Sometimes location isn’t the most important factor in success. It’s the quality of product which draws customers, along with the passion of the producer.
Daniel Smith, the co-owner of First Fruits Coffee, became fascinated by coffee while in the army’s infantry. After injuring his back, he moved into the battalion’s café and was fascinated by coffee’s complexity. Discharged from duties, he started off as a barista but always wanted to do roasting.
“I saw a documentary about coffee growers and believed that I could help these people,” he tells us, commenting on the inequity of the coffee bean trade.
Daniel began his business using someone else’s roaster. He began doing a lot of contract roasting, investing $2,000 to start the business with the purchase of his own 5kg Probat Generation 1 roaster off Gumtree.
“I have a group of green bean suppliers that I trust to ethically source their beans from farmers. They send me samples, I cup and taste and then choose which beans to buy,” he says, “but eventually I’d like to go to the countries of origin and buy direct.”
Mid 2016, Daniel and business partner Ben Taylor set up their roastery/espresso bar in a small shop behind Pizza Hut in Ashmore. Selling a light to medium blend as the daily coffee as well as a single origin (‘Supersonic’ from El Salvador, when we visited), we ask Dan how coffee tastes have changed over the past few years.
“As much as I’d like to give people a massive fruit bomb in flavour, many people want coffee chocolatey and full-bodied, roasted to just before second crack. I’ll always sell more of that coffee than anything else,” he says. “We’re continually trying to make what we do better. We can roast lighter to taste fruit, full bodied with a buttery mouth feel, brown sugar with stone fruit sweetness, chocolate and rosewater or cherry and cacao. It’s absolutely amazing how far beans have come in the past ten years.”
“Blends used to have a bad name because they were blended to mask imperfections. Now we blend two coffees which are single origin and strong in their own right, ending up with a better product than the originals. Our point of difference is that we make coffee like we want to drink it from a café. It’s all about making coffee of high quality drinkability, roasting in the store with as little impact on the bean as possible.
Looking back on how his business started, Daniel says the entire experience was a time of waiting, not knowing what would happen next. But through it all, he’s thankful, hence his company name ‘First Fruits’ – giving back the first fruit of the harvest to his maker.
“As my time in the army finished, it began a rollercoaster experience which is still going. So many people have helped along the way,” Daniel says, “Too many to name. There’s a real camaraderie in the industry.”
Shop F 149 Cotlew St Ashmore; Dan Ph: 0437 631 580
Open: Mon, Wed – Fri 7am – 3pm; Sat, Sun 7am – 1pm