Merlo Coffee Founder Dean Merlo has celebrated 25 years of the coffee roasting brand.
Within that time, Merlo Coffee has grown to include 16 branded outlets including 10 full Terrafaziones (roasting houses) and six espresso bars around Australia.
At first, Merlo Coffee was only able to sell indoors. Merlo Coffee in Queen Street was the first café in Brisbane to be granted a licence for on street dining, which Founder Dean describes as “a real win”.
“We also had the right mix of food and coffee in our espresso bars, which set us apart from the old concept of the café in Brisbane,” he says.
The first store sold 200 cups of coffee per day. Merlo Coffee now roasts up to 18 tonnes of beans per week and supplies nearly 2000 coffee shops around Australia.
“Coffee, and indeed the Merlo Coffee brand has evolved significantly since the early days when the espresso, long black and the cappuccino were as extravagant as the average Brisbane taste buds got,” Dean says.
Coffee is woven into the Merlo family history. Dean’s grandfather Luigi Merlo ran a trattoria in Tirano, Northern Italy until 1950 when he set out to Australia to make a new life for his family in Australia. He started working in the cane fields of Mackay before moving to Brisbane in 1958.
It was in Brisbane that Luigi’s eldest son Gino continued the family tradition of hospitality and opened Cafe Milano in the Queen St Mall in 1960. The centrepiece of his café was a gleaming La San Marco espresso machine, the first of its kind in Queensland. With this machine, Gino introduced Queenslanders to the European tradition of espresso.
Gino also opened a silver service restaurant, Milanos, which went on to host luminaries as Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II. It was here that Gino taught his son Dean the art of hospitality: warm service, high standards, and how to craft the perfect espresso.
To maintain these qualities, Merlo Coffee is dedicated to coffee education, training, service development, bean selection, and its Bean of the Month program. This initiative allows customers to taste some of the best coffees from around the world in-store for free.
Dean adds that the brand’s growth is also attributed to its staff, including company CEO James Wilkinson, who has been with Merlo for 18 years. James maintains it’s the company’s philosophy of “fresh, quality coffee and exceptional customer service” that sets the company apart.
“Our customers are everything to us and everyone at Merlo will go out of its way to make sure our customers are happy – whether it’s in our retail stores or when we’re providing coffee, machinery and training to our wholesale customers,” he says.
“We’re all very passionate about our coffee, and we’ve worked hard to get here. It’s great to look back at 25 years of growth and really celebrate what we have done.”