As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way – and that’s exactly the attitude of the staff at Melbourne’s newest CBD café.
Ways and Means is a social enterprise that focuses on serving great coffee and improving the health and wellbeing of young people. Through Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS), people aged between 14 and 25 years are encouraged to work at the café to help them take control of their lives in a structured, positive environment.
“This café is all about seeing young people grow and move onto the right path in life,” says Café Manager and Social Worker Rhiannon Bruce.
YSAS helps young people who have become disengaged from school, or faced neglect, abuse, drug and alcohol use, mental illness, homelessness or contact with the justice system. “The people that come to work at this café in most cases struggle to get out of their negative environments. But here, we create an environment of positive reinforcement that encourages growth and opportunity. Ways and Means is not just work experience, it’s a step forward to greater opportunities in life,” says Rhiannon.
The young people are welcome to work at the café as long as they like, with the goal of gaining valuable hospitality experience and a valuable reference. “These young adults need work experience to gain future employment. When they come here, many don’t understand the potential of work that’s out there and what they can achieve if they apply themselves,” says Rhiannon.
Ways and Means gives its team members greater responsibility. They learn to arrive at work on time, navigate their way on public transport, look presentable and partake in daily engagement. “Our young people arrive shy and tentative, but they are keen to learn and in no time they gain confidence,” says Rhiannon.
Co Manager Katie Simons is responsible for guiding the youth through what can be the daunting process of coffee making. “I love working with our young staff. I get to shadow them on the machine and teach them to grind, tamp, extract and texture milk – all the things I love about being a barista,” she says. “Someone once mentored me when I first started training as a barista in Melbourne, and now I get to share that same experience with others.”
Before long, Katie say the young workers confidently take orders, extract coffee from their La Marzocco machine, and texture milk to the same quality as any experienced barista. As much as Ways and Means is about creating pathways, it also aims to be a commercially viable café. For that reason, Rhiannon says there is no other option than to offer consistently great quality coffee and food options.
Ways and Means use Espresso Syndicate’s blend, which Katie describes as having notes of orange blossom and hints of caramel and fudge. “It’s an amazing blend. Our customers love it,” she says.
An Espresso Syndicate single origin is also rotated weekly, with an Ethiopian Sidamo Guji Suke Quto already a hit with customers.
To cater to the increasing demand for soy-based coffees, Means and Ways serve Vitasoy’s Café for Baristas Organic Milk. “We wanted a product that would reflect our values for a sustainable, locally-produced product, so Vitasoy was a simple choice,” says Rhiannon. “It complements our coffee nicely and textures into a nice creamy milk.”
Katie says with more people aware of the health benefits of soy, it’s not surprising they go through 12 cartons of Vitasoy’s soy milk each day. They also use the product in their chai lattes.
For hungry working crowds, Ways and Means serves humble food, including fresh reuben sandwiches, salads, and a popular jaffles range. The café interior offers an organic and rustic feel. Wooden panels and timber table tops create an earthy look that compliments the city location.
“This place is intended to be a sanctuary, a home away from the office, and our interior reflects that,” says Rhiannon. “Each day I get to see how much this place can make an impact on a young person’s life, and that in itself makes this café a fantastic environment to work in.”