Brothers Tony and Martyn Smith share a lifelong love of coffee. They have been exposed to the beverage ever since they were children, when their family was connected with coffee cultivation in Kenya and Papua New Guinea.
After continually being frustrated by what they considered to be “mediocre offerings” at cafes and restaurants, and equally disillusioned by the packaged coffee available in shops, they decided to go into the coffee-roasting business.
Thus they established Wagonga Coffee, initially selling through regional and South Coast markets, then taking a regular Sunday stall at the Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston, and finally developing a very loyal following at the Capital Region Farmers Market.
The Smiths named their business after Wagonga Inlet at Narooma, a favourite holiday location for the family. They commissioned a Tasmania designer/engineer, James Fox, to come up with a modest-sized roaster, which uses a jet of heated air injected into a sealed chamber to roast the coffee. The air keeps the coffee beans moving, thus ensuring an even roast of each batch. The roaster’s small size means that each roast can be carefully monitored and adjusted.
Initially they did all roasting at their property at Wamboin, near Canberra, but within a year the business had grown to such an extent that they opened a cafe and coffee roasting facility in Canberra’s industrial precinct, Mitchell.
The Fresh Roast Coffee House at 30 Kemble Court is a joint venture between Wagonga and Jindebah Hills, a coffee producer in the Byron Bay hinterland.
Tony Smith sees a growing demand for Australian-grown coffee, hence his partnership with John Ainscough of Jindebah Hills, although he also sources premium-grade arabica beans from around the world, including Papua New Guinea, Sumatra, East Africa and Central America.
Each variety is chosen for its particular characteristics and some are blended together for a unique flavour. Their Wagonga Cafe Blend brings together the power of Sumatran coffee with a smooth and slightly chocolatey Papua New Guinea coffee and an aromatic Kenyan coffee.
With the opening of the café, the Smiths upgraded to a 5 kilo Diedrich, the “Rolls Royce” of coffee roasters. Through a large glass window, customers can see the machine at work, each batch taking about 15 minutes to roast.
Customers can select their own blends or specify a particular style of roast. After roasting, the coffee is immediately packaged into coffee pouches with a reseal strip and one-way gas release valve. Freshness is the cornerstone of the operation: the coffee can be delivered within 24 hours of roasting.
Responsibility for the roasting rests with Tony, who began at home producing coffee for his everyday use, surprisingly with the use of a popcorn popper. Comments from friends and family encouraged him to expand his knowledge and the extent of his roasting. He sought advice from coffee professionals in Sydney and Melbourne, and both he and his brother have trained as baristas.
The café, open from 8.30am to 3pm Monday to Saturday, features a coffee of the day but customers can taste particular blends on request.
Along with a small selection of cakes, biscuits, pastries and cold drinks, the cafe sells coffee making equipment and accessories. They offer a training and consultancy service to cafés and restaurants, and organise coffee appreciation evenings. Customers can bring their own lunch and enjoy the magazines and newspapers provided.
The Fresh Roast Coffee House is at 30 Kemble Court, Mitchell, ACT. Phone +61 (2) 6255 7300.