Ona Coffee is joining the Melbourne coffee community with a Brunswick café, headquarters, and training academy set to open in 2020.
Melbourne is often touted as one of the coffee capitals of the world, alongside the likes of Seattle, London, and Milan. This is in no small part due to the city’s many specialty roasters emphasising innovation and development, community engagement and education, and coffee quality and sustainability.
However, there are roasters across Australia that share these values. This is why for Canberra-based Ona Coffee opening a location in Melbourne has been at the top of the agenda, Founder Sasa Sestic tells BeanScene.
“When I got into coffee, it was because I was inspired by Melbourne and the roasters there,” Sasa says. “At the beginning, we felt handicapped or disadvantaged by not being a part of that scene. But being so isolated in Canberra meant we could bring our own identity and vision to coffee.”
While Ona already has several wholesale accounts in Melbourne, the roaster hadn’t established an office or headquarters in the city. Marketing Manager Jordan Montgomery says a physical location would provide this and help Ona become more of a household name among Melbourne consumers.
“We enjoy a great reputation throughout Australia and overseas, and are especially excited to continue growing our local community with a new site in Melbourne,” Jordan says.
“We’re excited to have a space where people can learn about us, try our coffee, and have a personal experience instead of just reading about Sasa or buying our coffee online.”
Despite a desire to contribute to the Melbourne coffee scene, the Ona team was not willing to settle until it found the right location. It eventually did on Ovens Street in Brunswick.
“When I started coming to Melbourne, the cafés in South Melbourne, Fitzroy, and Brunswick especially stood out to me. We were hoping to be in an area where specialty coffee has a long history,” Sasa says.
“I always was and still am impressed by these beautiful old buildings in Melbourne, with high ceilings and rooftop windows. It was important to us to find one of these premises with a nice, vibrant character. We found this location – a classic Brunswick sawtooth warehouse – and said to each other, ‘this is the place’.”
The 450-square-metre site sits between Anstey and Brunswick Stations, around the corner from Sydney Road, and has in the past housed furniture and art studios. Sasa says they intentionally looked for a location off the main road.
“Something I love about Melburnians is that they are willing to go the distance and seek out these special places, so there’s a lot of great cafés that are off the main streets,” he says.
“We’re happy we found a place we believe represents Melbourne coffee culture that we can combine with our own heart and soul. We’re very excited to be a part of the community and share the unique profiles people look for when they come to Ona cafés and shops.”
Ona Coffee General Manager Tom Beaumont says the Brunswick location is well suited to the values held by the Ona community.
“The community connection throughout the northern suburbs of Melbourne is particularly strong. The area and building is welcoming to all walks of life,” Tom says.
“There’s so much we can access from this building at arm’s reach, whether that’s woodworkers, electricians, artists, or pottery. There’s also many cafés and coffee friends in the area. That local reach is appealing and adds to the character of the building.”
To design the venue, Ona has reached out to Brunswick-based Breathe Architecture, the firm behind Seven Seeds and Bibelot among other hospitality venues, and the nearby Nightingale 1 housing model.
“The Nightingale project is epic. But it’s also not overly done and has a real focus on sustainability,” Tom says. “We want to carry that across to our venue and do our best to maximise the use of repurposed or recycled materials.
“It’s still early days, but a good term to describe our plans for Ona Coffee Melbourne would be as a ‘coffee sanctuary’. We want to create a comfortable and inviting space that will complement what’s already here – the exposed brick and natural lighting – instead of trying to change the character of the building.”
The open space will allow the team to be flexible with how it develops the café, though Ona Coffee Retail Manager Caity Reynolds says a high-end espresso bar will be front and centre.
“We want to offer a really interactive experience with the barista, where people can come and ask questions, to learn about the coffee and where it’s come from – the whole process of getting the bean from the farm to them,” Caity says.
This focus on interaction will also be implemented in a walk-in retail area that’s more than “just a shelf on the wall”.
“We’ll have a space where people can walk in, pick things up with their own hands, and have a close look at it,” Caity says. “While they’re exploring the retail section, they can learn about the coffee they’re buying, instead of picking something up, putting it in a bag, and off they go. We want them to understand the story behind it, particularly the coffee beans, and our work with the farms through Project Origin.”
While coffee will be the main attraction, Caity says a fully fitted out commercial kitchen will elevate Ona Coffee Melbourne from espresso bar to a full café experience.
“We’ll have a big focus on vegetarian and vegan food and local sourcing. It will be similar to the quality you’d expect at The Cupping Room [in Canberra], but we’d be tailoring the menu to suit the local demographic,” Caity says. “Brunswick has such a diverse demographic, and we want to create a space where anyone can come in and feel comfortable.”
While Ona Coffee Melbourne will take a community-centric approach, Tom says the roaster’s existing wholesale clients will also benefit from the increased presence.
“We have a loyal customer base here who have been enjoying our coffee for many years and have been very committed. The new venue will be hugely helpful to wholesale operations, not only due to increased support on the ground, but as a place they can come to chat, engage, and share their experiences,” Tom says.
“We’ll also have exciting facilities revolving around training and education incorporated into the venue – for both public and wholesale. Ona has a strong drive on education and training, headed up by Training Manager Hugh Kelly, which is focused on sharing that with the community.”
With a location now confirmed, Tom says the team can turn its attention to making Ona Coffee Melbourne a reality – and intend to do so in early 2020.
“It’s taken us a while to find the right place and we’re not going to rush this now,” Tom says.
“We’ve got an opportunity from the get-go to think sustainably about all the decisions we make and to tie them into our values – innovation, community, and excellence.”
This article appears in the October edition of BeanScene Magazine. Subscribe HERE.