Suspended Coffee in Sawtell

A version of this article first appeared in the Coffs Coast Advocate on Saturday 31st August, 2013

As I have described in two previous columns, Coffs Coast independent coffee roaster Amelia Franklin has worked hard to get where she is today. Hers is a values-driven small business, with a strong focus on the ethics and sustainability of Fair Trade coffee. Her packaging, for example, is completely compostable, and she runs her coffee roaster on solar power.

Of course, having an ethics-driven business is one thing, but the product has to be top quality as well. And Amelia’s product is excellent, as recognised in her winning a Silver in the Golden Bean Roaster awards for 2012/13 in Open Class for her Mama Quilla blend: a combination of Peruvian Feminino beans, Chiapan (Mexico) beans, and Sumatran beans from the Aceh province.

“My Mama Quilla blend was the second-highest rated in the milk class (lattes, flat whites) against over 750 coffees entered”, said Amelia. “It’s not just Silver, because they give out ten of those. It was second-highest overall.”

In addition to these regions, Amelia sources beans from the Purosa co-operative in Papua New Guinea, and from co-ops in Ethiopia, East Timor, and Colombia.

How many beans will Amelia be processing at any one time?

“It can be anywhere from zero, to two tonnes. And if it’s two tonnes, I’m like, aagghhhhh!” she laughs. “A pallet is about one tonne, and that costs me $10,000, which is a big investment. I can turn around about a tonne a month. It takes me that long because I’m still using my little 5 kilo roaster – I really need to move up to a 20-25 kilo roaster, which I could still run on solar power. But that would cost me $80,000, if I was lucky, and I don’t want to get stuck in the debt cycle again,” Amelia says ruefully.

Beyond her own business, Amelia wants to link up and support women working in the coffee industry across Australia, whether as roasters, growers, or baristas, in the Australian chapter of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance.

You can sample Amelia’s Peruvian Feminino single origin coffee pretty much everywhere in Bellingen; but in Coffs Harbour and Sawtell you need to go to Wholly Cow café in 1st Avenue, Sawtell.

And there you will find that the owners Ricky and Michelle Lee have just launched something that is big internationally, and taking off around Australia, but has not yet made it to the Coffs Coast – until now.

It’s ‘Espresso Sospeso’, or ‘Suspended Coffee’. The concept originated in Naples and has now gone viral, as they say, with over 40 businesses in Victoria, and more than 25 in New South Wales, taking part.

Michelle Lee and Amelia Franklin
Michelle Lee and Amelia Franklin

The basic philosophy is that you are practising a ‘random act of kindness’ to a complete stranger, a person in need of a warm and soothing beverage.

How does it work? Very simply, you buy a coffee for yourself at a participating business (in this region, Wholly Cow) and at the same time buy a ‘suspended coffee’, which will be entered in a register of such purchases.

That suspended coffee can be redeemed by someone in need, who may have just lost their job or otherwise find themselves in financial hardship. They can simply walk into the café and ask for a suspended coffee, which will be provided courtesy of the generosity of the paying customer.

We can hardly have too much kindness and generosity in the world, and this is a great way to build up those reserves.