August 19, 2012

Elixir Coffee

Elixir Coffee is owned by brothers Jason and David Narciso. Before starting Elixir Coffee, they owned and operated a number of successful cafés in the Brisbane CBD. They have seen, heard and learned all about the coffee industry from the ages of 8 and 5.  Café Culture caught up with the boys to find out some more about their business.

Who is Elixir Coffee? To put us in the picture, can you provide some background on the company? Elixir … coffee for the soul. Where did this come from?
Our knowledge of the coffee industry all started when our mother, Carmel, and her uncle bought Cosmopolitan Coffee from Ettore Tartaglia in a small shopfront in the Brunswick Street Mall in Brisbane in the late 1980s. After relocating to a larger shopfront shortly thereafter, they saw the potential in a greater demand for specialty roasted coffee and made the decision to expand their services to include freshly roasted coffee beans for wholesale clients – and boy, did it boom! Cosmopolitan Coffee was the first wholesale and retail roasting house in Queensland.
With so much coffee running through our family bloodline, it was only natural that we start our own coffee company: Elixir Coffee – Coffee for the Soul.What coffee did your mum’s shop, Cosmopolitan Coffee, originally use?
The coffee at Cosmopolitan was always roasted onsite by them in a timber roaster. Beans were sourced through green bean brokers back then. The shop still exists today in the same location in Brunswick Street Mall.

Where is Elixir Coffee HQ located?
Elixir Coffee is located 7 km from the CBD.  Within our Elixir Coffee HQ facility is our roasting department, training room, administration, dispatch, espresso bar and retail outlet. We are in an area surrounded by industrial business, but less than 200 m away there is a main road, and situated there are homes and offices that also frequent us, so we feel perfectly located to service several different markets.

Who does the roasting?
Both the brothers, Jason and David, roast Elixir Coffee’s award winning blends. Although, at the moment we are in the throes of training a new roaster. Through Q&A programs and constant cupping, we will continue to produce the high quality coffee that has won us three national awards over the past 9 months.

How do you source your beans? Do you travel to origin?
We source our beans in a number of ways.  One way is through brokers, who visit the farms regularly to maintain relationships and to ensure quality methods and practices are upheld. All of our coffee can be traced back to specific farms andregions and is not put through large mills. This is just the quality that we buy!

Another is through independent buyers, who buy direct from farms and send straight to us. We are ensured the quality of cup and fair pricing to the farmers. We also buy a large amount of Estate coffee, micro lot coffee, and COE coffee. All of these can be traced back to specific farms, are in the Specialty Coffee category and are not milled together with lower quality green beans.

What is the process of developing your blends?
Firstly, we nut out what flavours, aromas, body and acidity we are looking for, and then source a number of green beans that will match our desired blend profile. We then roast all the coffees as a single origin, rest them, and cup the coffee looking for the desired outcomes and determining what coffees will work together. With the information that we gather from this process, we narrow down the list, and then start roasting and blending coffee. We try different temperatures, different times, and different percentages to get the blend to be perfect for what we are aiming for. We then move onto our next stage, which is, roasting, resting and cupping until we are totally satisfied. Once we feel that we have got the blend perfect, we then roast, rest, and cup this coffee three more times to make sure that it is consistent for the desired blend characteristics.

What coffee roasting equipment do you use?
We use a Petroncini coffee roaster – built in Italy.  We knew the flavour that we were after from our coffee, and we knew that the Petroncini would give this to us.

Who were your mentors; who did you go to to find out about all the facets of green bean procurement and roasting?
We learnt how to roast ourselves … roasting, blending and tasting the old fashioned way, using the three most powerful senses: sound, sight and the most important, taste. But, probably the most valuable experience was gained from our mum, Carmel, when she owned Cosmopolitan Coffee. From a very early age we lived and breathed coffee. From helping the roasters roast, in the way of cutting up wood for the wood fired roaster, packing coffee into bags and filling the buckets up with green beans, and even clearing tables and helping run coffees. Mum and Cosmo taught us why coffee and our industry are so beautiful. We were taught the “love for quality coffee and quality food” and “a passion for people”. Thank you Sensei (Mum); you have enriched our lives!

How important is it to cup your coffees every day?
We religiously cup our coffee every day. We feel that this is such an important part of coffee roasting and supply, and it is one of the biggest parts of our Q&A procedure. Through cupping, we ensure that the coffee is consistent, day in, day out. This ensures that the roasting is correct and if not, we make minor adjustments before it changes the flavour and quality of coffee. Also, through cupping we are ensuring that we are always receiving the same high quality green bean that we require.

The number of roasters in Australia has doubled in the last 10 years, which means a lot more competition for you. How have you worked to combat this? How do you create a point of difference?
This is true. The number of roasters in Australia has increased dramatically recently, especially since many of the roasters from down south have come up into the Queensland market. We combat this by just keeping to what we know. If we start worrying about everyone else, we will start spending more time thinking about them, instead of thinking about our own business. We focus on coffee, customer, and staff here at Elixir Coffee. We make sure that the coffee is perfect and consistent … that the customer always receives “above and beyond” service and that our staff are always looked after and have a smile on their face.

Syphons, pour overs, cold press, seasonal coffees … is there a large market for these trends in your area and with your wholesale customers?
There is a trend in Brisbane towards different brewing methods such as cold press, syphons, and many more. During summer, we started cold press at our HQ Espresso Bar, and it was such a huge hit! The flavours that we got from the Costa Rica honey processed coffee were fantastic. Seasonal coffee (single origins) are becoming a large player in the Brisbane coffee scene. The coffee drinking public of Brisbane have a “thirst” for seasonal coffee. They love the education that comes from this process.

The different flavours and textures that they experience from drinking these different single origins excite them. With our single origins we experiment with different processing methods, such as honey processed, and we talk to our coffee drinkers about these methods and explain the different textures and flavours. It definitely gets everyone buzzing!

Where do you see the industry heading?
We think that the industry is heading into an exciting phase. This is due to the coffee drinking public demanding better, more unique coffee. The outcome of this will be better coffee for the coffee drinking public. Therefore, there is a constant emphasis to produce better coffee at both the farm and the roaster. The farm, by the way of growing techniques, harvesting methods, and processing methods. From our point of view, the roaster, we are always looking at different storage methods, resting times, and keeping an eye on the farms and what they are doing with their crops.

We are also always sourcing amazing coffee. At the moment at our Elixir Coffee HQ, we are pouring our award winning blends, but also have a Costa Rica Geisha and a Guatemala COE coffee.  One of our customers said to us the other day, “It’s awesome to experience all this great coffee all at one place”. There are so many choices, that you just can’t go wrong. The coffee drinking public are no longer accepting bad coffee, and they shouldn’t. There are many quality roasting houses and cafés where you can get a great coffee.

Do you have a favourite bean or blend you are drinking at the moment?
We are spoilt at the moment; we are drinking the Costa Rica Geisha, as well as a Guatemalan COE coffee. The Geisha is just so refined and delicate, and the flavours are very pronounced.  Silky smooth!

What are your plans for the next 12 months and beyond?
Over the next 12 months we have big plans.  They are:

• A larger roaster will be on the way to keep up with our fast growth.
• Another facility for our roasting, administration, and dispatch departments. We have run out of space in our current facility.
• To open another Elixir Coffee Espresso Bar/Retail, but as a mini satellite set up.
• We are currently supplying coffee into North Queensland, NSW, Western Australia, and Adelaide. We have some plans to grow our presence further throughout Australia over the next 12 months.
• We have also just recently launched our online shopping website for coffee and everything coffee related. We plan to make this a popular way of ordering coffee for the time poor coffee drinkers of Australia.

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