June 8, 2012

The Grounds of Alexandria

The players behind this amazing business have hit all the right notes, creating a world beating café concept. I had the opportunity to visit this caffeinated project on a few occasions last year as the build took shape, meeting with its developerS Jack Hanna and Ramzey Choker. they took over the site two years ago,  with the aim of turning the industrial space into a world leading coffee concept.

I get to see some pretty cool stuff travelling the world, and it’s time the Australian café industry applauded its achievers in Australia with this sort of unique business model.

Grounds is built on the old Four’N Twenty pie factory in the heart of an industrial area in Alexandria, Sydney. Jack Hanna has basically been in hiding since winning the world latte art competition in 2007, working towards his dream coffee business. After joining forces with entrepreneur Ramzey Choker, they had the perfect combination of coffee and food smarts to start this epic project.

The business is set on about an acre of industrial land and is built around a permaculture garden growing vegetables, fruit, herbs and even a chook pen. The warehouse fit out is home to a 200-seat café/restaurant, coffee roasting facility with two 12 kg Probats, training room, a lab and a fully equipped bakery kitchen.

Jack’s pride and joy is a fully pimped retro 4 group La Marzocco he found in the USA recently, with full PID controllers externally mounted and electronic pump multispeed drives, for accurate control of machine pressure. Another first is a reticulated milk tap set up at all the barista stations, speeding up the milk coffee system. Jack is pleased with the results and wants to market this process to other busy espresso systems around the world.

The café has ticked every box for attention to detail under the guidance of interior designer Caroline Choker. Caroline has used the space wisely, giving this business many faces and experiences for the wide cross section of their customer base. While we were visiting, there were many office people from around the area getting their caffeine fixes and a large convoy of mums with prams utilising the garden play area, which is a purpose built space for energy packed toddlers, with a big fence to keep them contained.

The café and restaurant features some good, simple and healthy café food items, like the local favourite house burger and a great selection of salads. We got to experience one of Ramzey’s creations – the house cured Ocean Trout salad. Most of the salad and vegetables will come from the café’s garden, which currently boasts an exciting range of eatables like strawberries, cherry tomatoes, lots of green leaves and fresh herbs. The chooks are another feature you don’t expect to see in a city location, but a real hit for the children. I loved the old jam jar mugs for all the cold drinks – the perfect vessel for the home style ginger beer.

Jack’s coffee skills have been put into action within the venue, which includes the well fitted out in-house roasting plant with two sparkling new 12 kg Probats, a cupping room, alternate brewing area  including a Clover and fully dedicated training room.

Jack went roasting after his life as a barista in Sydney and Canada, and he has done well with his Jack and the Bean brand. He took out champion espresso at the national roasting competition, the Golden Bean, in 2010.

Jack has his own unique philosophy on coffee and will be teaching this within The Grounds in the near future. The business is already growing with new followers, and I am certain that Jack will have plenty of exceptional coffee concepts for his loyal patrons, so stay tuned.

We have been privileged to see such a great business concept in Sydney, that has all the coffee geeks talking. I believe the love and passion that has gone into this business will make it a world leader in its own right. The crowds have been very good for a start up business, and my tip is get up early on the weekend if you want a seat inside or better still, get a delicious coffee and hang in the beautiful rustic garden with the chooks.

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7A/2 HUNTLEY Street
Alexandria, NSW 2015
T: (02) 9699 2225

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