SOHO Coffee Roasters details how Milklab helped it become a leading specialty coffee provider


SOHO Coffee Roasters details the journey to becoming one of Adelaide’s leading specialty coffee providers and how Milklab helped it attain the title.

As part of the development of Milklab’s range of premium barista milks, the brand has collaborated extensively with some of the world’s most experienced and influential baristas, coffee roasters, food scientists, café owners and other industry professionals.

“We engage them throughout the entire product development process, presenting our ideas and sampling our trial blends directly with them in their workplaces across Australia and other parts of the world,” says Milklab Brand Manager Melanie Ung.

“We take onboard feedback to ensure we develop products that meet the needs of coffee loving consumers as well as improve the workflow, efficiency and product offering within the industry.”

To this day, collaboration remains at the heart of everything Milklab does as it continues to work with the industry to evaluate and evolve its range to deliver the best tasting, highest quality barista milks.

One partner Milklab works closely with is Adelaide-based SOHO Coffee Roasters. Owner Steve Fulton says the roastery has created a successful coffee business built on a similar ethos and vibrant team culture.

“SOHO has been a happy Milklab partner for many years, so we know each other’s brands well,” Steve says.

“To us, Milklab stands apart from other alternative milk brands as we view the partnership as a relationship that goes deeper than sales and branding.

“Milklab is more than just a brand to us; they’re our business partner. They genuinely care about assisting our team and our customers, in addition to producing milk that complements our products.”

The collaboration, according to Steve, is one that has a holistic approach to how it improves its products and services.

“We have conversations about what works, what can be better, and what we predict will be our focus for great business going forward,” he says.

SOHO Coffee Roasters’ roaster machine, ‘Hot Donna’, has attracted plenty of attention and became the centrepiece of the roastery in Morphett Street, Adelaide. Steve says it is “a legend in its own right”.

“It was about 1am, we were a few whiskies deep, and we were rushing to get everything ready for our grand opening in 2017,” he says.

“We were literally days from opening the doors and we’d already decided that every roastery should have a disco ball. The disco ball was hung directly above the roaster’s chair, and someone yelled out ‘her name is Hot Donna’ (in reference to Donna Summer) then blasted ‘Hot Stuff’ on our new Bose sound system.

“This soon led to an impromptu dance party and a welcome break from the intensity of planning the opening. It was one of those perfectly timed moments where we all let go for a few minutes and started busting some moves. I don’t think I’ve ever danced like that, and the name just stuck. That’s how Hot Donna was born.”

Steve has high hopes for the future of the roastery and is eager to expand the brand state-wide.

“We’re opening more strategically placed branded sites, which will include one at Adelaide Airport and another on Pirie Street in the CBD,” Steve says. “Another prominent CBD spot is planned to open on North Terrace in the coming months. We’re also planning locations with additional roasting facilities, technical workshops, and equipment showroom space.”

SOHO Coffee Roasters operates a licensing model in which licensee partners own and operate their locations. This allows them to benefit from the roastery’s strong brand while also adding to its appeal, in line with agreed standards.

“We measure this very carefully through customer reviews and the feedback has been amazing,” Steve says, adding that satisfying a variety of client preferences requires a dynamic approach to service.

“It’s important to engage with clients and listen to their interests and needs.”

When it comes to creating a rewarding culture, Steve says he couldn’t be prouder of his team.

“We have an amazing team of customer- focused individuals,” Steve says. “Most of the team have owned, or own their own business, so they have a real sense of ownership and autonomy. Everyone realises that although they are excellent at their own job, it takes more than that and we must work as a team to be operating at our very best.”

SOHO Coffee Roasters is also proud to support young people looking to build a career in coffee, such as Maddie Schuster, who is following her dream of becoming a roaster.

“Maddie approached us three years ago as a barista,” Steve says. “One of our former roasters, Kat, warmly took Maddie under her wing and mentored her. Within 12 months, Maddie was well on her way to fulfilling her dream. We are so proud of her.”

Steve says while the specialty coffee industry is dominated by interstate players, Adelaide is developing a coffee identity of its own.

“The scene has really ignited recently,” he says. “We’re starting to see more venues really push the café culture and produce some amazing products and experiences.

When asked how Adelaide’s coffee culture differs from other cities in Australia, Steve observes that Adelaide’s relatively smaller size makes for a different industry dynamic to the bigger cities.

“Adelaide has a large number of small-batch roasters offering a range of single origins,” he says. “A diverse mix of smaller roasters makes for an enlightening experience for cafés and individuals, who get to explore a broad variety of the many different flavours and expressions coffee has to offer.”

With Adelaide’s booming coffee industry and an increasing number of consumers looking to switch from regular dairy milk, Steve says Milklab has developed a range of milks that suit a variety of tastes.

“The entire Milklab range is made for baristas, to deliver high performance, texturing and stretching with a creamy mouthfeel to complement espresso coffee,” he says.

“If you’re a plant-based milk fan, Milklab Almond Milk is simply the best, and my personal favourite.”

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This article appears in the December 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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