Monday, 30 April 2012

The health benefits of coffee

So we all love coffee. If you don't then you better get drinking cos there are some serious health benefits to be had from your daily cuppa.
Gimme another espresso, I'm buzzing!
  • A 10 year Swedish study of 34,000 women found that those who drank at least one cup of coffee a day had a 25% lowered stroke risk!!!
  • Did you know that a cup of coffee has more antioxidants than a cup of blueberries? This means for a lot of Aussies, coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in their diet!
  • The evidence is building up in the case of coffee and Alzheimers. US researchers suggest that an increased caffeine intake may not only prevent Alzheimer's disease, but could even reverse its effects. In this study however, they were talking about drinking up to 5 cups a day. Researchers believe it isn't actually the caffeine but a component not yet identified, so decaf is fine people.
  • Coffee is proven to increase short term memory recall. Elderly participants were found to have the largest effect. Come on Grandma, scrabble battle now.
  • Are you having toilet troubles, bloating, cramps? Well forget those two women on tv rubbing each others bellies sympathetically, then spoon feeding bifidsillyalias probiotic into their clammy mouths. We all know that a cuppa joe does plenty for constipation, look no further.
  • Lastly, two separate studies have correlated drinking caffeinated coffee with a lower incidence of gallstones and gallbladder disease. 
Phew, I am feeling healthier already. Basic summary, if you don't start drinking coffee you will probably die. Come along to Palomino Espresso in a couple of weeks and we will save your life. 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

From The Grounds Up

On a bright and sunny Sydney morning, we sloth around fumbling to get dressed with bellys rumbling. It’s not an uncommon scene in my house and the topic of conversation is always where to go for breakfast. On this particular morrow Charlie plucks out the idea of going to the new café in Alexandria: The Grounds. "Splendid idea old boy", we saddle the horses and off we go…..

On first site The Grounds (or TG as I have cleverly renamed it) is an impressive vision. It has the feeling of walking into someone’s back yard, someone who actually has time to garden and sow a herb patch. Whilst giving an approving nod to each other a friendly waiter comes out to say hello and then take us to our seats. If we thought the exterior of TG was impressive then the inside is stunning. No expense has been spared in putting this industrial country cottage together, from the coffee cups complete with TG logo, the beautiful woodwork covering the ceiling, door handles made of coffee grips, cool lamps and hanging lights everywhere even sexily tiled toilets….. yep the toilets are totally bling. This may be the best looking café I have ever been in. Big call. It is much larger than I had initially realised, seating what must be over 150 people inside and out. We are seated opposite 2 huge beautiful roasters that TG uses to produce its own coffee and that is exactly where we start, “2 long blacks please”. If you like your coffee then you wont be disappointed, they use one of the new generation Synesso machines which along with their own brand blend produces a delicious cup of smooth rich flavours with a bizarre smokey aftertaste that we both strangely enjoyed.

Reading over the menu was heartbreaking, everything sounded so different, so good. I wanted to try it all; boiled eggs rolled in quinoa and garden herbs (fresh from TG's allottment) or ocean trout salad with asparagus and pearl barley. Every dish coming out of the kitchen looked divine and after much deliberation we both decided on the scrambled eggs with smoked cheddar and mushrooms - a nice, hearty option. It was blooming lovely, every last scrap on both our plates was hoovered up.

Sadly, all too soon it was time to leave this cafe haven. By the time we left it wasn't even 9am and the place was packed with a gaggle of people already queing outside... if you plan on coming, get in early because I'm pretty sure this place is just gonna get busier! Well done The Grounds, we likey a lot.

The Grounds of Alexandria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Highs and lows of shop fitting

Well, we are one week and 2 days in and I can now fully appreciate what people mean when they talk about the stress of owning a business. This past week may well have been one of the most stressful of my life! We have gone from cupcake hell to a shell of a shop and today we start rebuilding it back up to Palomino glory.

The place was originally a cupcake shop, stainless still with black and white decor was the theme and I'm telling ya it was all a bit depressing. See the the picture below, that was the mural painted across the largest wall in the shop. What a pleasure it was to paint straight across their sad sack faces. And what, the what is going on with the little boy seemingly held hostage behind the window. It was all a bit creepy.

There have been many ups and downs during the course of the past 9 days. Abosolute low of the week was setting off the fire alarm for the whole building. It was only dust that sparked the alarms into action but it sure is tough being carm with the robotic voice of devil man telling you to evacuate the building. Lesson #11 - (we reckon you must have at least 10 up your sleeve by now), always cover up your smoke detectors before starting dusty building work. Remember to take off the covers at the end of the day otherwise if there is a real fire and yours are covered up bye bye insurance claim.

Another nightmarish day was removing the conrete that held the old fridges and bench in place. Dad and Charlie worked for 7 hours with zero break, jack-hammering and hauling concrete out of there. They were broken people by the time I returned (I was working at my sister's place) but they did a damn good job and got it done. Lesson #12 - leasing a shop that is full of equipment may seem like a good deal at the time but unless it is top quality and positioned exactly where you want it, then forget it. We now wish we had rented an empty shell instead of wasting probably 6 whole days moving or removing the crap we dont want.

Have no fear there have been many highs amongst the shit. Getting that last tile chipped off the wall, after countless cuts on arms and legs and smacking our thumbs with the hammer for the fiftieth time. That's me and Charlie below working side by side completing the last few bits. Lesson #13 - don't wear shorty shorts in a building site, Charlie got some mean scar resulting cuts on those long legs of hers.

We also managed to sell lots of bits and bobs on ebay that we found in the shop and didn't want. This included off-loading some metal stools to a lovely lad called 'hijacker79' and 3 garden chairs to 'scum_of_the_earth'. Lovely, lovely ebay names people have these days. Lady luck was on our side finding a buyer for the chandeliers. A friend of a friend knew a person who knew a person type situation and hey presto they're coming to remove them for us and will pay good dollar too.

It has been a hard slog, there's no denying it. The learning curve is steep in amongst all these nail biting situations but I definitely feel / hope that the worst of it is behind me. Now comes the decorating and installing, isn't that the fun part? We'll let you know.

Passionate war cry
My victory salute

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Expect the unexpected - rental agreements

Skipping back a couple of days to when we signed the lease. I thought I would impart a few value lessons learnt from the stressful process. These are things I wish I knew before hand.

Firstly, when budgeting for legal fees, think of a number then triple it! Our legal fees were seriously 3 times higher than we had initially expected and not because of our lawyers but because of the landlords. This is something out of your control and purely depends on who your landlord uses. Unfortunately our landlord used some big boy law firm that charged for ever phone call, every email and $5 for every bit of paper they had to copy. We never even realised we would be paying theses costs. Just keep it in mind when your doing your budget and remember to air on the side of caution. Next time I'd even ask if they can estimate their costs. Might help with the shock after I get the bill.

Another one is don't wait until the lease gets to your lawyer to negotiate the terms (obviously there may be some things you have to wait for). If you negotiate with the estate agent until you are happy with the terms, it may save you a lot of money as lawyers will charge you for EVERYTHING. We tried to do this as much as possible but your lawyer will probably spot things that you missed or were well hidden amongst the jargon.

Specifically, some fine details to look out for:

  • Yearly rental increases - this may be set as a % or as market review. After speaking with a friend who works in real estate he told me you see rental increases set as little as 1.5% or he has even seen one as high as 10%. Whatever yours is think about what it means for your future, will you be able to pay the rising costs or will the business be sellable 4 years down the track??
  • What happens to the fixtures and fittings you install into the business. Some leases include a clause that after 1-2 years your fittings become the landlords and cannot be removed if you default on the lease.
  • Are outgoings included in the rental amount and if so what do 'outgoings' mean? Our landlord decided that we would be responsible for any extra costs from the carbon tax.

Anyway after you've ticked, checked and double checked everything, go have a drink to celebrate. This is the real start and is a very exciting time, now get ready for the hard work to begin!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Onwards and Upwards Coffee Horse!

little brother showing off his superhuman strength
Yeeeeew, the past couple of days have been tough! After signing the lease, I have had two full days, 8am to 9pm of what I can only call demolition work!! The entire family has been involved bashing and ripping, trying to make the place a shell so we can re-build in a new style and layout. There has been lots of shouting at innate objects that seem intent on making life difficult. "You bastard" screams Pappa Schmidt at the cupboard that has been mocking him for that last 3 hours by refusing to come off the wall. The cupboard later got its revenge by falling from the wall at a most inopportune time, taking a sink tap with it, that we would have liked to keep. Lesson to learn? Furniture has feelings too ya know.

Today will be day number 3 and I'm hoping the last in terms of clearing out the remnants of the previous place which was a cupcake shop in case I've never said before. Over the weekend I'd like to do most of the white primer painting and then starting next week the decorating will begin. Fingers crossed for that anyway. 

Piece of advice for anyone looking to do a shop fit out...... things never go how you expect. We thought we would sell most of the previous owners equipment like fridges and counters etc and make a bit of money that way. Turns out he had cemented them all into the floor and we now need a jack hammer to crack the things out and no one wants smashed up old fridges. There have been various little issues like this, that we never could have foreseen before getting into the shop. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, adjust your plans and keep moving forward. Onwards and upwards Coffee Horse!

Just quickly, I wanted to write this post to keep y'all updated on the progress of the shop fit out but do feel like tomorrow I should go back a step, to talk a bit more about the lease negotiation process. For anybody looking to move into any type of commercial lease be it retail, hospitality or 'massage' services I would like to tell you some of what I learnt and I learnt a lot!
Sparks fly when Pappa Schmidt goes to work
Mumma spends 2 hours smashing glass of the wall
only to realise the whole wooden panel just came off.

Charlie doing something
And of course the smallest Schmidt causing trouble...
 and keeping up team morale :)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Lease signing day!!!

Wow, the past two days have been a complete roller coaster of emotion. The will it, wont it stage... back and forth between landlord, current tenant and me. Finally on April 17th 2012 everything has been signed and I can now officially say that Palomino Espresso will be located at Shop 1/61 York Street, Sydney.

Its been a hectic few months sorting everything out, researching suppliers, tradies, banks etc and I realise that this has probably been the easy part!! Now its time to get down to some serious hard work. Bye bye snooze button and Sunrise (the tv show not the actual), hello 5am starts.

The next stage is about jumping in there and setting the place up. I can envision how I would like the cafe to look in my head but now I actually have to create it. Hopefully it wont take any longer than 4 weeks to get up and running, then we can start serving you some delicious food and coffee!

And of course our amazing new cafe needs some amazing new staff. So Palomino Espresso is now officially hiring. We're looking for a passionate crew; whether you're an experienced barista looking for an exciting new venture or chef/kitchen hand looking for a new challenge, I'd love to talk to you. You don't need loads of experience (we all had to start somewhere) just a willingness to work hard and a passion for what you do. If you're interested please email a copy of your resume and a bit about yourself to:

I'd also like to say a special thank you to my beautiful wife, without her help and trust I wouldn't have been able to do this.
Wifey on one of our "research" outings

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Pros and Cons of owning your own cafe/restaurant

The self-employment subject emerged whilst chatting with a chef friend this morning. This friend has been in the industry for over 20 years and is very accomplished. Yet he debated fiercely about the negatives of being self-employed and shared with me why he had no desire to own a restaurant of his own. Later in the day I asked Mumma and Pappa Schmidt the same question, who proceeded to inundate me with the many positives of working for yourself. Their responses were passionate and compelling but then again so were Cheffy's.

    i named this one Pokabuzz - everyone laughed at the time
  • The number 1 persuasive point to working for yourself is exactly that. You are working for yourself. No Mr Boss man breathing down your neck, telling you how to dress, tapping their watch as you walk in the door 2 minutes late. "Stop bringing stray dogs into the office and dressing them up like Pokemon characters". Uuuuurgh - fist shake to the sky, do I have any freedom!! Yes, you can, bee self-employed. Then you only have to answer to yourself and of course to the needs of your customers.
  • Owning your own cafe means you get to express all your creativeness and indulge those culinary desires you could previously only dream about. Mmmm lychee, raspberry brownies. This starts with the decor of your cafe, the logo, the name, the menu to decide upon. Basically everything, as I am finding out now it is so exciting creating a place from the ground up, Palomino Espresso can be everything I've ever wanted in a cafe.
  • The opportunity to meet lots of lovely, interesting people in the community. This is a real plus from the cafe trade. When a customer turns into a regular and you remember their orders, know where they like to sit and in the long run get to know them. I've met quite a few friends this way over the years.
  • If your coffee shop is successful, the financial incentives should be worth it. You have direct influence over your monetary success or failure.
  • Despite the point above, one of Pappa Schmidts first comments was that you get to work from your heart and not just for the money. It's a happy life when you are doing something you enjoy with passion.
  • An added bonus of having your own restaurant/cafe is that you never really pay for food. Yes you buy lots of stock for the business but then you end up eating breakfast and lunch there and you'll probably take some left overs home for dinner. Dollars saved.

  • Owning a cafe isn't just another job. It's a totally different lifestyle. Prepare yourself for long hours, working on weekends and getting called in on the rare occasion you do get a day off. Bye bye social life. Ensure your partner realises the situation too!
  • The financial risk. Generally, there's a lot of your money that could go down the drain. I have known people to lose their life savings in a failed cafe. Only ever borrow from the bank or invest an amount that you are prepared to lose. I decided on a number that if lost I know I can still come back from. 
  • Unsteady income. In the first few weeks to months there won't be much money to put in your pocket at the end of the day. Re-investment, wages and cost of sales all have to be covered before you get your share. 
  • The food industry is also very price sensitive, which means demand for your food and coffee will go up and down significantly as a result of price changes. This leaves owners with a very fine line to walk, with cost of goods and labor and making a profit. I hope to make the quality of the food, coffee and service stand out at Palomino Espresso therefore negating some of the price sensitivity.
  • You never get to walk away from your own business. When things are get tough, you have to stick it out and try to turn the situation around. No clocking off at 5pm, that business is yours 24/7.
  • Banks are often not too keen on the self-employed. It can be hard to secure loans in the beginning and don't even think about a new mortgage. In due course, however, these fickle creatures will soon turn around once you have an established successful business. But initially you will probably already need to own your own home or have some other assets to go guarantor on any loans.
  • The last point I can think of isn't really a negative to owning a cafe but its something that makes life harder. Many would be cafe entrepreneurs don't realise the number of skills you have to have up your sleeve. At any one time you should be ready and able to perform as barista, chef or waitress. If you can't perform all of these jobs in your cafe it could make life very hard for you. What if someone calls in sick? What if you suddenly get slammed for take away coffees and have to help on the machine? Experience in all these positions is necessary as well as being a good manager.
this little guy was such a pro - Pikachomp
Look, its obvious there are going to be good and bad sides to any job in life. I must think the advantages outweigh the risks or I wouldn't be following through with my initial dreams. I believe if you really want/need to make it work and are willing to give the business everything you've got then you'll get your rewards. Most of the negatives mentioned above are issues that will surface at the beginning of the business. Give it time, establish processes and cafe life will soon become straightforward and pleasant. I can't wait to open up my little place  and I'm prepared for whatever it takes to ensure Palomino Espresso is a joy to visit and work in. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

a muffin or a tart dear?

"I say Margo, your muffins look just delicious"

"Thank you Genevieve, you're too kind. I just took them out of the oven..... see, still warm."

"Oh yes, how delightful. Well, I just saw Barnaby Lovegood in the alley and he says you have some more of those wonderful tarts in store. Are they're any left?"

"Of course, I always save a tart for you Margo, I know how you love them so."

Blackberry, white chocolate and banana muffins

Photo above taken from - review of  The Book Kitchen in Surry Hills.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A day at Morgans Handcrafted coffee roasters

Earlier this week, I had the lovely opportunity to spend the day out at Morgans handcrafted coffee roasters. I was fortunate enough to have a play about on different brewing equipment, tasted a whole variety of coffee and even got to watch the roasting process itself. Heres the storey of my day.....

Morgans Handcrafted Coffee is a family operation at heart. Established in 2004 by owner Dean Morgan it has become a name associated with award winning coffee blends and dedication to the highest quality raw product, being the beans themselves.

With so many excellent roasting operators in and around the Sydney area, deciding on which one was best for my coffee shop was a tough one. I ultimately chose Morgans as I felt the passion for what they do is still very much alive. I see this in their staff and in the excited way they showed me the different coffees and how to get the best from them. I also really appreciate the small roasteries, the smaller places have to differentiate themselves on taste, service and most important quality where as the big boys are large enough to be competitive through price. Cheaper is not always better in this instance.

Morgans sources single origin coffee beans from sustainable plantations and cooperatives from over 40 different countires. Roasting each batch to identify unique flavour profiles from the region they are from.

'It is all about superior quality from the ground up' - Dean Morgan.

The beans on the right have come all the way from Ethiopia. This is what they look like pre-roast.

On the left is the beautiful portuguese beast of a machine that does the brunt of the roasting work at Morgan's. In the photo is Josh checking on how the beans are progressing. The whole roasting process itself is much more delicate than I had first imagined. Josh always kept a high level of concentration, continually looking for visual, aromatic and audio changes in the beans. By this I mean looking for how dark they were becoming, ensuring there was no burning and listening for the tell tell pops which are an indication that the beans have cracked and are seriously hot!

Morgans are not about pumping out the kilos, careful time and consideration is taken with each batch. Each blend and single origin is roasted differently to bring out the unique flavours on offer. You'll usually find that single origin coffees are roasted slightly lighter than blends to bring out a more fruity, round bodied flavour. Whereas the blends are pushed slightly darker to give you that rich caramal flavour.

After the hot roasted beans come out of the oven, they go straight into this cooling tray which is kinda like a giant tumble dryer but with no heat and no clothes but it does spin. After they are cooled they are packed immediately for ultimate freshness and flavour.

After discovering the intrigues of roasting it was off to spend some time with Aaron, Morgans very own award winning barista. Aaron took me through some barista training to further perfect my skills. There's always more to learn, be it new brewing techniques or a bit of coffee science.

Today we went through the inner workings of the coffee machine itself. We also had a look at various grinders and the differences they will make to your grind and ultimately your coffee. It was a great opportunity to taste the different varierties of coffee on offer, and it looks like the award winnning, 100% organic 'Pony' Blend will be a staple offering at Palomino Espresso. Pony - Palomino, I guess it was fate. We're also working hard to make sure we can deliver you a couple of different single origins to try each week.

Last on the days agenda was the extremely exciting unveiling of the antique espresso machine Astoria Regina or Queen of Coffee or just Queenie. It is a 1950s lever espresso machine saved by Morgan's owner, Dean from an antique store and has been completely restored to its former glory. You'll be able to taste a black coffee made by Queenie when Palomino Espresso opens next month. We are so excited about this machine it deserves its own post so more to come at a later date.

Hope you enjoyed these snapshots of my trip to Morgans. If you would like to enjoy a coffee from the roasters themselves then the cafe and warehouse is based at Emu Plains. Take a look at the website for more details, link up the top.

A big thanks to everyone out at Morgans for all your support!

Monday, 9 April 2012

To roast or not to roast, that is the question

Commercial roasting, in my eyes is nothing less than an art form. Not only does it takes years of experience and palette refinement to master this tricky trade but the job itself is full time. Aside from the actual roasting process which is lengthy and painstaking, being an excellent coffee roaster involves sourcing the finest quality beans you can find, often involving lots of travel to far flung areas of the globe. It's not something to take on lightly. Substantial time, money and personal investment is necessary to get it right.

Time, money and personal investment are resources I have dedicated to the set-up and management of Palomino Espresso. I cannot possibly hope to be the best coffee roaster out there. Sydney has some serious quality in the roasting market. Businesses that live and breathe the whole coffee roasting process and concentrate on nothing other than sourcing, roasting and delivering first class beans, and I want my coffee shop to use those first class beans.

I felt my business would be over-burdened, with roasting to add to the list of things to perfect. As i've said before Palomino Espresso is about the whole experience. Therefore my 'list' already includes yummy homemade food, friendly welcoming service, exceptional coffee made by skilled barista's and all in comfortable, aesthetic setting.

Palomino Espresso will be a collaborative cafe whereby I source the best people, suppliers and ingredients in any given area. I want the best bakers to provide my bread, I want the freshest fruit and veg from the markets to use in my menu and I want only the finest most passionate roasters to supply Palomino Espresso with its beans.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the guys that do roast their beans in house. The likes of Mecca and Double Roasters consistently produce amazing coffee and I rate them both highly (see top 5 Sydney cafes). But for my coffee shop as a single owner and wanting an emphasis on food and service as well as coffee, sourcing the best of the already top quality roasters out there is the optimum approach to bring you a chief cuppa.

Thanks for reading my little speech on this subject. Next up is a full account of my day at Morgans Handcrafted Coffee and why they are my chosen roasters!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Bun Review

Happy Easter Everyone!!

In the spirit of all things Easter I have been munching on my fair share of hot cross buns. Therefore I can think of nothing better to do today than a 'Bun Review'.

First up is Bourke Street Bakery. I strolled down here last week chasing my morning caffeine hit but after seeing the many baked delights up on offer I couldn't resist buying this beautiful hot cross bun loaf! I then proceeded to eat nothing else but this hunk of hot cross bun throughout the remainder of the day. So so good toasted with heaps of melting butter. I feel like a complete fatty right now but totally worth it. If you are currently salivating over the photos of this sexy bun, then take yourself off to Bourke Street Bakery and you can pick up one of these babies for yourself for just 6 bucks. Unfortunately my photo doesn't really do the loaf justice. You'll just to trust me, it was gooood!

Next tastlings were fresh out of the oven, individual hot cross buns from the team at Cafe Berlin. Nothing really beats bready goodness when its fresh and spongey. These beauties had more spice but less sugar than the average bun which made them dangerously moorish. I also liked the white bit which on some hot cross buns can be hard so you end up picking it off. Altogether a very yum experience.

Lastly, I noticed these buns the other day and thought they were worth a mention. Good presentation but not as tasty as you'd expect.
Join me tomorrow as I delve into a subject that I feel very strongly about and that is crucial to my business and the values behind Palomino Espresso. Its the issue of roasting and why I have decided to use an already established coffee roasters instead of roasting my own blends.

My family history in the world of hospitality

Public holidays are an especially busy time in the hospitality industry, either myself or members of my family will be working over the entire Easter weekend. Yesterday was the calm before the storm so we made sure everyone had Good Friday off. The day was spent together having a barbie and chowing down chocolate. Food is very important to my family, we enjoy cooking it, eating it and of course it is our livelihood. So I thought today, I would write a little about the slightly eccentric but very loveable group I call my family.

The photo on the left is that of my dad, i'll call him Sir Schmidt for now. Sir Schmidt aka Helge was born in Berlin, Germany to very humble beginnings. He left Berlin for London at age 17 to escape poverty and motivated by dreams of becoming a restauranteur. His first job was as a room service waiter at the Connaught hotel, he worked hard and climbed his way up the ranks to butler which is when this photo was taken. After 6 years of slaving it out in various hotels and saving his money Helge was lucky enough to get the opportunity to strike out on his own. With the help of his twin brother, Helge opened a German themed restaurant in
Kensington and called it the
Twin Brothers. The place was a huge success and Helge continued to live in London as owner and manager for the following 12 years.

It was at the Twin Brothers that Helge met his Australian wife, my mum - Jan. You can see my mum and dad both serving at the restaurant in this photo. Jan is one of the finest self taught cooks around and has been the backbone in all of our family businesses. Including running her own place Jan's cafe in Woolloomooloo and starting up The Settler's wedding reception in Mulgoa (see pic below). She is one of those women who can rustle up a meal from
anything. Leave her in a room with a tin of tomatoes and a banana and you'll return to find a delicious 3 course meal. Maybe the tomato/banana example is a little far fetched but you get what I mean.

On the right is my older sister Heidi, who opened her first cafe at the tender age of 16!! Im sure she received lots of support from our parents but unbelievable all the same. Heidi's first cafe was named Cafe Heidi - real high brow thinking there.
This photo with me was taken in her opening week. She now runs and owns the Balmain institution, Cafe Berlin.

I can't leave my little brother, Karl off the list. A now not so little 21 year old Karl's main involvement in the hospitality industry is pretty much the same as his involvement with me in this photo. Eating. Yes Karl is the number one food taster in the family.

And lastly, this is me..... I think in this picture I am sampling one of mum's famous desserts. Slightly older and hopefully wiser, I am the next Schmidt in line to start out on my own in the crazy cafe world. The encouragement and support from every single one of my family members has given me the courage to start this new and exciting chapter in my life... hopefully I'll be able to make them all proud.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Third Wave - What does it mean?

Ok, so you may have walked into your favourite coffee shop and been a bit bemused by all the coffee offerings of late. Everyone's getting a little bit fancy and for ordinary folk like you and me it can all get a little confusing. In this post I will attempt to diffuse the mystery surrounding the various science like instruments and what difference it will make to your cuppa. 

Getting a great coffee from your beans comes down to a few variables; heat, time, extraction, temperature, grind, pour and drip rate. Playing about with these factors has resulted in some new approaches for getting different flavours from the coffee and involving more of the senses in the overall experience. The third wave coffee movement is about trying all these methods new and old, straying away from mass produced roasters and sourcing the highest quality beans from all over the globe with a real push towards single origin coffees.

So what are some of these spiffy new brewing techniques:

This method allows for complete manual control over the amount and quality of the coffee extraction, producing a round bodied coffee full of flavour with little acidity. Hot water (not boiling) is hand poured in a continuous motion over medium grains whilst being careful not to flood the beans. The coffee is then drip extracted through a filter paper cone. This method can take up to 5 minutes to produce so be prepared to wait slightling longer than your regular coffee. Great when prepared with single origin estates. Pour-over is about getting back to basics with the gentle withdrawal of flavours.

Cold Drip
I'll have it on the rocks please...drip... drip... drip by drip the coffee is extracted in a painstaking process that can take up to 12hrs. Cold drip is making a resurgence back into the coffee market where by iced water in a top chamber slowly drips onto ground coffee which then filters into a lower chamber. This is bottled for freshness and at drinking time you can choose to drink chilled or hot. Palomino Espresso will definitely be serving up Cold Drip - don't pass up the opportunity to try one when we open next month. Fantastic on a great summers day, you'll be able to pick up the subtle flavours from each single origin with an acidity thats lower than most espressos.

One of the most delicate ways to brew coffee that can reveal the many underlying complex flavours. Its a very exact process using a scientific looking gizmo that is essentially a vacuum coffee maker. The syphon device is made up of two glass vessels one is filled with water, the other with coffee grounds. When the lower vessel is heated with what looks like a bunsen burner the pressure pushes the water up the syphon tube, the heat is removed, the coffee steeps and then strains itself as it drips back down into the bottom receptacle. As you could understand this takes a wee while (5-10mins) so order one of these when you have time to watch and enjoy. It turns the everyday mundane act of ordering a coffee into a full sensory experience. The extra time will be worth it when you notice the difference in taste as this process helps extract the unique characteristics of the bean.

Caffeine geek or not, the latest coffee trends are not to be ignored. Coffee is the new artisanal drink that can be gulped down for your morning buzz or tasted, appreciated and discussed, much like wine. Hopefully these explanations will entice you to try one sometime in the future ooor you can just wait till Palomino Espresso opens and come to us! We would love the opportunity to make you a coffee and explain the techniques further. You might find this opens up a completly new way of drinking coffee and become hooked... darling I wouldn't be caught dead drinking anything other than cold drip.

One final brewing method to mention. I invented it just this very morning whilst running late for work. Take a handful of coffee beans, chuck them straight in your mouth and whilst chewing try gargling with boiling water.

*Disclaimer: If you are clever enough to attempt the 'gargle' method, we accept no responsibility for your impending death.*

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The most expensive coffee in the world

When one gets the chance to experience a cup of the most exclusive coffee in the world, one should not turn the opportunity down! Recently when on holiday in Bali my partner and I got the chance to do just this. Indonesia is actually the 4th largest coffee supplier in the world, most of this is produced on the higher altitude island of Sumatra but a small volume is grown in Bali along with the highly desirable Cat Poo coffee.

blind people think they look like cats
Cat poo coffee officially named Kopi Lowak was first brought to us by the Dutch, the same nation that gave us the Vengaboys, something about that makes sense to me. So old Mr Dutchy back in the 1800s decided that their morning brew would taste much better once squeezed out of a cat's arse, totally reasonable thinking. The Luwak is a cute furry creature native to the Indonesian islands and as part of their natural diet they enjoy a nice bunch of coffee berries. As the beans pass through their inside bits, the digestive enzymes of the animal's stomach bring out the flavour and body of the coffee and will convert anyone who drinks it. This is what they tell me. The process of collecting the poo covered beans, washing them, drying and eventually roasting is a lengthy one and justifiably results in a hefty price tag. You can expect to pay on average $40 a cup ($1200 a kg) anywhere outside of Indonesia. Luckily at the plantation it was only $5 a pop.

the moment of truth!
So what did we think? Well it was certainly a strong brew, very 
robust with quite a bitter aftertaste. However, this could partly due to
the heavy roasting process which is done by hand over an open 
flame till the beans are black! In Bali it is traditional to use finely 
ground powder coffee mixed straight into hot water. I learnt early on 
to let my cup sit for 5 minutes before drinking otherwise you'll end 
up with a mouth full of coffee grains. Overall, I give Kopi Lowak 
the big thumbs up but I am associating the whole experience of 
walking around the plantations, seeing the little kitty kats and
then drinking their shit. Thoroughly enjoyable!

a coffee tree
roaster dude - one pan at a time!

Charlie trying her hand at traditional coffee grinding
washed beans - pre roasted

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

established business or blank space??

if you don't take risks, you'll never move forward.
Alrighty, I know many of you have been holding out all day for this. So as promised we now have the exciting topic of.......drumroll..... the pros and cons of buying into an established business as compared to moving into a blank space.

First off is taking over an existing business. With this you get the benefit of walking into a premises with all the equipment and general processes in place and therefore also the potential of making money from day dot. This means no taxing that precious brain of yours with issues like DA applications, logos, layout, plumbing and yada yada. The major downside of this approach is that it costs. Expect to pay a decent amount for goodwill (the intangible value of a business) as well as for the fixtures and fittings. Ensure you look at all the business financials to determine if you are paying the right price. The other bumma of an established cafe is that you will find it harder to stamp your own feel and aesthetics into the place which a lot of the time is a big part of the excitement when opening a cafe/restaurant.

A slightly cheaper alternative to the one above is to find a business that isn't doing so well. Sometimes you can pick up a bit of deal doing this, especially if the owner is looking to vacate or get out of the lease. You can then offer a nominal amount for the business - say $10k and you still get to walk into $30-40k worth of equipment. Obviously try to understand why the previous business flopped. Can you make it a success or is the place doomed to failure.

Lastly, theres the option of moving into a blank space. You have the freedom to design and the fit out the shop as you please and yes you get all the headaches of dealing with the council, electricians and carpenters that go along with it. Designing your own cafe from scratch can be hugely exciting, attempt to not get caught up in the euphoria of your shiny new bank loan and the many ways to spend it. Before you can say 'david copperfield' you're over budget and only half way through the fit out process, doh! Do get plenty of quotes/timeframes from contractors and triple check your calculations. Include time spent working on the business with no income rolling in. If you decide to go this route, negotiating a rent free period with the landlord is a must - approvals from the council can take months to process.

Personally, I have lots of ideas for how I want my cafe to operate and look like. Therefore I will be creating it from scratch but in a property that was previously a cup cake shop so it already has a decent fit out in terms of kitchen equipment and storage.

The couple of links below will help you out if you're thinking about this sort of stuff. There's an incredibly boring but easy to follow explanation of calculating goodwill and a link to the NSW Trade & Investment website which actually has a surprising amount of useful information for small business including legal compliance info. Happy reading!

Valuing a Business

NSW Gov - Business Locations

Monday, 2 April 2012

The finer points of commercial leasing

I can make a pretty coffee, but can I start-up my own business? Hurdle 1 in this process is finding the perfect premises. This is quite possibly the single most important step in the whole cafe process and as a result many would be cafe/restaurant owners bring out the 'too hard basket' and never make it past this stage.

I have seen first hand how the property you choose can make or break your business. Therefore I put some serious time and effort into seeking out my little place, looking on and off for nearly 18 months before committing myself. Luckily for you I have a fair amount of experience in commercial leasing. My family have collectively started 8 various hospitality businesses from scratch. So to save you a lot of blood, sweat and tears I have compiled the following list of points to remember when looking for a business premises:

  • Does the area have the right demographics for your target market?
  • Is there a good amount of foot traffic for passing trade?
  • Are you after an established business or a blank space?
  • What is the current DA (development approval) for? Don't just take their word for it, you have to see the paperwork!
  • If there is not a current DA, is there landlord approval to run the space as a cafe?
  • What is the term of the lease? For example how long will you be tied into the lease for.
  • Check to see if there are any development plans for the property - you don't want to set the place up just for your landlord to turn round 6 months later and re-develop the area upstairs into a 24 hour brothel, (saying that this may attract some new colourful customers).
  • Does the property have a grease trap or mechanical ventilation? If not, can this be installed and at who's expense? Some landlords may pay for this or at least contribute towards the cost.
  • Does the asking rent include outgoings?
  • What toilet facilities are available? There are certain council regulations relating to this depending on the capacity of your property.
  • What incentives are on offer? Remember there is always a deal to be had. This could mean a rent free period or the landlord helping with the fit-out, it doesn't hurt to ask anyway.
  • Is there disabled access? If your site isn't at street level, council will require installation of a ramp.
  • What available parking is there in the area?
  • Are other businesses succeeding or failing in the area?

There may be other issues that come up along the way but the above is a pretty comprehensive list of questions to bring along to any estate agent meeting. A final tip is to ensure you get a good solicitor to look over the details of the lease to ensure there are no hidden gems that the landlord neglected to tell you. The balls in your court until you sign on the dotted line.

I realise this can all seem a bit daunting. However, if you approach it in a logical way and just get stuck in, it really isn't so bad, the lawyers will do most of the ground work for you anyway. If you are feeling overwhelmed or have any questions, thoughts on finding a property don't be shy. I am passionate about small business and will help if I can.

Some of the points made today warrant a whole post to themselves. Tomorrow we will talk about the pros and cons of buying into an established business as compared to starting one yourself from the ground up. Wohoo bet you cant wait, this is edge of your seat stuff!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Personal 5 favourite Sydney cafes

Ultimately I would like this blog to become a hub of information for others looking to get into the hospitality industry. Today I had intended to get straight into some of the business processes that got the cafe ball rolling but decided it wouldn't be a very exciting second blog post! Instead you lucky things, I will delight you with my top 5 coffee shops in Sydney; the ones that have inspired me and keep me coming back again and again. They are in no particular order, it would be too hard to separate these places which are all good for different reasons.

This place is steadily growing into a chain so I can't speak for all locations but the one in Camperdown is a winner. I enjoy it for the atmosphere, for the yummy breakfasts and for the best almond croissants this side of almond croissant land. I never get the feeling of being rushed or squished in, its the perfect place to relax and read the paper. They use Little Marrionette beans and my flat white is always well poured. The  slight downside to Deus is that one can never resist a visit to the retail shop once ones stomach is satisfied. Hence your $15 brekkie soon becomes $100 after you fall trap to the lovely but rather expensive clothes that Deus has to offer.

Voted Sydney Morning Herald's Cafe of the Year in 2011 and I fully concur with that result. Mecca never disappoints, they roast their own coffee which comes from all over the globe and although the food is simple, its beautiful in quality and full of flavour. Mecca is clearly a big player in the Australian coffee industry but they have managed to maintain that un-pretencious feel about them. I like that, I really like it a lot especially when so many of the other success stories have turned insular and now refuse to serve you unless you sport a trilby, button your shirt to the top and carry a pug in a organic cotton tote bag. Security will often check your bag for the pug at the door, just a warning. Anyho, I may have gone off the subject but the conclusion is the same. Mecca are pretty darn tooting good!

Boutique roasters over in Marrickville with the cafe set up in the same room as the roaster. These guys are seriously into their coffee and I found their passion and knowledge for the trade inspiring. The long black I had here was full of intense flavours and strong enough to blow your socks off. Would recommend this place to anyone who thinks all coffees taste the same. There are plenty of blends and single origins to choose from. So much so that you will leave buzzing like a bee!

It may not look like more than a hole in the wall but Coffee, Tea & Me will serve you consistently excellent Campos coffee with a smile. They know what they're doing and do it well. Just don't go here when overly hungry as they have no cooked food, its more snacks and bagels, all of which are nicely done. My favourite lunchtime regular.

What can I say, I had to have it in the list and not out 
of sisterly obligation. Cafe Berlin easily gets 
into my top 5. I seriously am yet to find a place anywhere that sells homemade food and baked lovelies like this Balmain coffee shop. Personal favourites are the pies, flour-less chocolate cake, brownies and of course the carrot cake muffins. When you add relaxed friendly staff and awesome value to the equation, you can't go wrong. 
Beware - cake o'clock gets very busy!

And there you have it, my top 5. If you have any other recommendations please leave a comment and let me know. I always like to hear other people's opinions, cheers :)
Mecca Espresso on UrbanspoonDeus Cafe on UrbanspoonDouble Roasters on Urbanspoon