Merlo Coffee unveils its three core values

Merlo Coffee

Merlo Coffee Founder Dean Merlo explains the three core values that have helped shape the Brisbane-based roaster for the better.

Dean Merlo learnt the art of hospitality from his father, Gino Merlo, who opened Café Milano in Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, in 1960.

Dean continued his father’s business ethos when he founded Merlo Coffee as a small espresso bar in 1992, and built its success on adhering to the values of quality, customer service, and community partnerships.

“We seek excellence in everything we do, never settling for mediocrity. From our dedicated trainers that support our wholesale and retail baristas, to our team of roasters, all Merlo staff share the same passion for coffee excellence,” says Dean.

“We pride ourselves on freshly roasted coffee that maintains a consistent level of quality every time. It’s the first pillar of our business, and we make no compromises when it comes to sourcing our beans and signature blends.”

As such, Dean says Merlo Coffee’s Private Blend has stood the test of time as a consumer favourite and is exclusively available at its retail stores.

“The Private is a well-balanced and full flavoured coffee, with a satisfying clean, sweet aftertaste, which delivers consistently,” he says.

Beans from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Papa New Guinea make up the blend, and deliver notes of milk chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut.

“Costa Rica is known for its superior coffee beans. Its tropical climate makes it the perfect environment to grow coffee trees. Colombia is one of the largest producing countries, and we source some of the finest beans from plantations grown on its rich soils at high altitudes,” says Dean.

Dean adds Nicaragua’s coffee production continues to grow in quality due to its favourable microclimates, with high altitudes offering a rich variety of beans to choose from.

“Papua New Guinea has a vast, mountainous landscape with varying altitudes for its many plantations. The result is a mixture of sweet, fruity, and floral aromas and flavours,” Dean says.

“Private Blend has the best coffee beans from some of the most abundant Arabica coffee growing countries.”

Dean says great tasting specialty coffee is just one of the perks of partnering with Merlo Coffee. The roaster upholds the highest quality in its customer service, the second pillar, as well as the provision of premium equipment, accessories, around- the-clock support and troubleshooting, barista and machine training, and a support team to assist with any enquiries.

“We’ve got a great reputation for outstanding customer service and the ability to build long and strong relationships. These are built purely on a long history of delivering quality products and services consistently, and treating businesses like our own. Not only that, but our support is also quite extensive, with 24-hour emergency breakdown and delivery services available every day from one of our eight representatives on the road,” Dean says.

For Dean, the third pillar of business is helping those who support Merlo Coffee.

“Assisting local communities, charities, groups, and schools has built the foundation of who we are as an organisation,” Dean says. “For us to be able to give back to the community is rewarding. The Merlo team are proud to be able to get behind events and organisations that make a significant difference in people’s lives.

Better together

Merlo Coffee has long-standing relationships with many of its charity partners, such as its 10-year association with the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation.

An enterprise of the foundation, The Common Good, sees a team of researchers and volunteers collaborating to find breakthroughs in lifesaving and life- changing medical research.

Dean and the Merlo Coffee team have supported the foundation since 2014 and contributed more than $1 million in monetary and in-kind contributions to help fund research in dementia, mental health, heart disease, and lung disease.

“This funding makes a significant impact on the direction of these projects. One is the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Future, a world-first project revolutionising ICU for patients and their families,” Dean says.

Merlo Coffee is also involved with several homeless support organisations. This includes 3rd Space in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, a drop-in centre where homeless people can find support, and New Farm Neighbourhood Centre, a hub that encourages people to meet and connect with local community education programs.

“3rd Space provides essential support and companionship for homeless individuals, offering them a sense of belonging and respect. New Farm Neighbourhood Centre delivers a wide range of services which assist with physical and mental health, including food relief, computer use, library facilities, tennis sessions, art and yoga classes, playgroups, and much more. It also has kitchen, laundry, and showers facilities,” Dean says.

Merlo Coffee donates coffee to the New Farm Neighbourhood Centre for its Community Coffee Program, which supports vulnerable people and offers free coffee to those in need.

“The public is able to purchase coffee from the centre and customers are encouraged to buy one and pay it forward, donating a coffee to someone in the community. All sales from the coffee go back to the centre and fund its programs,” says Dean.

To further youth education and inclusivity, Merlo Coffee aids The Sycamore School in Alexandra Hills. The educational facility is dedicated to providing a safe and inclusive environment where students with autism spectrum disorder can achieve academic, social, emotional, and behavioural goals.

“The school aims to give each student a voice and the tools to develop their confidence and self-determination in order to establish a valuable place in the community. Students are supported through the school’s beliefs of being respectful, kind, accepting, brave, creative, and patient,” Dean says.

During Autism Awareness Month in April, Merlo Coffee staff across all stores get involved by dressing up for Superheroes for Sycamore School Day, shining a light on the important work of the organisation. On one day in the month, Merlo Coffee donates $1 per coffee sold to the school to grow its resources and programs. Dean says this rarely equates to less than $10,000.

“That’s a year and half worth of tuition for parents who have multiple children at the school. The money is also used to support its STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] program. The feedback we’ve received is always very positive and the school is forever grateful to us for helping to provide that funding,” Dean says.

A helping hand

Besides Merlo Coffee’s long-standing community partnerships, Dean says the roaster has been quick to provide ad-hoc support for those impacted by natural disasters. In 2022, it helped raise funds for families in Queensland impacted by floods and fires.

“We set up coffee stations during the clean-up of Brisbane’s streets, handing out free coffee to the volunteers who united to help those in need. We also quickly crafted a dedicated Flood Recovery Blend, the proceeds of which helped raise over $30,000 for the Red Cross and the victims of the Queensland floods,” Dean says.

More recently, Merlo Coffee has expanded its assistance beyond its metropolitan footprint, providing support for community needs in regional areas such as Toowoomba.

“We now have three cafés in Toowoomba and provide assistance to the Toowoomba Hospital Foundation by backing its fundraising events,” Dean says. “We have more initiatives to come as we build on our community partnerships in this area.”

Merlo Coffee also supported International Women’s Day on 8 March, celebrating women’s achievements and raising awareness about discrimination.

“International Women’s Day provides a key opportunity for us to reinforce and amplify our ongoing commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion through actively supporting the advancement of women,” Dean says.

At a state level, Merlo Coffee is also in discussions regarding a potential partnership with Surf Life Saving Queensland.

“As a Queensland-based organisation, we recognise the huge benefits Surf Life Saving Queensland provides both on and off our beaches. We are super excited to explore how we can assist in ensuring this critical support continues in our local coastal communities,” Dean says.

It’s this level of community support that Merlo Coffee prides itself on, and will continue to uphold, proving to the Australian coffee scene that community is just as important as the premium blends it produces.

“We’re quite proud of our history and our impact over the past 30 years. Our collaborative approach to business has solidified our success in the Australian coffee industry,” says Dean.

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This article appears in the April 2024 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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