Specialty coffee doesn’t just belong in the CBDs and inner-city suburbs. A new movement is seeing coastal towns and communities become hubs of coffee and culture, and Will & Co is leading the crusade.
Australia’s vibrant coffee culture has long been associated with the secret alleyways of our bustling cities and side streets of hip inner-city suburbs, but like with many aspects of everyday life, COVID-19 has seen that change dramatically.
Cities became ghost towns as commuters began working from home and the suburban café scene flourished. Josh Passaro, Director of Bondi-based coffee roaster Will & Co, says the coastal community has seen a similar boom.
“For a long time, coastal towns were viewed as sleepy getaways where you only go for beach holidays, but that’s changed a lot. Many businesses have realised they don’t need to have people work from an office in the city every day,” Josh says.
“Over the past 12 to 18 months, we’ve seen a mass migration from the cities to coastal towns. It’s no longer just the older generation heading there to retire, it’s young families, creatives, artists, and entrepreneurs, creating an interesting dynamic and community.”
As city dwellers migrate towards the coast, they bring their high expectations of coffee with them.
“Coastal cafés definitely have a different vibe compared to those in the city. For a long time, they were viewed as not as progressive and more laid-back. That’s really transformed a lot over the last few years,” Josh says.
“The level of coastal coffee, cafés, and hospitality venues has evolved. Bondi and Byron Bay are home to some of coffee’s most influential brands and people, transforming them into mini-creative hubs at the forefront of contemporary culture, and coffee plays a huge role in these communities.”
But specialty coffee is nothing new to the coast and has been a part of these town since before the pandemic began. Will & Co has been catering to these communities since 2013, and Josh says like in many cases, COVID-19 has accelerated an existing trend rather than created a new one.
“Will & Co was founded in the coastal community of Bondi by three mates, and we started off by supplying friends in the local area and collaborating with local artists. Will & Co was built around our local community, our first café was a pop-up above a surf store in Bondi and the support from locals was overwhelming” he says.
“For us, Will & Co is a coastal lifestyle brand, and the special way we connect with the local community it is still a big part of who we are. Many of our café partners are located along the coast and we love working with these types of café owners.”
Josh says among the many people looking for a sea change are café owners and coffee professionals who have seen the success coastal cafés are having and would like to join the movement.
“Cafés are the heart of coastal communities, the central point of connection for locals. One thing to be mindful of though, is the clientele are early risers. Everybody loves having their coffee down by the beach post swim or watching the sunrise,” Josh says.
“That’s actually what we had that in mind when creating our Will & Co pour overs: having great filter coffee experiences anywhere and anytime, even on remote beaches and early morning surf trips.”
Another tip Josh suggests is to take a different approach when designing and fitting out the café than you would in an urban area, keeping the space nice and open to take advantage of natural light and not get too hot in the summer.
“Coastal cafés are more laidback when it comes to design. It’s important to be approachable and inclusive appeal to all demographics in the community. People head to the coast to relax and unwind – so they generally look for the same vibe in a café,” Josh says.
“One of the themes we kept front and centre when designing our Bondi flagship was to make it a welcoming space for the community, filled with natural light and large roller doors to let the sea air in.”
Will & Co opened its Bondi headquarters in late 2019, which Josh says was built with the local community in mind.
“It was designed as a hybrid space – part concept store, micro roastery, café, workshop but also a place where locals could host events and talks. Our vision was brought to life by the amazing architectural team Alexander & Co. Operating the café reinforces our belief that coffee is the social fabric of a coastal community,” he explains.
“We love that locals can pop their head in on the way to the beach, ask what we’re roasting, then grab a coffee or bag of it on the way back.”
The café also provides Will & Co with a direct insight into consumer trends and what connects with consumers in coastal cafés. While urban cafés have been considered more progressive for a long time, Josh says cold coffee is on area where beachside coffee shops take a clear lead.
“Cold brew is a big seller. With the climate and temperature in these types of coastal towns, coming off the beach after two hours in the sun, you might not want a hot coffee, so it’s important for cafés to offer different kinds of beverages,” he says.
“What’s really interesting is how the trend carries through not only summer but is consistent over winter as well. Coastal cafés have always done a great job of promoting cold coffee, whether that’s cold brew, interesting iced lattes, or tonics. They’ve also been good at providing healthier or lighter options, like turmeric lattes or health-based food menus.”
The small town vibe of coastal communities can also provide an advantage when operating a small business. While less people may flow through the café during the morning rush, Josh says you see the same faces on a regular basis and it’s easy to connect with your regulars.
“Locals like to support small businesses and form connections with their baristas. It helps to build really great relationships. I know quite a few coastal café owners that hang out with their customers on weekends,” he says.
“Cafés are the heart of the coastal communities and act as central points for connection. You get to know the locals, who love seeing their café owners down on the beach or out and about.”
Will & Co helps foster its own connections in the local community through sponsorships in local sporting clubs and swimming groups, as well as organisations like SurfAid, which aims to improve the lives of women and children in remote areas around the world.
The roaster is also supporting the coastal coffee movement in particular through a six-part video series celebrating the great cafés bringing coffee to these communities, released in late-2021.
“This year has been a pretty big one for us and next year will be even bigger. We’ve got quite a few initiatives we’re looking to kick off and look forward to working with more like-minded café partners on that journey,” Josh says.
“I think this cultural shift will only continue, as more and more businesses and brands realise they don’t need people gathering in an office as Australians look for a lifestyle change.”
For more information visit www.willandco.com.au
This article appears in the December 2021 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.