price – the coffee machine I rented through Silver Chef costs $12,500. “The grinders we prefer are also not the cheapest on the market at $3,300 and while this is a big initial investment, it produces a high quality grind plus it reduces coffee waste. “So it’s not unreasonable to be able to save a kilo of coffee a week, or more, and the money you save from that can go towards renting the equipment.
Marty isn’t alone in the belief that it’s not all about the quality of the beans.
Eugene Phua, part-owner of Campos in Queensland, also insists that if you want a consistently excellent cup of coffee, you have to pay for it. “We insist café owners who use Campos Coffee purchase the same coffee machine we use at our flagship store and Fortitude Valley cafe and that can cost around $15,000 including the grinder.
“We want to make sure that every time a customer has a Campos coffee, no matter where in Queensland, it is served as a consistent product. Having identical machinery eliminates a major variance and you are one big step closer to producing a consistently great cup of coffee.”
While it’s an expensive piece of equipment, Eugene said you don’t have to buy the equipment outright.
“When you’re starting up you can rent the equipment and preserve any funds for running other aspects of the business.”
Brisbane’s discerning coffee drinkers, expect nothing less than the best coffee, just like their southern counterparts, Marty said.
Known as ‘third wave’ it’s the term given to the present fixation of coffee appreciation, a step up from coffee shops serving fluffy cappuccinos 10 years ago. “Brisbane’s ‘third wave’ coffee drinkers are educated about their cup, they want to know the origin of the coffee, and the processing method just like they want to know where and how their food is prepared. “Coffee appreciation is part of the wider foodie culture not only in Brisbane, but the rest of the country,” he said.
While there has been a surge in new coffee roasting businesses in Brisbane in recent years, Marty said he welcomed the competition and believed Blackstar and boutique roasting in general, had a great future.
“Coffee roasting is a competitive market, but having survived our start-up phase, through recessions and floods, I’m confident Blackstar will keep growing.”