Who wouldn’t fantasise about living the life of a chic internationalist? Whether it’s zipping through ancient cities on scooters or catching bullet trains to work each day, flitting about on the other side of the world is something plenty of us spend our time dreaming about.
For Talor Browne, it’s now a reality. After working in the Melbourne speciality coffee industry for close to six years, Browne decided to pack up and get going when an old customer contacted her with an offer too good to refuse. “I’d made this guy a coffee once here in Melbourne and from that he contacted me and offered me a job in Paris,” she recalls.
So in March last year, after much packing and many French lessons, Browne came to be living in city of lights and working at Coutume. “It was kind of the first speciality coffee place in Paris. There is an amazing cafe culture there, but the coffee is horrifyingly bad,” laughs Browne. “It’s changing slowly, it’s on its way. The problem is though, people don’t really mind that it’s bad because they’re drinking it in Paris, which is a hard mentality to try and change.”
But a life of early morning boulangerie visits and afternoon walks along the Seine all changed quickly after a chance reunion with Norwegian coffee guru Tim Wendelboe while on holiday.
“I had actually met Tim two years earlier when I was still working at Market Lane. On my way to work I got hit by a taxi, but still went in anyway, because Tim was speaking and Will Studd was doing a cheese tasting, so it wasn’t an opportunity I was going to miss out on!” she laughs. “It was quite funny really, I was bleeding down my leg and had drunk all of this coffee and eaten all of this cheese, but in this hallucinating state I just thought it would be the pinnacle of my career to work for Tim and help him achieve what he's doing. But it was such a pipe dream back then.”
In a rather serendipitous moment, Browne and Wendelboe reunited while both watching a speaker at the Nordic Barista Cup last year and it was then that talk of working together first arose. “Ida, Tim’s manager told me she wanted me to come and work with them and I kind of laughed it off, thinking that it would never happen.” But returning to Paris and finding Coutume in a mid-renovation mess, Browne opened her computer to put on some music to clean up to and “had an email from Tim saying Ida was pregnant and that they wanted me to come and take over for her”.
“It was just the most incredible moment,” she recalls.
Unsure of what to expect and with another language to learn, Browne again packed up her life and hit the road. “I left Paris at sunset and drove past the Eiffel Tower; it was such a cliché movie moment,” she says with a laugh. “I got into Oslo and it was minus 20°C and snowing and it’s been amazing ever since.”
Growing up in rural Victoria, Browne’s original childhood dream had been to open a cafe of her own, but admits things have changed slightly over the years. “All you end up doing is bookwork and that moves away from what I love, which is people.”
But for now, Browne is happily the first female roaster to have ever worked at Tim Wendelboe. “I look at what I do, who I get to work with, the quality of the produce that I get to work with and how receptive our amazing customers are and I just feel so incredibly honoured and lucky. Norwegians are really open-minded and are so willing to listen to what you say. They respect that you’re going to make them something fantastic, because you care about what you do.
“A lot of people in this industry talk about doing things and making a difference and Tim is actually one of the very few people who is going out there and making it happen,” she says. “Working with him is really inspiring. I sound like I've joined a cult and have been drinking the cordial when I talk about my boss, but I just respect him so much.”
Having been with Wendelboe since December of last year, the plan is to stay with it for as long as possible. “I love the simplicity of my life there and I love that I’m learning something new every day in a place that I’d never imagined to be and seeing things that I’ve never seen before.”