What if every coffee bar could someday be its own roaster?
Collective Roasting Solutions’ pop-up store in Enmore is just the tip of the iceberg, the coalface of a fast-growing new approach to coffee roasting that's being expressed around the world, from the Pulley Collective locations in New York and Oakland to Bureaux Collective in Melbourne, and heaps more in-between. The concept is deceptively simple but with results that are being amplified and mimicked in coffee scenes big and small across the planet.
These collaborative roasting spaces seem to be a magnet for great cafe brands, eager to develop their own roasting voice. In Sydney, Collective Roasting has attracted respected brands including Artificer Coffee and Edition Coffee Roasters as well as up-and-comers such as Grace & Taylor Coffee Company, Skittle Lane Coffee, Harry’s Bondi, and Stitch Coffee, owned by CRS founder Nawar Adra.
Nawar Adra talks fast. The man behind CRS has hopes and dreams rivaled only by the size of what's currently on his plate. From humble beginnings at French chain store Le Pain Quotidien, Adra's CV includes time at influential multi-roaster Qube on Bay and a roasting stint at Circa Espresso in Sydney’s western suburb of Parramatta. “I started roasting there, they had a five-kilo Probat, a Synesso Hydra, we were doing TDS, weighing shots, and it helped your learning curve.” After Circa, Adra was offered a job with Brewtown Newtown, which brought him into contact with some rather sought-after green coffee. “It was the first time I got exposed to Nordic Approach coffee. I did a blend with Wotona and Sidamo natural and they were both $17 a kilo!”
The heart of his operation is a roastery in Sydney’s inner-west suburb of St Peters, home to a swag treasury of toys: a 15-kilogram Giesen and five-kilogram Probat second generation roasters, with a 25-kilogram Probat coming down the line, plus a battery of color grading equipment and green storage solutions.
Late in 2016, Adra opened a pop-up cafe in Enmore to showcase the great work and excellent coffee that the roasters under his umbrella are producing, with a weekly menu that rotates between the different roasters in the collective. The shop is armed with an extensive range of retail coffee and a brewing setup of a La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine, Mahlkönig EK 43 grinder, and Anfim grinder for espresso, plus a double-header EKK 43 grinder and two Marco SP9's for filter brews. The simple floor space shows their priorities lie in the coffee more so than the furniture or a glitzy fit-out.
In some ways the pop-up store personifies the changing face of the inner west of Sydney, inhabiting the former site of Bravo Coffee, which held court for 30 years with oily, dark-roasted blends and old-school service. It's a fitting next step for this progressive model, a gathering place for Sydney's most exciting young coffee brands, and a glimpse into just how fast the coffee world around us is changing. The espresso bar and store will run through the end of March 2017, after which time CRS will continue to offer roasting facilities, support, and (as their name suggests) solutions.
What if every coffee bar could someday be its own roasting brand? They can, and that someday is perhaps sooner than you think.
Jai Pyne is a coffee professional, recording artist, and journalist based in Sydney, who has written for The Thousands, Good Sport, and Lost at E Minor. This is Jai Pyne's first feature for Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Arlo Pyne.