Dom Ossa and Nick Suggit love talking coffee. They’ll chat to anyone who’ll listen – about flavours, roasting, buying, milling – anything. And always in a way that’s neither patronising nor too technical. It’s why, seven years ago, they started Dawn Patrol Coffee out of Dom’s garden shed in Kangarilla.
“We never expected it to be as big as it was,” Ossa says of the crowds who flocked to the little roastery each weekend. Then covid hit. “Flipping between being a wholesale roaster and a cellar door was getting more and more difficult [to do] on the one site,” he says.
So, Dawn Patrol is moving. “It’s the worst time, but also it’s the right time,” Suggit says, philosophically. In late October the brand will unveil its new space – in a long-vacant warehouse and tasting room in Chandlers Hill. The venue is shared with long-time customers and friends Ben and Sam Watkins of Watkins Family Wine, and the two brands will present a tasting experience side-by-side.
The site sits on a stretch of road separating McLaren Vale from the Adelaide Hills and has stunning panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards. “I don’t know how many times we’ve driven past here and gone, ‘Why isn’t anyone doing something with this building?’” says Ossa.
For the past 50 years, Watkins Family Wine has been a strictly wholesale operation, producing wine for other labels, mainly used in blends. It’s the Adelaide Hills’ biggest winery (in terms of production scale), shifting product by the tanker-load (a minimum order is 10,000 litres). The brand is currently transitioning to a new format, wherein the Watkins brothers will make and present wine under their own name for the first time. The structural change calls for a new focus on customer engagement – i.e. a cellar door.
They first approached Suggit and Ossa more than a year ago with an offer to share the venue. The Watkins had the space – 3000 square metres of it – and were looking for a likeminded partner to move in. The timing wasn’t quite right, but they never gave the idea a hard ‘no’, either. Then, in August of this year, they had a change of heart. “It just clicked,” Suggit says. “We thought, ‘We should ask about that’. And then three weeks later we were in.”
“That’s how we’ve made most of our decisions,” he adds, and Ossa nods. “You get the right gut feeling.”
When Broadsheet visits, the pair are mid-move-in. The warehouse is in chaos and Ossa, Suggit and the Watkins are brainstorming how to move a pair of temperature-controlled shipping containers (for green bean storage) through a narrow doorway and into place. The roaster is being craned in tomorrow.
More than just the furniture and equipment, Ossa and Suggit are making sure the whole Dawn Patrol vibe follows them into the new site. They’re intent on keeping the relaxed approach to coffee (and coffee education) that’s brought them such success.
Dawn Patrol’s presence in the new venue is divided across two offerings. From Friday to Sunday, a walk-up coffee bar will serve three or four single origins and a blend in all the usual ways (cappuccinos, lattes, etc), as well as filter coffee. “All the regular high-end cafe options,” Ossa says.
Once a week, patrons will be invited into the roasting area to join Suggit and Ossa for an in-depth tasting experience, lasting around 40 minutes. “The tasting experience will be Sunday only – back to how it started,” says Suggit. “It’ll be Dom running the tastings, as he did, and myself on the espresso machine.” “It’ll be a ‘no milk’ situation,” he adds.
Tastings will cost $10, redeemable on the purchase of retail coffee beans and other items. There are plans to add outdoor seating and room for food trucks and events.
As for the old site? “Dom gets his garden back,” Suggit says.
Dawn Patrol will open at 59 Grants Gully Road, Chandlers Hill in October.