The Bellissimo Coffee name carries the title of Australia’s highest awarded coffee roaster, but it all began in 2009 with its first cafe and roastery in Fortitude Valley. “It started from humble beginnings,” says retail general manager Fiona Smart. “Three friends thought it would be a good idea to roast and sell coffee.”

In the former Angelo’s Pasta warehouse on Wandoo Street, the three original owners established a small-batch roastery, cafe and barista school. Since then, two of the three – current owners Mark Bignell and Michael Koo – opened two new venues in Brisbane, including an all-day eatery in a converted Bulimba warehouse, and a cafe and roastery headquarters in Coorparoo.

According to Smart, Bellissimo’s success is due to remaining focused on what was there from the start at Fortitude Valley. “You could always rely on getting a good coffee at Bellissimo because, very early on, our owners had that attention to detail to make sure every cup was as good as it could be,” she says. “We’ve always had the best equipment, the processes right from the start in terms of extracting the coffee, and we don’t compromise on the quality of the coffee when it’s busy. We just push harder.”

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While Coorparoo and Bulimba attract large crowds, Bellissimo Fortitude Valley remains a “little workhorse”.

“I don’t think it’s so much about a whole customer and dining experience like at Bulimba,” says Smart. “In the Valley, people just want a good coffee, fast, delivered with warmth and a smile.” Fortitude Valley serves the local coffee drinkers every day from 6am to 6pm, alongside a light brunch menu of chia puddings and brekkie buns, to-go toasties and sweet treats.

The Fortitude Valley location works in its favour, with a sea of familiar faces coming in each day. One customer has his three coffees all dine-in – “he’ll let you know when he wants the next one, and cafe hops between the three [venues],” she says. Another comes in every day, kids in tow or solo, and has a complicated coffee order that every barista makes a point of getting right for her.

Then there are the tradies, office workers, mums with prams, and people who drive 20 minutes out of their way for a Bellissimo coffee and a chat. “For us, it takes us out of the hectic moment we’re in – we might have 30 coffees on order in front of us, but when somebody says ‘hey, how are you today, guys?’ you get to have a little moment, a laugh, and then get back into it,” says Smart.

While the coffee is award-winning, having the best milk options is a high priority. “We will blind test everything before we make any changes,” says Smart. “[To use something new], it has to be better than what we’re using, and it has to be a competitive product in the market. But it comes down to flavour.”

Bellissimo opts for two of Alternative Dairy Co’s plant-based milks. “We want it to look pretty as well as taste amazing,” says Smart. “Almond milk can overpower the flavour of the coffee, so there needs to be a good balance,” which is why the team opts for Alternative Dairy Co’s almond milk, which is subtle while still providing flavour and silkiness. “And the oat milk from Alternative Dairy Co is creamy and complements the flavour of the coffee nicely.”

And should a customer want an extra-hot coffee, Smart says Alternative Dairy Co delivers. “You’re trying to manage a few different variables, so we need a consistent product that the baristas can work with,” she says. “With Alternative Dairy Co we just have a stable product that is good for any temperature and is also good with our cold drinks range, like our smoothies.”

The next big move for Bellissimo Coffee will see the Fortitude Valley hotspot undergo a renovation this year. But before the local diehards arc up, Smart says it will maintain its simplicity, “similar to what we’re doing, but we’ll be able to do it better”.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Alternative Dairy Co.