Toby’s Estate flagship store has reopened with a back-to-front counter and mirrors over the baristas, offering a unique view of coffee.
Entering Toby Estate’s flagship Chippendale store in Sydney, open again after seven months of renovations and lockdown, customers are presented with a sleek, modern space, an enormous sweep of hardwood countertop – and the back of a barista.
“We flipped the bar around,” explains Toby’s Estate Chippendale Flagship Store Manager Jack Stapelfeldt.
Customers also get an eyeful of an even more unusual perspective, courtesy of the curved mirrors hanging above the coffee machines that reflect a birds’-eye view to those sitting at the bar.
“Customers can see exactly how their cup of coffee is made, and understand what baristas do,” says Jack.
This choice typifies the ethos of the entire refurbishment, according to Jack: to share and educate customers on the highest-quality specialty coffee and invite them into every stage of coffee making, whether that’s observing the roasting facility behind the café or asking a barista about brewing methods.
To accommodate this perspective change, the Chippendale coffee bar is built according to exacting specifications. The bar features a custom three-group espresso machine, four Mahlkönig grinders – two E80s and two EK 43 models – a V60 brew bar, Acaia pearl scales, a four-spout milk juggler, three Fellow Stagg EKG electric kettles set between 88°C and 92°C and a custom jug rinser in the filter bar.
Much of this hardware is tucked beneath the bar or integrated directly into the countertop, allowing the equipment to shine. Toby’s Estate collaborated with Dutch manufacturer Kees van der Westen for the refurbishment, supplying the only custom-made Slim Jim in Australia, which Jack describes as a “baby model” between the Spirit and the Mirage espresso machines.
“The exact set-up of the bar was so important,” says Jack. “We didn’t want baristas walking back and forth to get the things they need. Everything is where they need it, right to hand.”
Being so visible to customers can create a bit of extra pressure says Jack, but the baristas are more than up to it.
“Baristas always have pressure to make a great coffee for every customer, so it was more about getting used to the set-up. We practiced new workflows to get the routine down before the grand opening,” Jack says.
“The layout is going to be unexpected for a lot of people, but it works because you can see the baristas’ focus and skill. You appreciate how hard people work to make a perfect cup every time.”
Customers will also be encouraged to ask questions about the coffee-making process, the specialty coffees used, and the custom machinery.
“We want people to feel like it’s absolutely fine to ask anything, because we really want to educate people about the whole process,” Jack says.
“It’s very exciting working in a space that is really an exhibition for amazing coffee,” says Charlotte Malaval, Toby’s Estate’s Green Bean Buyer.
Charlotte and the Toby’s coffee team curates the rotating reserve menu, featuring some of the world’s best specialty, select and small-lot coffees. Most of the drinks on the menu range between $12 to $24, with top-shelf rarities around $40-plus.
“We buy beans from a lot of small producers in young regions,” says Charlotte. “For some of these coffees, this is the only place in Australia you could buy a cup.
“One of my current favourites comes from a Myanmar producer called Melanie Edwards from Behind the Leaf mill. Myanmar farmers typically grow very small amounts of coffee among their other crops, so Melanie collects cherries from entire farming villages and processes them in really original ways, experimenting with all kinds of fermentation microorganisms to produce absolutely delicious cups of coffee.
“She’s always tweaking and updating, and soon we be showcasing her latest crop with some exciting innovations and new profiles.
Charlotte says her goal is for Chippendale to become a coffee destination in itself.
“We want people to come and have unique experiences, and be curious about different origins, farms, varietals, processes and how we have curated the menu,” she says.
“We’re highlighting industry-leading coffees, including some of the best farms in Panama with some Geishas from the Kotowa and Elida Estates. We also have frozen competition coffees, as well some classic and more humble expressions from different regions. It’s a real celebration of diverse coffee around the world.”
Besides the unique menu is a bank of custom-built freezers sitting behind the coffee bar, displaying shelf after shelf of vacuum-packed roasted beans.
This coffee cellar preserves unique seasonal and diverse locations of harvested beans, giving Charlotte the ability to create menus that draw from exceptional crops of past years without compromising on quality.
“Vacuum-packed frozen beans are super stable,” she explains. “We can store them for over five years without seeing any change in quality.”
“I want to make menus exploring how coffees taste year by year as a producer’s crop changes according to unnumerable variables.
“We can take coffees from the same region, of the same variety or process and compare them side-by-side. The freezer system gives us the flexibility to explore the infinite.”
It’s these high-quality coffees that underpin the logic of perching customers behind the coffee machine.
Even the most knowledgeable coffee connoisseurs are likely encounter something unfamiliar, and if you don’t know a Maragogype from a Mundo Novo, the staff are ready and willing to help navigate the menu.
“The whole space is geared towards interactions,” Jack says. “You can sit at the bar and watch coffee be made, or you can take a table and talk to your waiter about the options.”
“We want to break down the barrier between the barista and consumer and engage and educate people about their coffee.”
Guests will be able to engage with star barista power, with regular bar appearances from Charlotte, a two-time World Barista Championship finalist from France; Simon Gautherin, 2021 Australian AeroPress Champion; and Carlos Escobar, 2021 fourth place World Brewers Cup Champion.
Jack’s passion for talking coffee is unmistakable. He became Toby’s Estate’s Flagship Manager in late 2021, roughly a week before COVID-19 restrictions closed the flagship he was hired to manage.
“It was rough for everyone,” he says. “But the plans for the refurbishment had been kicking around in the background. Since we were closed anyway, it seemed like the best chance we’d get.”
Now, months later, Jack can finally welcome customers to the Chippendale store.
“I think people will be gobsmacked when they walk in,” Jack says. “Everyone felt so disconnected during the pandemic, but this whole space is designed around supporting interactions.
“I was amazed at the level of detail in the plans when I first saw them. Even the wall near the retail area has three specific curves to channel sound, so you can hear someone talking quietly next to you without background noise echoing around the big space.
Jack says the entire café is designed to create smaller spaces for conversation and observation.
“You can’t learn when you’re sitting 1.5 metres apart from anyone,” says Jack. “But now we can welcome people in and make sure there’s a really energising atmosphere.”
The importance of personal connections underlies the small but solid food menu. Curated by ex-Masterchef contestant Tommy Pham, which is largely supplied by Sydney locals such as Simon Says juice and Too Good pastries.
“We get our bread from Brickfields bakery, which is just around the corner, and all the jams and relishes are from Justin Arnoux at Drunken Sailor Co., who makes really cool flavours like jalapeno and tequila relish, stout and chipotle mustard,” says Jack.
“Our coffee is the star of the show, so the food is designed to be bold and satisfying without competing too much for your attention.”
Most of all, Jack is happy to be talking to people about coffee: “Everything you taste here, you can buy from us in retail or wholesale quantities, so we want to help find your new favourite coffee.
“We want customers walking away knowing that they’ve just experienced the industry standard of coffee and service.”
Toby’s Estate Chippendale is located at 32-36 City Rd, Chippendale.
For opening hours and more information, visit www.tobysestate.com.au.
This article appears in the April 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.