What's going on behind the scenes at Single Origin roasters warehouse?

Coffee! You can sleep when you’re dead!

I can’t help but just crack myself up laughing when I saw this sign post at the Single Origin warehouse and I am sure there are a lot of caffeine addicts out there can relate to it. I love coffee, but probably not as much as The Pom. We both work in the same office and it is our golden rule that whoever is going to make the coffee will have to make one for the other person. It is a good deal because usually The Pom will finish his cup of coffee first and ready to make another while I am still half way through the first one and already start turning cold. I think between both of us, we probably drink around 10 – 15 “mugs” of coffee a day. It’s insane! And I am not proud of it. But we have just set another rule last week, trying to limit ourselves to only 3 mugs a day and that’s it. Then we will switch to tea at night. It is working so far and hopefully will keep it that way.

If you are in Sydney and you love coffee, or even if you don’t, but I am sure you have heard of Single Origin, the little cafe shop in Surry Hills that is always busy. Random fact – Do you know that I was actually the web designer who designed their current website back in 2006? And who’d have thought four years later, I get to team up with them again for a new project, how exciting! So last week, I was very lucky to be able to visit the Single Origin warehouse in Alexandria and get to find out more about one of the best coffees in Sydney.

Do you remember ‘Boris’? He is a Toper coffee bean roaster and used to be the big star at the coffee shop in Surry Hills. I still remember whenever I walked past the cafe, Boris will always humming away, and the strong aroma of fresh roasted coffee beans are simply irresistible, luring everyone into the cafe for a cup of coffee before heading to work.

Sadly there is no more roasting at the coffee shop anymore and Boris is also a semi-retired roaster these days kept in the warehouse. They will only use Boris when they want to do a small run of roasting, usually a new bean for cupping for instance. Due to popular demands as the business grows, they simply need to have a bigger roaster to keep up with the volume of coffee beans they have to roast each day. Hence, let’s bring in the big tank!

As high as the ceiling, without mistaking it as a section of the tunnel for the ‘big bang’ theory, this humongous steam-punk Toper roaster is imported all the way from Turkey. It can roast 120kg of coffee beans at a time, and the cooling compartment that came with is too small and took a long time to cool the roasted coffee beans, so they had it custom made to become much wider, so the cooling process is much quicker and more efficient. I felt like I was inside a jar of coffee beans, I simply couldn’t smell anything but the aroma of coffee, it was so rich and intoxicating. But definitely not complaining.

The warehouse is a riot, it is hot and noisy inside, and coffee beans are literally everywhere! There are sacks of green beans piled up on the shelves ready to be roasted, and the roasted coffee beans are stored inside industrial bins, ready to be ground into different grades before packaging.

A whiteboard next to the roaster machine has all the Single Origin’s clients including Bills, Coffee Trail and Hilton hotel, and indicating when their orders will be roasted at certain dates as scheduled.

Right behind the warehouse is where all the packaging actions take place. I was surprised to see the coffee beans are actually packaged by hand, and not machine. The roasted coffee are sucked through a chute down into the grinding machine, then a SO’s crew will have a silver packet to catch all the ground coffee at the other end and then sealed it with a heat machine. It sounds simple but is not.

The lovely Emma, one of the founders of Single Origin was uber kind to show us around the warehouse including the new section next door which they just took over only a few months ago. The new section of the warehouse is the stock-take section. Single Origin recently has also extended their line of products to include tea and in-house brew.

Upstairs is still a temporary space where they keep all the broken espresso machines. I love when people are so passionate about at what they are doing and the crew at Single Origin are definitely one of those people. All the broken coffee machines they collected will be stripped, fixed and refurbished, nothing go to waste. They told us sometimes a cafe owner is not happy with the coffee machine they used with Single Origin coffee, they are more than happy to trade in with a better machine, then fix the old one and resell it to someone else who can appreciate it. Everything is very hands on in this coffee roasting kingdom.

After touring the warehouse, we eventually settling down in the meeting room which is also used as the cupping room. They also cleverly used the design on the bean sacks from each different country as decoration to form a mural on the wall, I think it looks fantastic! Emma told me they actually just had a cupping session that morning, that explains why all the empty cups in the bin and the coffee grinder was caked with a mount of ground coffee. I was very tempted to tip the coffee into my camera bag and bring it home when no one watching!

Of course I didn’t…