When you’ve spent the last seven years creating busy cafes in Melbourne—as well as growing your own micro-herbs, baking in-house, and creating delicious culinary creations—what do you do next? Well, if you’re Nathan Toleman, Ben Clark, Diamond Rozakeas, Sam Slattery, and Elika Rowell, you open your own coffee roasting facility.
Square One Coffee Roasters, from the formidable team behind The Kettle Black and Top Paddock, is a new roasting company making a home for themselves in Melbourne’s inner southeast. The building itself is more than just a roastery, however, housing offices, a pastry kitchen that supplies their cafes, as well as green bean storage. In the near future, there may even be a branded Square One cafe, creating a space where coffee will be the main focus (alongside some sweet treats, of course).
Having established themselves over the past seven years using coffee roasted by 5 Senses Coffee, Top Paddock and Kettle Black making the move to roasting their own coffee is a significant step. I sat down and had a digital conversation with head roaster Elika Rowell about their plans for Square One Coffee Roasters.
Sprudge: What inspired the name Square One?
Elika Rowell: The name really came from the concept of going back to basics, using the rawest form of ingredients that we could get our hands on, and creating something of our own, with our stamp on it.
After so many years of running these businesses using the same coffee supplier, why is it only now that you and the team are setting out to roast for yourselves?
We’ve had an amazing relationship with 5 Senses Coffee for about seven years now—they’ve given us all the support and delicious coffee we have ever needed! We’re at a point now though where it makes more sense than ever to create and have control of as many of our products as possible, coffee being one of them.
What are your goals for Square One Coffee Roasters?
Well, I think the most obvious goal is to roast some damn fine coffee! We have a pretty great understanding of what our customers enjoy, and why they keep coming back, and we wholeheartedly respect that. So we’re trying to find the balance of what we think is delicious and what our customers think is delicious.
How have you handled the changeover to your own coffee brand?
We’ve been rolling out our coffee over the last few months, a gentle transition phase that 5 Senses have been really supportive of. It’s given us a window of time to work on our profiles without too much pressure, and for now we’re communicating our coffee service to our customers mainly through word of mouth. Top Paddock and Kettle Black will always be happy to bag up the freshest coffee they have on stock [for retail]. In the future, we will be retailing out of our own espresso bar, and eventually offering online retail as well.
What’s led up to your role as Head Roaster?
I roasted for the first time about four years ago, using a 1-kilogram Giesen roaster that Three Bags Full had set up in SILO Coffee’s warehouse. When we opened up Top Paddock, almost two and a half years ago, we installed that same Giesen in the back corner of the shop. I had the pleasure of learning from Dylan Hewitt (now head roaster at Wide Open Road) and Tim Varney (former roaster at Tim Wendelboe, now at Small Batch). We concentrated on our single-origin selection, both espresso and filter—it would have taken me about a million hours to roast our house blend on that little beast.
What’s your equipment setup at Square One?
We roast everything on our Probat 12-kilogram. Quality-control-wise we use Agtron and a Sinar moisture analyzer, but most importantly a VST refractometer, Mahlkönig EK 43 grinder, Mythos Clima-Pro grinder, La Marzocco Linea PB, and, of course, our palates! We try to analyze coffee the way it’s intended on being served, so we taste espresso as espresso instead of on a cupping table etc.
Where are you sourcing your green coffee from?
Currently, we have great relationships with SILO Coffee Store and Melbourne Coffee Merchants, as well as a handful of other wonderful importing companies. There are so many great companies out there at the moment that we are spoilt for choice. Origin wise, I’m a pretty big fan of Africans and Central Americans, but we do intend on attempting to be as seasonal as we can be. Down the line, we would like to source most, if not all of what we use. For now though, we’re going to leave that to the good people who know it best!
You can currently find Square One Coffee being served at Top Paddock (658 Church Street, Richmond) and The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road, South Melbourne)—eventually also at their in-house espresso bar and a new venue from the same team, Higher Ground, which is currently being built in Melbourne’s CBD.
Square One Coffee Roasters in Melbourne is not affiliated with Square One Coffee in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.