August 25, 2016

Savouring Sweet Success

Espresso Room

Canberra is continuing to prove itself as one of Australia’s most dynamic and innovative cafe scenes, due in large part to the work of visionaries including Espresso Room owner Michael Rose.

The last three years have seen Michael’s steady rise in the nation’s capital as Espresso Room has expanded: the first store was opened at Woden in 2012 and it proved to be so popular that it was forced to expand across the walkway within a year or so. Another store followed the same year in Tuggeranong, a third was added in June, 2014 at Belconnen and last year Espresso Room won the Golden Bean for best franchise/chain.

Each of his stores is the quintessential example of a High Quality Café (HiQC) that pairs the finest, freshest food with ONA Coffee approved by Project Origin, ensuring customers enjoy the finest blends that have been sourced ethically and sustainably.

We caught up with Michael to delve a little deeper into his success.

For the out of towner, what typifies Canberra’s coffee scene?
I believe the Canberra coffee scene has evolved in the last few years. There have been a lot of cafes opening up across the city in what seems like a ‘coffee boom’ and it has become more competitive. ONA Coffee’s founder, Sasa Sestic also put Canberra on the map when he won the title of Australian Barista Champion last year. He then went on to win the 2015 World Barista Competition and that gave us more international attention. Canberra is a small community where people are welcoming and humble. Everyone is always talking about new places that open up and their experiences. I like that the people of Canberra are happy to embrace new concepts with open arms. With our cool winters, it’s a great place to have a brew or two and I believe it’s a wonderful place to visit. Out of towners will not be disappointed with what we have to offer!

What has inspired Espresso Room’s direction?
Passion, leadership and a willingness to learn everyday. I take pride in helping our baristas have access to the best training and equipment. It’s important to me that those who want it have the opportunity to learn more about the business side of things and take on higher responsibilities with the option of running and owning a portion of their own store.

How has your work with ONA Coffee evolved over time?
Sasa Sestic and I have been friends for many years. When I was creating the Espresso Room concept a few years ago, I always knew Sasa and ONA would play an important part in my business. I was particularly interested in ONA’s ethical green bean trading organisation, Project Origin, and the special relationships and direct trade they have with international coffee farmers. I had the privilege of travelling to one of these farms in India in 2014 with Sasa where I was able to learn more about coffee processing and using funds raised through Project Origin, open a crèche for the children who lived on the coffee farm.

Why has Espresso Room been so successful?
When I first created the Espresso Room concept, I felt there was a lack of specialty coffee inside shopping centres. I didn’t want the shoppers and tenants of the centres to miss out on the opportunity to get a quality coffee and to be able to try our other specialties like filter and pour over. I created the concept for our local community and to help bring a new vibe to the café scene inside shopping malls. It also gave us the opportunity to teach the community more about specialty coffee and also educate and promote Project Origin for ONA Coffee.

How do you ensure Espresso Room maintains the HiQC model?
As I mentioned before, ONA Coffee plays a big role in our business. They provide us with regular training and information to assist us in improving our products. Consistency is key so we ensure the baristas across all three stores are always in communication with one another to ensure everyone is kept up to date. Our top baristas also go to ‘Master Class’ training with ONA Coffee weekly and are able to share the skills learned with their teams. As the business owner, I am always striving to ensure we have the best products on offer in a comfortable atmosphere. I feel it’s also important to adapt to change, whether it be moving to a bigger location to ensure we can comfortably cater to all of our customers as our client base increases or change the food offerings to include more substantial options.

How has your team grown since winning the Golden Bean last year?
We are always striving to be better. Our relationship with ONA Coffee is strong and we are always learning, whether it be about new blends of coffee, trips to international coffee farms or new techniques and equipment. We have a strong team of baristas and our team morale is always positive. Our baristas share information and training tips across our three stores to ensure everyone is up to speed and for consistency purposes. We are proud of what we do and the coffee we produce and we strive to be the best we can be.

The hits kept on coming with your team winning the 2016 World’s Richest Barista – have they come off the high yet?
Our team worked very hard in the lead up to the World’s Richest Barista Competition and winning first place was an amazing achievement. It was wonderful for team morale and great for our new up and coming baristas to also see their achievement. The team continues to improve on their skills each day and strive to achieve excellence within their area of interest.
Our team for the WRBC, Lucas, Seng, Matty and Michael all have slightly different roles now. Seng and Matty are store managers and trainers, Michael is now working as a trainer for ONA in Sydney and Lucas has begun training in the ONA Roastery with Sam Corra and Daniel Wilson. And we’re definitely looking forward to competing again next year and defending our title.

What or where next for Espresso Room?
We are about to open our first shop in Sydney in September this year. We are also looking at Brisbane and Melbourne in the very near future. I will also be embarking on a new concept in Canberra city this year. It will be under another name but the coffee will be a very important part of the business as will my relationship with ONA Coffee and their amazing team.
• Shop 333, Level 1, Westfield Belconnen.
• Shop 86, Ground Floor, Westfield Woden.
• Shop 1, Level 1, Tuggeranong Hyperdome.
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