“Anyone can learn to roast but what we’re about is a more holistic definition of what it means to be a successful roaster,” explains Craig Simon, the brainchild behind Criteria Coffee, a co-roastery and education space for coffee businesses who wish to learn the craft of roasting and all that it encapsulates – from the raw materials to the bag packaging.
“Criteria Coffee facilitates coffee roasting for people who don’t have the resources or who haven’t learned the skills yet to manufacture and roast their product,” Craig expands. “It’s learning how to choose the right raw materials for what you want to achieve, the timelines and logistics of the production, the packaging, the storage, the cash flow and how you make your product fit for purpose. All of these elements are important to a coffee roasting business as a whole.”
Craig is passionate about enabling others to build this aspect of their business – particularly café owners who want to transition to roasting but don’t have the capital or skillset to set this up on their own.
“It makes their offering more powerful. It becomes more intentional and more authentic because the knowledge is deeper and they have a personal connection to what they’re serving,” Craig points out. “It can make a big difference to a business – I’ve seen remarkable increases in all the businesses who’ve come here to embark on their roasting journey, even cafés who had previously been using a wholesaler’s product.”
As a person who has worked in “every link of the coffee chain” including 12 years at Veneziano Coffee, Craig loves watching this transformation, and more importantly, being part of it. Criteria Coffee is as much about fostering a community as it is about providing budding roasters with access to his expertise and state-of-the-art facility in Port Melbourne.
For the multi-award-winning barista and roasting champion, it also gives him a way to play with interesting and exciting coffees, which comes in the form of his own product line, ‘Criteria Coffee by Craig’.
“Criteria focuses on exploring coffees that articulate a coffee’s journey from the farm to the final product in the bag,” says Craig. “We share our coffees with a small group of wholesale partners and retail channels that are looking for interesting and unique coffee options.”
Ensuring that quality of flavour is maintained is where the packaging comes into the equation.
“The most critical feature of the packaging is in its ability to maintain the freshness of the beans,” Craig stresses. “However, as global citizens we are also conscious of our impact on the environment, so we’ve been striving to find packaging solutions that don’t compromise on the quality and address our environmental footprint.”
This solution has come in the form of REDCycle bags that Criteria Coffee buys from The Bag Broker. These can be recycled at most branches of the major supermarket chains across Melbourne.
“Coffee bags are traditionally difficult to recycle because of their requirements – in fact it is the particular component that prevents oxygen from permeating the bag that has made the bags non-recyclable in the past,” Craig explains. “It’s been a long conversation with the bag manufacturers, and an important consideration from our perspective in being able to get to this point. We’re very pleased to now be using bags from The Bag Broker that meet our criteria and can be recycled.”
Besides the practical need to keep the roasted product fresh, Craig further notes that the bags play a significant role in a customer’s sensory experience.
“The visual and tactile aesthetics are really important, and I personally love the way our REDcycle bags feel – they have a luxurious quality, which is compatible with our premium product,” Craig expounds. “I also see each bag as a canvass and my talented wife Andrea creates all our sticker label artwork. The colours in her designs capture the country of origin and the bean flavour profiles, which is a great way of communicating to a customer how the coffee will taste.”
Craig believes that this visual communication is more effective than written details on the label, even if the understanding is subconscious on the customer side.
“My logo says nothing about our product and word descriptions such as how many metres above sea level and so on – well, most consumers won’t understand the significance of that,” he says. “But likening colour profiles to flavour profiles, that makes an immediate and indelible mental impression, which will be triggered again when the person tastes the coffee.”
Importantly, Craig maintains that while there is an element of packaging that’s not appealing “as function often drives the design”, it plays a vital role in quality control. Which is why Criteria Coffee has invested in a new bagging machine – also supplied by The Bag Broker – to make that process more efficient.
“It’s definitely faster, but where it makes a massive difference is that it frees up a pair of hands. When you comprise a team of three people, that’s huge,” Craig explains. “Because it’s all these repetitive tasks in coffee roasting that make it arduous. The easier you can make that – without eschewing any of the important steps – the better, so you can focus on the quality of the product itself.”
The Bag Broker has been instrumental in providing Criteria Coffee with packaging solutions that assist in making their packaging process more efficient and sustainable. Not just sustainable from an environmental point of view, but from a financial one too.
“Troy from The Bag Broker has been extremely helpful and accommodating with our payment terms for the packaging. This in turn has been hugely helpful from a cash flow perspective,” Craig expands. “As Troy has also worked in the coffee industry for a long time, he understands the pressures we face and is sensitive to that, so we’ve been able to work out a payment system where we pay as we use as opposed to paying upfront.”
Moreover, the services and solutions that The Bag Broker provides Criteria Coffee stand to benefit those who also roast at the facility.
“Anyone using the roastery has access to the whole facility – it’s not just a manufacturing space, it’s a complete one stop shop if they wish,” says Craig. “From buying green beans to purchasing the packaging and using the warehousing space, everything is available and accessible.”
Of course, the true criteria of Criteria Coffee, is quality. Which circles back to Craig’s initial comment that being a roaster isn’t just about roasting alone, but all the facets that contribute to the quality of the product in the bag. Including the bag itself.
Interested in packaging solutions for your business? Visit The Bag Broker.
Click here to learn more about Criteria Coffee.