When Tom Roden launched Exchange Specialty Coffee, it was a welcome haven in the midst of the bad coffee storm of Rundle Street, circa 2013. It was the first scrubbed-up espresso bar for Adelaide’s East End, at a time when the CBD was still warming to indie operators challenging the franchise set. Coffee Branch was killing it in the West, Please Say Please was just over a month old, and at Paddy’s Lantern the pace was a little lazier, but the brews were en pointe. Ian Callahan had started the ball rolling with Bar 9 back in 2008 – at the time, no more than a tin shed with more grinders than tables – and the specialty coffee movement was starting to make an impact in the city.
Five years on and Exchange is still bustling, having grown both in physical size and influence within Adelaide’s rapidly expanding scene. Roden says his cafe’s success comes from developing “amazing rapport with a huge number of people.” He’s talking about other operators, not just customers. Adelaide’s small footprint means new venues often overlap with another’s stomping ground. But the consensus between traders is that the more high-quality coffee that’s out there, the bigger the market it creates for everyone. “So long as there is mediocrity, there’s always room for something better,” Roden says.
The resurgence of the owner-operator model is the result of consumers reaching out for intimacy and authenticity in a fragmented and chaotic world. Be it the unpretentious simplicity of Fairweather, the candidness of Monday’s Coffee Store or the welcome transparency of Elementary, there’s an increasing sense of connectivity between producer, proprietor and patron.
With a new cafe or coffee roaster appearing every other week, staying relevant can be a challenge. But “we’ve been able to eke out our own niche,” says Roden.
Next week, he invites Adelaide to celebrate his store’s five-year milestone with a special throwback menu of his favourite (food) moments. He hints at an all-star selection of Exchange’s bestsellers: The Mexibreakfast, Boston Beans, Gaudy French Toast, Huevos Rancheros, The Louis and others.
Square Peg Donuts is also making a special comeback, with trays of cream-oozing dough balls available for one day only on Saturday July 7. On Monday July 9 – Exchange’s actual birthday – all coffees will be served with a side of birthday cake, baked by Burnside’s The Village Baker.
Then, on Thursday July 12, grab a bucket of popcorn and a beer, and settle in for a public screening of A Film About Coffee – a documentary that “opens a window into the little-understood world of specialty coffee,” says Roden.
There will also be 10 per cent off retail coffee, brewers and accessories for the duration of the week, plus fifth anniversary tees and totes available until sold out.