BeanScene meets Lune Founder Kate Reid and discovers the different layers to her career, what makes her croissants the best, and why her entire career in hospitality has an underlying connection to coffee.
Kate Reid started Lune Croissanterie as a micro wholesale bakery supplying croissants to Melbourne’s best espresso bars. Each day, between 6am and 7.30am, she would drive around Melbourne with her boxes of pastries in toe.
“Everyone would ask, ‘do you want a coffee?’ It was my one chance to be social. I had been up since 3am or 4am baking, and after deliveries I’d spend the whole day by myself,” Kate tells BeanScene. “I’d say ‘yes’ to an espresso because that’s all I had time for. Except I’d then stop at Patricia [Coffee Brewers] and have an espresso and a flat white. I’d often have eight to 10 coffees in the space of one-and-a-half hours.”
This became Kate’s morning routine for a year-and-a-half. Over that time, industry café icons taught her how to drink espresso and understand what she was tasting. She learnt not to stir the espresso cup with a metal spoon for risk of tarnishing taste, and why it was better to swirl the cup to incorporate crema.
“I developed a real coffee appreciation. It was such a gift to have a masterclass with the best of the best in Melbourne every morning; Aaron [Wood], Bowen [Holden], and Mark Dundon. So although I was buzzing, at least it was from the highest quality of coffee – and people,” Kate says.
Kate ran Lune solo for 18 months until she realised she was missing out on “the end piece”, seeing customers enjoying her pastries. To help turn Lune intro a customer-facing retail bakery, Kate asked her brother Cam to join her venture in 2013, and the pair committed to the journey.
From the end of 2013 to September 2015, the siblings worked side-by-side for 80 hours a week, waking each morning at 2.45am to head to their then-Elwood bakery.
“The only thing that would get me out of bed was the knowledge that within half an hour I’d have a coffee. It’s probably one of the most important things in my whole day,” Kate says.
“Nothing is better than the first coffee. Am I right? The first coffee is Godly, and that first sip is sacred. It’s such a moment.”
When Kate and Cam would arrive at the bakery, the first thing they’d do is turn the coffee machine on. Cam would dial-in the grinder, make an espresso to go “down the hatch”, while Kate prepared each of them a slice of Dench Fruit Toast with Pepe Saya butter and sea salt. Like a well-choreographed routine, as the toast was ready, so was Cam’s perfectly crafted flat white, which he’d place in front of Kate to enjoy as a “sipper”, in reference to a coffee that, once poured, must be sipped immediately while the milk is still settling for a creamy texture and “trademark shine”.
“A ‘Cam sipper’ is the best coffee on the planet. Hands down,” says Kate, especially when it’s a full single shot in a 160-millimetre cup, which she calls “the bachelor”, a coffee she thinks should become ‘a Melbourne thing’.
“If everyone who likes a magic had a bachelor, I think they’d prefer it because it is just more rounded. It’s a magic but with a full single shot rather than a double ristretto. It’s the same volume of coffee but not quite as strong. It’s just more balanced,” Kate says.
She is particular about her coffee, and rightly so. She enjoys rosetta latte art due to its functionality of even crema distribution, and despises swan latte art for the opposite reason. She admires baristas who take proper care when making takeaway coffee, but will send a poorly textured milk coffee back because she “enjoys it too much” to
All Lune venues are powered with La Marzocco KB90 machines. At home, Kate was the proud owner of a La Marzocco Linea Mini before regifting it to her dad because she enjoys the ritual of going out for her morning coffee.
“We are 100 per cent in the best city in the world for coffee,” she says. “I’ve learned that through my travels in Australia and my time spent overseas.”
Her first experience as a “serious coffee drinker” post-university was in the United Kingdom where in Kate’s pre-Lune career, she worked as an aerodynamicist for Formula One team Williams.
Kate later worked for a UK marketing company that specialised in F1, and would enjoy the 10-minute walk to the canteen on the Silverstone race circuit for a coffee break, which she enjoyed more than the chain coffee itself.
Returning to Australian in 2008, Kate says it was a revelation that her home country really did make the best coffee.
“The general standard is so good here,” she says. “The brunch scene had taken off. I was enamoured by the quality of the coffee and menus of food being served. There was thought going into spaces, atmospheres with attitude and vibe, and on top of that, exceptional coffee.”
Kate’s love for hospitality continued with stints at some of Melbourne’s iconic bakeries and cafés, including St Ali and Three Bags Full. However, she forewent Melbourne’s best coffee to travel back overseas to conduct a stage at boulangerie Du Pain et des Idées in Paris – with no coffee machine in sight. Instead, the Head Pastry Chef would make Kate a Nescafé Blend 43 at 6am every morning.
Thankfully, it was a little café called Boulangerie Béatrix that gave her a ‘lightbulb moment’.
“I would order my pastry and coffee in broken French, then stand at the art deco bar at the back. The coffee was truly terrible but the service was beautiful. No-one in France knew how to texture milk in 2010 so you’d only have an espresso, but it became my dream breakfast,” Kate says. “When I came back to Melbourne, I really wanted that experience to be replicated – but this time with good coffee.”
To merge Kate’s love for quality croissants and coffee has become a revelation, with five Lune stores across Melbourne and Brisbane. Kate’s croissants aren’t traditionally French by technical standards but what they are, are a celebration of the butter they’re made with.
A normal croissant uses 25 to 30 per cent butter. Lune’s are 43 per cent butter, but through Kate’s reverse engineering process of making croissants, she figured out how to lock in the butter so it doesn’t leach out and make the eating process greasy.
“You can walk into Lune and know that the traditional products are maximum half an hour out of the oven and still warm. It’s such an experience to get a freshly made croissant that’s delicately crunchy on the outside, and buttery and warm on inside,” she says.
If it hadn’t been for Kate’s education and previous career as an F1 aerodynamicist, she genuinely doubts Lune would be as well-known had she gone through a baker’s apprenticeship at age 16.
“I think we’re lucky Lune has an interesting story behind it. When I tell it, there are so many different aspects to what I’ve gone through that resonates with someone and makes them feel emotionally connected,” Kate says. “If you can convince someone who never dared to line up for our croissants to do so, and enjoy the experience when they get to the front, you’ve converted them into a customer for life.”
Lune’s customer base was confirmed during the 1.5 years of COVID-19 lockdowns when it conducted more than 10,000 deliveries to 273 Melbourne suburbs. Kate would leave boxes of buttery joy at doorsteps, and hear squeals of delight as she’d run back to the delivery van.
“COVID-19 really taught us how far and wide our customers were,” Kate says.
That customer base is growing, with the opening of two Sydney Lune Croissanteries in the first half of 2024, and international expansion “blue sky thinking” but “definitely possible”. Kate is also now part-owner of Square One Coffee Roasters, the official coffee partner for The Lune Co group.
“To have control over our second most purchased product – coffee – makes a lot of sense, especially when every single version of Lune has had a connection with coffee. Coffee and croissants are the perfect pairing after all,” Kate says.
The other, will be seeing popstar Taylor Swift enjoy Lune pastries from her Crown Towers hotel room in February. Kate says the promise has already been made, but even more rewarding would be seeing Tay-Tay visit Lune’s Fitzroy store and bakery.
“Now that would be a life goal,” Kate says.
If the magical union doesn’t happen, Kate is still content with the thousands of Melbournians who embrace her products and the Lune experience each day.
“It’s humbling walking past the line in the Russell Street store on a daily basis and realising that 11 years on, people are still lining up. That’s hard to comprehend,” she says.
“My favourite thing is being in a random corner of the city, not near Lune, and seeing someone walk around with a little brown bag with Lune’s rocket symbol on it. They walk past me with no idea who I am, but I know they’re carrying a little part of me around, and that’s pretty special.”
This article appears in the October 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.