To create a coffee blend entirely from Colombian coffee beans. Cafetal owes its existence to this simple pursuit, which is more unusual than you might think.
“A lot of roasters think you can’t make a blend out of just Colombian coffee,” Cafetal owner Andres Rodriguez says. “They usually use about 40 or 60 per cent Colombian coffee because it’s really balanced and sweet. But they’ll blend it with a bit of robusta or African or Central American coffee, to give it a strong punch.”
Rodriguez is uniquely qualified to change people’s minds. He was born in the Colombian coffee-growing region of Quindio, and his grandfather was a coffee farmer. He studied agricultural engineering at university in Colombia, before moving to Australia in 2008 to study English, management and business. For eight years he’s had a coffee import business, Crop Del Monte, which sells to roasters such as Dramanti, Salt Coffee Roasters and Black Sheep. He says Colombia’s diverse geography produces a much greater variety of beans than the country is sometimes given credit for.
“Some regions are super volcanic and those coffees are rich and you can taste it, but others are over two kilometres above sea level and those coffees are aromatic and fresh … I [import] about 15 different coffees, and I wanted to show roasters that they could make a Colombian blend if they use the right beans.”
With Cafetal, Rodriguez is also doing it himself. He opened his roastery and cafe in an East Brisbane warehouse in May, just as the coronavirus pandemic was kicking into top gear.
“I needed a place to store beans, roast samples and do quality control,” Rodriguez says. “But the location had potential so we thought, ‘Let’s open a small bar to do takeaway’ … In May I received a big shipment of coffee, just as a lot of roasters were starting to close down. And it was a case of finding something to do with it. We needed to generate cash flow. We had the roaster, we had the beans. We had the machines. ‘Let’s do this!’”
Cafetal occupies an eye-catching corrugated warehouse on Overend Street, formerly home to a stainless-steel manufacturer. Rodriguez has knocked out a couple of offices, installed some plumbing and turned a front windowed area into a coffee bar. It’s very much angled towards grab-and-go, but there’s also a cosy seating area among the sacks of beans if you want to stick around a while.
At the bar, espresso, V60 and cold brew are all available, alongside hot chocolate and chai from Ballarat’s Grounded Pleasures. Cafetal’s go-to blend, Overend, incorporates beans from two different farms in Colombia’s Santander and Huila regions. It’s backed by single origins and Cafetal’s Exotica Series, which Rodriguez created in collaboration with individual farms to control for variables such as time, temperature, oxygen and water. All coffee can be bought by the bag, along with alternative milks, equipment and accessories.
While conceived to solve a problem, Cafetal also helps fill a slight supply gap in Brisbane’s coffee scene between East Brisbane and Woolloongabba. To the west is Allpress Espresso and the Logan Road precinct beyond, and a couple of blocks north there’s a small strip of eateries that includes Pawpaw. But head east and it’s mostly residential until you hit Norman Creek.
“People have been really surprised by the product, and that’s led to a lot of word of mouth,” Rodriguez says. “Our neighbours have been amazing. When we opened in the first week, people turned up with plants. People started turning up with presents. We even had a couple do a planter box. It’s been a great experience.”
15 Overend Street, East Brisbane
Mon to Sat 7am–12.30pm