As Danes Specialty Coffee celebrates its 25-year anniversary, Managing Director Paul Jackson reflects on the evolution of Australian specialty coffee and how the past is destined to repeat.
After Italian immigrants brought their love for espresso to Australia in the 1950s, coffee quickly became ingrained in Australian culture.
According to World Atlas data collated in 2017, per capita, Australia ranks 42 in the world for coffee consumption. Despite not placing among the highest consumers, Australia has developed a reputation as being a global leader of specialty coffee and an influential trendsetter in the Asia-Pacific.
One company that has contributed to the growth of Australia’s specialty coffee industry is Danes Specialty Coffee, which is this year celebrating its 25-year anniversary. Danes Managing Director Paul Jackson says modern trends gaining popularity are driving the coffee industry back towards traditional espresso bar concepts.
“Coffee was meant to be short, black, and fast. That’s how Italians invented espresso, with the espresso bar an institution embedded into their culture. You would take ‘una pausa’ [a pause] for a strong, dark shot of coffee with a buttery pastry, enjoy a chat with the barista, then move on,” Paul says.
“When the specialty coffee wave hit Australia around 25 years ago, takeaway coffee was a minimal percentage of coffee sales. Most people dined in.”
Over time, fast-paced lifestyles and a demand for on-the-go products have fuelled the takeaway coffee industry. As technology progressed, large Styrofoam cups were developed and later replaced by plastic and paper cups.
An unforeseen repercussion of this was the massive amounts of waste these single-use cups would generate.
“Today, we are increasingly aware of the negative effect our takeaway habit has on the environment. Over a billion single use cups are thrown away each year in Australia. Many end up in landfill or the ocean and will not break down in our lifetime,” Paul says.
“We’re now seeing a shift in the use of takeaway cups across the specialty coffee industry. Customers are demanding more sustainable solutions from cafés, roasters, and milk suppliers.”
Danes listened and acted, developing its own plant-based cups in 2019.
“There’s no better single-use cups out there on the market that are more environmentally sound,” Paul says.
“The Australian takeaway market isn’t going to disappear overnight, but the movement towards sitting down and drinking in is undeniably happening.”
Instead, he expects the eco-friendly mindset to push the coffee industry back towards a traditional Italian espresso bar culture.
“The next evolution is to revert to the original Italian way. Stop, order, sip, dash. We’ll avoid single-use cups altogether, in a throwback to slower, simpler times,” he says.
“It’s a full circle evolution, with consumers going back to some simpler choices that reflect a change in
Although consumer trends are changing, Australia’s highly competitive specialty coffee industry means roasters are constantly pushing the limits of flavour and quality, including Danes.
In 2018 and 2019, Danes celebrated its quarter-century birthday early, winning the Australian International Coffee Awards (AICA) Champion Roaster and achieved multiple gold medals for its coffees.
Its Mocha Gold won the Milk Coffee Blend category at 2018 AICA and Danes’ Ascension won the 2019 AICA gold in the espresso category.
In order to convey these award-winning flavour profiles to customers, Danes takes pride in being transparent and engaging with its communications. To do this, Danes includes a brew guide and flavour pentagon on its packaging, a guide which visually illustrates the coffee’s balance of body, flavour, sweetness, aroma, and finish.
The roaster also separates its coffees into three distinct “flavour tribes” to characterise its beans: chocolates and caramels, nuts and spices, and fruits and berries.
“Across the whole bean-to-cup supply chain, customers are pushing for greater transparency. The knowledge gap between customers and roasters is getting smaller,” Paul says.
“Together, these elements provide a clear, simple vocabulary to quickly and easily define the subtleties of our coffees. Our flavour language is accessible for all levels of coffee knowledge.”
While the sustainability revolution and a greater level of transparency is changing the way Danes operates, another key evolution Paul has witnessed during his career is the rise of dairy-alternative milks.
“One of the most disruptive changes in the specialty coffee industry in the last five years has been the rise of non-dairy milk alternatives. From acrid black coffee back in the instant coffee days to the huge milky mugs people drink now, we’re looking at alternatives to traditional dairy milk,” Paul says.
“It’s customers themselves who are leading the way, as many seek fresh plant ‘mylks’.”
Danes has embraced this trend, partnering with Inside Out, an Australian almond milk brand that started selling smoothies at the Bondi Beaches’ Farmers’ Markets.
According to Grant Freeman, Business Development Manager at Inside Out, non-dairy milk currently accounts for 20 per cent of volume in the specialty coffee sector – a figure that is growing each year.
“This is driven by a few key factors. Being lactose-free, it’s friendlier on the gut, it’s suitable for a vegan diet, and is often considered an all-round healthier choice. As the category becomes more mainstream, it’s predicted that consumers will increasingly demand fresh, high-quality dairy alternatives,” Grant says.
As dairy-free milk is often paired with coffee, Inside Out has created its products to complement espresso, rather than overpower it.
“Working with Danes and other industry experts, we identified that existing ultra-high-temperature offerings overpowered coffee, which is why we developed Café Originals – a quality range that can texture and complement distinct flavour profiles,” Grant says.
“We can confidently say we have created both an almond and oat milk which don’t compromise on taste and that are also made the right way, using a high percentage of Australian almonds and all the right ingredients.”
With sustainability and dairy alternatives influencing the future of the coffee industry, Danes’ Paul Jackson says its integral for roasters and others in the industry to stay in touch with consumers.
“Consumers are pushing sustainability and dairy alternatives and ultimately we’re led by them. They have the right to speak – their habits will determine our path,” he says.
“As cafés and roasters, it challenges us in the specialty coffee industry to show leadership in these areas.”
This article appears in the April 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.
For more information, visit www.danes.com.au