Square One Coffee Roasters thinks outside the box

Square One Coffee Roasters is committed to customer growth by delivering education that’s more visual than theoretical, and more personable than automated.

Square One Coffee Roaster’s Head Roaster Elika Rowell visits customers once a week – not just to ensure they’re upholding best coffee practices, but to create a common connection with baristas.

“We want to remove the idea that roasters sit on a pedestal, and only roast behind the scenes. We want to get out in front of our customers and be available to share our knowledge in a way that’s more direct and personable than a phone call or email,” Elika says.

Since the establishment of the roaster three and a half years ago, Elika has worked hard to create production consistency across Melbourne’s top high-volume cafés, including Higher Ground, The Kettle Black, and Top Paddock. She has also explored different learning practices to best educate staff on the coffee Square One is serving to hundreds of customers each day. What Elika discovered along the way, however, was that literation wasn’t always the best method. 

Instead, Square One invested in taxonomy illustrations of Coffea arabica L structure and anatomy, which depicts everything from a coffee cherry’s endosperm, silver skin, endocarp, exocarp, and mesocarp. To help baristas learn about the different origins of coffee, Elika, who has a graphic design background, also came up with the idea to provide clients with origin posters that describe coffee cultivars common to that country, main producing regions, production volumes, processing methods, country history, and cup profiles.

“We find having fun visual aids best captures the barista’s interest and attention. Information needs to be digestible. If we can’t get them excited about learning than how can a customer?” Elika says. “There’s still a huge gap between the barista and the customer. Our biggest challenge is not making great-tasting, consistent coffee. It’s how we’re translating the story to customers. At the end of the day, farmers need to be paid, and if the customer doesn’t understand the value of what they’re drinking, than as a coffee society we won’t advance.”

Every time Elika sneaks into a café and hears a baristas recite a fact from one of her origin posters, she can’t help but smile, knowing that her educational tools are doing their job. 

It was Elika’s experience in the cocktail world that gave her the idea for visual training aids.

“We used to have cheat sheets of what you could say to the customer about a particular cocktail. If you could say two things about it, the customer was found to trust you more,” Elika says. “So now, with 120 baristas and floor staff across the board of cafés we support, we had to discover a way for them to remember details of the Rwandan genocide, or Panama’s top cultivars.”

Elika works hard to ensure true hospitality values are embraced through Square One’s business practices, because that’s what she’s grown up with. She started her foray into hospitality working at a fine-dining restaurant and cocktail bar while studying graphic design. She would finish at the restaurant at 10pm, race over for her shift at the bar until 4am, go to university all day and repeat. After completing her studies, Elika decided to stay in hospitality. She found her way into the café world, starting at Three Bags Full before joining Seven Seeds, gaining the Head Barista role at Top Paddock, and now Director at Square One, which she operates with two-time Australian Cup Tasters Champion and Roastery Operations Manager Tom Bomford. Both work tirelessly to make their product sustainable and ensure they have enough cash flow to grow.

“Starting Square One is about taking control of the product we work with. Best of all this company has given us the opportunity to keep growing,” Elika says. “Customers discover Square One organically and it’s been the best way to develop trustworthy, meaningful relationships.”

Since the day Elika opened the doors to the Cremorne office in Melbourne, approachability has been key. Anyone that walks into the roastery is greeted with a smile, and a chat.

“If we can help point you in the right direction, we will. We want the industry to grow, so why not help?” Elika says. “People have forgotten what the term hospitality and hospitable means. It’s slowing disappearing and we need to uphold these values. There’s so many ways we can assist you to grow your business, we have plenty of experience and we’re willing to share it.” 

For more information, visit www.squareonecoffee.com.au 

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