The Beans, the Blend, the Brew at Bunker Specialty Coffee Co.
Coffee has a rich history, a complex chemistry, and a variety of effects on the human body and mind. For many, it’s more than just a drink; it’s a ritual, a social lubricant, a source of energy, and a pleasure. John Caruso meets two locals responsible for the smoothest double espresso he’s ever tasted.
Tucked into the corner at the front of a shared working space in Sippy Downs is a small counter with a few chairs and tables bathed in warm winter sunshine. Names are called and coffee lovers collect their favourite cup from the smiling barista.
Kate and Ben Saultry started Bunker Specialty Coffee Co. about seven and a half years ago.
“Bunker is our brand and Veneziano is our roasting partner. We distribute from Bribe Island to Agnes Water and we’re the sole distributors for Veneziano locally with a big talent pool in Melbourne that we can draw on,” she said.
That pool includes roasters like Jack Allisey who was the first Australian to ever compete in the World Coffee Roasting Championships and there’s the current Australian Roasting Champion, Daniel Shadbolt. That’s a cool pool!
According to Kate, we’re currently experiencing our third coffee wave.
“The first wave was back in the 1950s in Melbourne for example, with immigrants brewing coffee that they brought out from Italy,” she said.
“Then there was a second wave of coffee with lots of big commercial brands that used cheap, low-grade beans to satisfy coffee drinkers at that time.
“Now we’re right at the front of the third wave. Some might call it hipster coffee, baristas with man buns, if you want to put it that way.”
Park that thought of the cool kid behind the machine in your favourite café for a moment and let’s take a deep dive into exactly what is happening with coffee in 2023.
“It all starts at the farm and then it’s graded,” explains Ben. “There’s certain standards that we must meet and then there’s a cupping score, and our coffee is always highly scored and that comes down to how it’s grown, how it’s roasted and how it’s taken care of. So, the cupping score is imperative when it comes to specialty coffee.”
Brands you see on supermarket shelves are all commercial grade, which means they’re graded below a score of 80. Anything above that mark is then considered specialty coffee, which is what Veneziano supplies to Kate and Ben.
“Coffee is a dark art,” says Ben. “It’s complex and the industry keeps moving forward. Veneziano is mixing different beans together to produce different blends and then there’s roasting temperatures and length of roasting time. It’s a science and an art form.”
Australia has been forging ahead developing a great reputation as a coffee drinker’s paradise. After a recent trip to New York, I certainly agree!
“We’re absolutely at the top,” Kate says. “Melbourne specialty coffee has a huge reputation around the world. New Zealand is closely tracking along with us and in America, Portland and Seattle are developing a big specialty coffee scene. There are many new companies and countries coming along however, everyone’s eyes are on us here in Australia.”
For Ben, it comes down to our culture and how we live our lives.
“We’re early risers, especially on the Sunshine Coast we’re hitting cafés earlier and earlier,” he said. “When we go out to a restaurant there’s a certain standard and that’s helped to lift expectations of what a ‘good’ coffee should taste like.
“Consumers demand a good coffee and I think it just suits the Aussie culture and how we go about living our lives. Coffee just fits into that so well.”
If you’re not geographically close to Bunker Specialty Coffee Co. in Sippy Downs, then spotting a location that serves Veneziano will bring you that step closer to experiencing that perfect cup.
I’ve been a coffee drinker for decades. It’s a constant journey. For me it’s a short black, no sugar, and Veneziano’s Soar blend featuring three different beans is next level! Smooth and delicious.
“With the distribution side of our business, we don’t want to be everywhere,” Kate explains.
“We like the idea of having only one customer in a suburb. We diligently choose who we partner with because we want great accounts with great businesses, we don’t want our brands to be a ‘flash in the pan’.
“The businesses pouring our coffee need to be people that love and respect coffee and the number one thing for me is training the baristas.”
Ben said there were a set of rules and standards that they follow.
“That’s another favourite part of my job, teaching someone how to make a great cup of coffee,” he said.
“Getting your coffee made the same way every single time, irrespective of who’s operating the machine.”
Roast ‘em, grind ‘em, brew and enjoy.
Like a fine wine or a carefully distilled spirit, coffee has a history, complexity and story that keeps drinkers constantly searching and sipping for the perfect cup of Joe.
WANT MORE? Download the interview with Bunker Specialty Coffee Co. from our podcast.