Karim Decima has ticked off two of his dream coffee goals in the space of five months.
In April 2015 Karim launched Atlas Coffee Roasters, and then came an offer that was too good to refuse.
“Opening a coffee bar was a last minute project. My first priority was to start the roastery. I’m a roaster by trade and I wanted to have greater control over the product we served to customers. But a cute little site in Fremantle popped up and we decided to jump on the opportunity to open our own coffee bar. It was a natural progression of business and friendship to start the café, it just happened a lot quicker than I expected,” Karim says.
Red Cherries is the sister account to Black Cherries’ stall at the Fremantle market, operated by Red Cherries and Atlas Coffee Roasters’ Co-owner Tim Lock.
It became the meeting point for Karim, Tim and Head Barista Whale Hwang. The trio has put their skills to good use and formed Red Cherries Coffee Bar.
The coffee is roasted just 10 minutes down the road in O’Connor, which Karim says is really developing into a niche coffee roasting hub. Karim and Tim roast on a 15-kilogram Toper roaster.
“It has enabled us to have a lot of flexibility in terms of what we roast,” Karim says. “We work one on one with cafés in Fremantle and Perth, creating specific blends to cater to their flavour preferences. We’ve very focused on specialty coffee and roasting for filter coffee. We want to make our coffee approachable to everyone, and a simple beverage for people to sit down and enjoy.”
Karim has been working in the industry for the past 12 years. He says he’s seen a lot of changes in that time, including the quality of beans available in the country, and the quality of equipment and knowledge of baristas.
“Coffee-making used to be more of an art than science, but now it’s become a science more than art. Every sector of the industry has grown and changed in some capacity for the better, now we just need customer service to complement the other changes,” he says. “It’s also thanks to baristas like [Ona Coffee’s] Sasa Sestic who went out and discovered a new way of processing coffee that shows how mature the coffee scene really is.”
Originally from Morocco, Karim says when he first arrived in Australia in 2006 he was immediately impressed with the country’s coffee appreciation. “I was blown away at how advanced the coffee scene was,” he says. “When I go back home the coffee is very different. Moroccan coffee uses lots of Arabica and Robusta beans, but it’s a different experience built on memories more than anything,” he says.
For Atlas Coffee Roasters, Karim buys lots of African and Central American coffees to create the Toubkal blend, named after the highest mountain in Morocco. The coffee is put through a La Marzocco Linea Classic for espresso and milk-based coffees, and a Slayer machine for espresso and filter coffees.
“We like to experiment with our coffee. We taste everything and although we do use tools to measure yield, we rely on our palates to determine a specific profile for every coffee that we use,” Karim says.
Red Cherries’ coffee menu changes weekly, with guest roasters invited for filter and espresso roasts.
Karim says it’s hard to go past his love of Ethiopian coffees, but Costa Rican micro lots, such as La Lia El Dragon comes as a close second favourite.
Red Cherries is located only 20 metres from Perth’s famous cappuccino strip, in a small piazza Karim describes as a “little piece of heaven”.
“It’s an intimate space that’s built using lots of recycled timbers and woodwork by Palletico, and very few bought items. Most of the work has been handmade, with a few Moroccan-inspired touches to the interior as well. It’s a nod to my homeland, but we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved.”