When Canberra, Australia’s capital city, comes up in conversation, it’s rarely in relation to specialty coffee. Politics? Sure. Art galleries? Why not! Coffee? Not so much. While this has been changing over the years with folks like Ona garnering a fair amount of attention due to Sasa Sestic’s World Barista Championship win in 2015, there is also a smaller, quieter coffee scene bubbling away in the background that’s no less impressive.
Owners Tim and Myfanwy Manning first opened Red Brick Espresso in Curtin in 2011, originally taking up only a small, 40-square-meter (about 430 square feet) footprint in the corner of their current building that encompassed the cafe and their Probat roaster. Since then, they’ve gradually taken over around half of the building, moved the roaster to a space two doors down, expanded the cafe’s seating, and even opened up a takeout section which is adorably called Little Brick.
Chatting to Tim about what originally sparked him to build Red Brick, his enthusiasm shines through his otherwise relatively quiet demeanor. “After I visited a few roasters in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, it was an amazing and exciting experience and something I wanted to build and share in Canberra,” he says. “We wanted to provide a stronger connection to the coffee for local baristas and store owners, and start to create true career opportunities for young people in coffee.”
Bringing that experience to the residential area of Curtin in Canberra’s western suburbs required a different approach than that of a metropolitan cafe in other cities though, with Manning and his team needing to meet the market where it was. “Our initial goals were to create a relaxed space with a local community based around specialty coffee,” he adds. “We aimed to learn to roast coffee that we wanted to drink, and that could sit alongside the roasters that we loved and admired—while maintaining our own individual approach.”
It’s a goal that they’ve thoroughly accomplished, with coffee-loving locals sprawling out on chairs and tables outside the building on sunny days and kids building forts out of milk crates while their parents consume some much-needed caffeine and downtime. Their offerings focus on simple and delicious things that they have a connection with—sourcing green coffee from Cafe Imports, Melbourne Coffee Merchants, Shared Source, and Cofinet, milk directly from the Little Big Dairy in Dubbo, and produce, meat, and eggs from local farms.
In addition to their original location, they’ve recently opened a pop-up store at the Australian National University Kubrick campus in the city that will run for at least 18 months. It’s a buzzing epicenter of activity during the semester and a nice change of pace from the suburbs.
As for the future, Tim outlined that their goal is to continue to support local business and produce delicious coffee, while also providing opportunities for people to start their own journey with coffee—consumers and coffee professionals alike. It’s an attitude that seems pervasive in Canberra, with more small cafes and roasteries popping up and even more people getting involved in coffee for the long haul. I can't wait to see what comes next.
Eileen P. Kenny is a coffee professional, winemaker, and Sprudge Media Network contributor based in Melbourne. Read more Eileen P. Kenny on Sprudge.