Baristas and cafe owners are becoming more fascinated with the often secretive and always coveted art of roasting, and as more information becomes available it has created a desire for coffee lovers to get their hands dirty and experience it first hand. Whether for better understanding of their product or to balance their bottom line, coffee roasting has never been more instrumental in the outcome of coffee based businesses.
The Maillard Atelier is a creative space for the coffee industry with facilities for roasting, packing, education and training which fosters this passion and thirst by providing answers for those seeking. The brainchild of Melbourne based green traders First Crop Coffee, owned and run by Tony Strickett and Celina Lazarus, Maillard Atelier is a natural progression in an industry that is rapidly developing. We caught up with Celina to find out more.
Why have you chosen to create a communal roasting space?
We feel that it’s the next step of the coffee industry.
In the time that my husband Tony and I have been operating First Crop Coffee, we have seen all of our customers grow. In some cases this has meant they have also outgrown their facility, which also often features as a showcase of their business. So roasters need more space and room to grow, but don’t want to sacrifice the location and theatre which they’ve built up and invested in over time. By taking their bulk production offsite they can retain the image of what they do while comfortably increasing their production capabilities. MA fosters growth by providing facilities for roasters to do this, and equipment that they may not already have, as well as offering a solution without a huge capital investment on the part of the roaster. Whether it is a space for roasting, packing and QA, just roasting or just packing or even an offsite cupping space, MA will provide a solution for roasters.
It also offers a safety net for businesses if they have equipment failures or other issues that prevent them from roasting in their current location. Knowing that there’s a neutral space where they can continue production in an event of equipment problems will be a huge relief for some roasters.
Lastly, we believe the coffee industry needs a neutral zone for events like the barista comps, guild meetings, training etc. A neutral space provides a safe platform for these events and allows the events to be run cohesively. It will be an excellent landscape for education as there is plenty of space and equipment for people to learn, and the ongoing proposition of using the space further once training is complete.
Where did the name the Maillard Atelier come from?
Maillard is a chemical reaction that occurs in coffee roasting – though it’s not unique to coffee as the Maillard reaction occurs in many food types and is the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars which gives browned food it’s desirable flavour). ‘Atelier’ is the French word for an artist’s workshop.
We wanted to have a name that relates to coffee but also outlines what the space is. Coffee roasting is an art and a science, so having the name be both art and science embodies coffee roasting. We like that if you don’t know what the words relate to it creates intrigue, so hopefully it will push people to discover something new and dig deeper.
What inspired Maillard Atelier?
Our inspiration for MA was to see a more communal mindset in the industry. Coffee is a broad and extensive market place with a market for every style: we celebrate the diversity of coffee and would love to see a neutral space where all styles of coffee can be represented and shared.
How has an ethical focus shaped your approach to the Maillard Atelier?
We believe in the value of each business’ offering, and so we want to see a space where people within the industry can work alongside each other and help each other develop and grow. When you see the people behind a business it makes it easier to understand what they do. The coffee industry is fiercely competitive, which is healthy because it keeps businesses honest.
How can the community connect with the Maillard Atelier?
The coffee community can connect with the space through the events that will be held there and via their own needs. For example, if a barista wants to hold their own classes at the space, they can certainly do so.
What have you learnt during the process of establishing the Maillard Atelier?
This is something that the coffee industry has been craving for a long time. The idea itself is not necessarily unique, but the project has involved months of hard work and preparation. When taking on a project like this there will be people who don’t agree with the premise or are threatened by the accessibility it provides, however these are all standard reactions to any business entering a marketplace and changing the face of the landscape. We are creating something that many will love and many will not. Every step of the way we are learning, and that is what MA is all about – learning, sharing, growing. There are a lot of roasters or soon-to-be roasters out there who need something like the MA to take the next step in their business. MA offers people a low risk opportunity to learn, grow their business or expand their offering. MA is based on an unspoken need which we have seen become further visible as the project progressed.
Is there a vision to grow the project into the future?
We see this as an international concept. Coffee is a global industry and there is growing demand around the world for green coffee supply, roasting and cupping knowledge and experience, and of course roasted coffee. We have specifically chosen Roastmax roasters because it is a local company supplying roasting equipment, which means servicing and parts are accessible. First Crop Coffee will be storing green coffee onsite providing access to quality green coffee. We see this as the prototype which will be taken throughout Australia and the world and consequently creating familiar territory, possibly allowing local roasters to have satellite roasting facilities around the world and for international favourites to bring their unique style to Australia.