Everyone dreams of doing what they love and making a living from it, but how many are able to turn that dream into a reality? Robbie Lynch is one of them. He evolved his passion project, Almanac Coffee Roasters, from just a hobby on the side into the full-time coffee roasting business it is today.
“I never really wanted to have my own business” he chuckles, “It was something that kind of just happened, and was driven by consumer demand.
“It started in 2017 when one of my friends was working for a café and they were looking for a new roaster. He told me, ‘hey, why don’t you make up a blend just to see how your skills are going, to see how your blend compares to everyone else’s and get some notes?’”
At the time, Robbie was just enjoying working with and learning about coffee. He told his friend no at first, but eventually gave it a shot.
“He tasted my blend against a number of others and then gave me a call and said, ‘yeah, I’ll buy it’, and I was like, ‘oh crap’. I didn’t have branding and I didn’t have an ABN, so I rushed and got an ABN and for the next two years I sold coffee to him in plain white bags and a couple kilos of single origin a week to one other café that I also worked at casually. Even at this stage, this was just for a bit of a side income, roasting as a full-time business was never my goal,” Robbie says.
“After a while, as people tried the coffee and enjoyed the single origins, I kept getting asked, ‘where else can I get these?’ The more I got asked, the more I thought, ‘maybe I should take this a bit more seriously’. About two or three years ago I decided, alright, let me get some packaging, and I hired a designer to put together some labels, and all that sort of stuff, and put up a website. It happened very naturally, all via word-of-mouth, I’ve never put up ads or anything.”
Robbie’s roasts have grown quite a reputation in his community and he is known for hosting coffee tasting sessions out of his garage. At the heart of his coffee roasting business is Robbie’s love for the community.
“That’s been going for around three years. I originally set up my little garage as a space for mates to come taste coffees that I roast, to ensure they’re tasting right before I sell,” Robbie says.
“The very first session, I had a couple of friends that are in the coffee industry come over and taste some coffees and hang out. It was really fun and we did it every week for a couple of weeks. Then one of my mates suggested I should open this up every week to the general public, so I did. Word spread quickly and I would have 20-plus people each week come down to drink free espresso and filter and it was cool and people really enjoyed it.
“I loved hosting these coffee tastings, and I did it for a year and a half, every Sunday. It was a really nice way for me to interact with the community and talk to the people that have been enjoying my coffees at other cafes. Eventually I was getting too busy that the Sunday sessions interfered with deliveries and my day time job workload. I moved it to a monthly format to allow me to focus on the business a little more which I think has been a great change. Overall, hosting people at these sessions feels so organic because my roasting was driven by the community and was nice discovering what people like.”
When roasting his coffee, Robbie says he goes by taste rather than following scoring or flavour notes.
“The way it usually works is, I will have one or two really exotic coffees, super expensive but incredibly tasty. Then I’ll have a couple of other high-end specialty coffees, and then the bulk of my coffees will be, well, still high-end specialty haha. If they had scores, they would be maybe an 87 to 89 sort of thing,” Robbie says.
“Right now I have a couple of really nice chocolatey coffees. Not everything has to be a sugar bomb or fruity. While they’re quite popular, I’m still a big fan of just a nice washed or nice just caramelly brew because, while the sweet stuff keeps us nerds happy, actually most of what people like to drink is a stronger flavour in their coffee. The good news is that chocolate notes can come out really well.”
He adds he’s never offended when someone says they’re not a fan of his coffee roasting business, because at the end of the day there is such a large range of flavours and coffee preferences are subjective.
“My favorite thing is when we have couples in, and one of them says, ‘I like coffee number one but I’m not a big fan of coffee number seven’, and their partner will chime in, ‘What!? number one wasn’t good, Seven was really good!’” Robbie chuckles.
“It’s OK to not like things that other people like. Coffee is so subjective and knowing that as a roaster is incredibly valuable. If you don’t have a flagship café it’s always difficult to gain that firsthand experience with your consumers, the people who are drinking the coffee, and whose opinions really matter. I honestly do not like some of the coffees that I sell, but I know it’s not a bad coffee, it’s just not my preference in flavour notes. And that was one thing that the Sundays have certainly helped with, was showing what my customers liked.”
Almanac Coffee is now Robbie’s full time business. His focus is on traceable and ethically sourced specialty coffee which he sells both wholesale, and bagged for home brewing, through his online store.