Sydney is a city of neighborhoods. Take the lovely inner city suburb of Surry Hills, home to the Paramount Coffee Project – it's full of restaurants, bars, and, evidently, delightful cafes.
PCP is located on the ground floor of the former Paramount Pictures building, which is also home to the independent Golden Age Cinema & Bar and the simple beauty that is tokyobike. The design is light and airy, blending a variety of elements including timber, exposed brick, steel, tiling, and polished concrete floors in a sophisticated way. It’s a large space, incorporating an espresso bar, small kitchen, a dedicated brew bar, retail area, and seating while still feeling very open.
The project is a unique collaboration between Russell Beard of Reuben Hills (Sydney) and Mark Dundon of Seven Seeds (Melbourne). A project three years in the making, Mr. Dundon was asked to provide ideas to Paramount about creating café space that would be different—a communal space where the people running the café wouldn’t own it. Through this, a rare opportunity arose to run café whose first priority would be coffee service, rather than the traditional (and largely necessary) financial approach.
Since opening in September of this year, Paramount Coffee Project has garnered quite a following, with many going for the tasty and varied coffee offerings as much as the ‘dude food’ focused food menu. The success of the space so far has given a good platform for Mr. Dundon and Mr. Beard's lofty goals, and as a result PCP has great potential to open the doors to discussion and education for the international coffee community.
As Mr. Dundon told me, “We find that the format is about educating ourselves and hopefully the participants as well.” The cafe opened initially with a very unique service, highlighting one specific coffee roasted by five local roasters to highlight roast styles and approaches. Mr. Dundon elaborated: “For us, it’s great to have the freedom of using what we want but also having the constraint in that the coffee has to work in a real format.”
Notions of freedom have led to a quite inventive use of the Paramount Coffee Project space, and in early November 2013, they significantly upped the stakes by bringing the Danish specialty powerhouse that is Coffee Collective to Sydney for a week of residency. Not content merely to ship coffee around the world, Coffee Collective's distinctive brand was represented at PCP by Peter Dupont and Klaus Thomsen, who are part of the reverred Copenhagen-based roaster's ownership.
They brought with them quite the coffee pedigree: Klaus Thomsen is the 2006 World Barista champion and noted consultant; Peter Dupont is Coffee Collective's roast master and green buyer, with a Masters of Science in water environment at coffee farms. Over the course of one week, the two worked with the Paramount team brewing coffee, serving customers, as well as running an education sessions and cuppings. The week all culminated in a bit of a meet and greet on the Friday evening which attracted a range of coffee folk from all over, including this journalist, who flew out from Melbourne at the behest of my editors to cover this project in greater detail.
During that Friday night event, Peter and Klaus talked about what they had observed and learnt during their time in Australia. As you might expect, their talk was ripe with quotes; my favorites have been excerpted below.
“When I was here half a year ago, there seemed to be a lot of cafes saying they wished they could serve more filter, they were struggling that people weren’t buying into it. I don’t know if there’s one model to get people to get into filter coffee, but at least it’s worked this week… we’ve sold quite a few more hand-brewed filters than most shops.
I think it’s partly the way it’s presented here, the first day I came in to Paramount, my eyes were immediately drawn to the filter bar – there’s a lot of potential to be found in shop layout. Designing a bar layout that emphasizes that ‘this is important to us’ and ‘this is accessible’, I think that’s part of the reason that it’s a success here.” – Klaus Thomsen [/box]
As for future goals for the space, Mr. Dundon and Mr. Beard are planning to host an as-yet-unnamed group of Americans next, to be followed by a Brazilian roaster. This intersection of coffee producing culture and specialty coffee service can't help but offer some interesting opportunities. As Mr. Dundon told me, “The idea of having a Brazilian roaster roasting in Australia with origins they haven’t had access to is something we’re interested in. Producers working in the café with local roasters who are roasting their coffee will be really great too.”
In the humble and quixotic style that's become something of a trademark, Mr. Dundon let on to being quite excited about the trajectory of Paramount Coffee Project. “We do have big plans,” he told me, and that's an understatement.