Craft’d Grounds might be keen to talk up the upcoming arrival of superstar Sydney roastery Seven Miles at its flash new Albion lifestyle and food precinct, but you could argue it’s Ben Graham who’s the real prize.
Graham is part of the old guard of Brisbane’s specialty coffee scene, having previously been involved in One Drop and The Single Guys before founding Parallel Roasters, one of this city’s best-regarded boutique roasters. Earlier this year, though, he sold the Sumner operation before moving across to Seven Miles to become its Queensland operations manager.
“Parallel is still out there doing great things, but it was maybe time for me to focus on family and those sorts of things, and the opportunity came to sell,” Graham says. “I wanted an expanded role in a bigger company that has a lot of different departments. You just need to look at the Coffee Science & Education Centre Seven Miles has in Manly and all the material that’s being pumped out of that place. It’s just being able to take my experience of coffee to another level, which you can’t quite achieve when you’re doing it all yourself.”
Graham will be heading up Seven Miles’ new 400-square-metre roastery and coffee bar, which is a key tenant in Craft’d Grounds’ refurbished Albion timber mill. Sitting alongside the roastery in the 2600-square-metre precinct will be a restaurant, brewpub, patisserie, fromagerie and fitness facility. The venue will feature floor-to-ceiling glass walls and an open seating plan, allowing visitors to witness the roastery in action, as well as a dedicated training space for masterclasses, public cuppings and barista-art competitions.
“We’re definitely one the anchors alongside the brewery,” Graham says. “Together, we take up about 80 per cent of that bottom floor.”
This isn’t the first Brisbane outpost for Seven Miles, which up until recently had a roastery in Newstead, where it invented its super popular The Cat’s Pyjamas blend. Roasting for the Queensland market has temporarily fallen back to Sydney while Craft’d Grounds gets up and running, but Graham says the local focus will remain.
“I was surprised how sophisticated the Queensland coffee palate is,” he says. “They do like a more delicate, more complex and smoother style of coffee … there’s a huge heritage in Sydney and Melbourne of that old-school dark Italian style coffee that’s still popular but doesn’t really have a foothold up here. It’s really interesting. Although we have that offering up here, it’s not our core product.
“The Cat’s Pyjamas actually became so popular up here that there are cafes down south that have demanded it and used it. It’s broken out of Queensland … But [Seven Miles] is not trying to force what they do down in Sydney into what we’re doing up here.”
Seven Miles Albion is also a bit of a homecoming for Graham in a couple of ways. He once lived around the corner from Seven Miles’ Manly roastery when the company was still called Belaroma. But he also previously owned and operated the Parallel Roasters cafe on the ground floor of The Hudson on Hudson Road right in the guts of the suburb.
“That space, for many reasons, was probably the wrong time and wrong place,” Graham says. “But in the last couple of years this area has gone crazy, it’s great … I didn’t normally come this side of town, I live out at Moggill. So I was quite surprised when I came to start the role and the place was heaving with distilleries and fashion shops. It’s not just car yards anymore.”
Seven Miles Albion will open to the public in October.