One step into Cottle on Coventry you are hit with the thick aroma of strong, delicious coffee. Another step and you’re enveloped by a theme that can only be described as Christmas Present. The South Melbourne cafe has been festively decorated for the holiday season with small Christmas trees balancing on the counter, and selections brightly wrapped chocolate and confectionery gift boxes on display for shoppers who may want to take care of their Christmas shopping list whilst getting their caffeine fix.
Although it’s mid-morning, usually a quiet time for cafes, Cottle is scattered with patrons leisurely sipping espressos or enjoying a latte and a late breakfast. We meet Sebastian, Cottle’s Head Roaster, who takes us through the cafe into the roastery. Walking through the back doors of the cafe, you are transported to the past. With worn brick walls, Hessian sacks spilling with coffee beans, and an original Cottle sign hanging in the back, this small space probably felt exactly the same when it opened in 1912.
The rich history of this rustic roastery is infused into each and every bag of coffee, which Cottle supplies to over 200 business and a number of private labels. Behind this massive production is a set of old-fashioned, custom-made roasting machinery powered by an original Lamborghini engine.
After a tour of the roastery, we sit down with Sebastian to discuss the bean selection for our December coffee box. Asked which coffee he’d like to feature, Sebastian doesn’t skip a beat.
“The Panama,” he says. This light varietal medium roast bourbon varietal is produced by Casa Ruiz and processed at the Maunier Estate before finding its way to the Cottle Roastery. Coffee drinkers should expect a complex cup upfront with prominent chocolate liqueur, rum, raisin notes and a heavy sticky body with winey rounded acidity that finishes with strong peanut and cocoa flavours.
You can see the passion in Sebastian’s eyes as he discusses this specialty coffee. A veteran coffee roaster, Sebastian is no stranger to playing with really high-quality coffee beans. Originally from Colombia, he’s responsible for the specialty coffee roasting and developing new products for Cottle Coffee, a job he’s been doing for almost four years. When asked why he chose this blend, he explains that the Panama challenges him-- it’s a hard bean to roast right. These high-density, fully-washed beans put him out of his comfort zone and force the talented roaster to raise the bar.
Listening to Sebastian discuss experimenting with various beans, it’s hard not the imagine a dynamic future for Cottle Coffee. Although they’ve been around for decades, Sebastian and the company recognize the importance of evolving Cottle’s brand and coffee offering as palettes and trends change. To stay relevant in the market, Cottle changes up the location and type of the beans they source regularly. They might always have a coffee from Ethiopia but it could be from a different farm or village each time.
“The more knowledge we have about every single bean, the better we can be across the entire industry.” Say Sebastian. This clever and innovative approach seems to be working-- they’ve just opened a cafe in Malaysia and have started exporting their coffee to Southeast Asia.
Catch Cottle Coffee’s ‘Panama’ varietal blend in this month’s Coffee Scout box.