Since launching in 2013 and then opening its first hole-in-the-wall coffee spot in 2014, Sydney roastery Will & Co has been a growing public presence in Australia. So it won’t be a surprise to learn the business – founded by a group of mates in 2013 – is as focused on lifestyle as it is producing high-quality cuppas.
“We’ve just launched our new Bondi headquarters,” says Will & Co director Josh Passaro “which was designed by our friends at Alexander & Co” leading Sydney hospitality architects. “It’s a hybrid space designed as a concept store and boutique coffee roastery, its not a café, more of a cellar door for coffee. It will be used for training and education purposes, but also a place for the local community to host workshops and small events. “Will & Co is a coastal lifestyle brand, so the space reflects that with lots of natural light, tonal blues throughout the space, art murals from local artists Chris Nixon and Steve Smith and a unique resin coffee bar.”
That location is especially important for Will & Co, which has a business model focused on neighbourhood and community. “A cafe is very much a pillar of the community,” says Passaro. “It’s the central meeting point for locals, families, meetings and more. We created a bespoke range of crockery for our new headquarters with local ceramicist Splendid Wren which came out of a chance meeting at my local café Porch & Parlour - a top spot in North Bondi who do a great job of neighbourhood and community”. Our headquarters will host a rotating calendar of community engagement initiatives and we’ll open up the space for local artists, charities, and environmental groups to educate the community on sustainability.”
Changes and sustainability
“Sustainability is definitely a topic we’re talking about,” says Passaro. “People are now a lot more interested in where coffee comes from and how its sourced. [For us] it starts by ensuring coffee farmers receive a good price for high quality Arabica, so they can support their communities and practice sustainable farming practices.”
Will & Co also works with community group Transition Bondi to recycle coffee husks and used coffee-grounds for use in a local community garden, and we have a borrow-a-cup program to reduce single-use disposables. “We also support Clean Oceans, which aims to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans, and other local community groups such as Bondi Nippers and One Wave, a local non-profit surf community raising awareness [around] mental health,” says Passaro.
The future … and milk
“[In five to 10 years’ time] we’ll see greater transparency [in terms of] where and how coffee is sourced,” says Passaro. “We'll see filter coffee continue to grow in popularity and cafes will continue to enhance their overall coffee experience, whether that’s making interesting specialty coffee more readily available to consumers, innovative brew methods, filter coffee flights or new specialty coffee drinks such as cold brew twists and coffee tonics.”
And then there are the milk alternatives. Passaro says coffee drinkers are more health-focused than ever before, and that’s shaping their milk choices (in addition to considerations relating to sustainability and animal welfare).
“Good baristas are like sommeliers,” says Passaro. “They’re able to articulate the flavours from different coffee growing regions and have preferred milks they use. We provide recommendations to our clients, but it really comes down to personal preference. This category will only continue to grow with the introduction of new plant-based milks.”
Here’s a guide to what those changes look like from the other side of the coffee machine.
All cow milk is not equal. “When I drink dairy with coffee my preference is Jersey cow milk, which is what we use at the Will & Co headquarters” says Passaro. “It has a higher butterfat content which translates to a fuller flavour.”
Thinner than cow milk but thicker than most plant-based milks, oat milk has a slight nutty aftertaste and an even slighter sweetness, which Passaro says harmonises with the flavour of coffee.
“If I was to recommend a plant-based milk for someone to try for the first time, I’d recommend oat milk,” he says. “It’s probably the closest alternative to dairy with regards to taste, and the consistency works well for baristas. It’s extremely versatile and doesn’t separate when added to espresso. At Will & Co we use a Swedish brand called Oatly, as it stretches well with great consistency and body. Oat milk has exploded in recent years and my prediction is we’ll see oat milk continue to grow in popularity.”
Rare in Australia but growing in popularity due to its health benefits and sustainability, hemp requires very little water and can be grown without pesticides. The milk is made from hemp seeds and has a slightly nutty taste, similar to sunflower and pine nuts. It’s also one of the thinner plant-based milks. “I believe we’ll see hemp milk grow in popularity over the next five years,” says Passaro. “It’s currently not as common here as in some other markets such as the US, so options are limited but give it time”.
The sweetest plant-based milk, almond is far less nutty than you’d imagine and a fair bit thinner. Flavour-wise, it blends with coffee well, but many cafes are shunning it in favour of oat because of sustainability issues – the production of almond milk requires a lot of water.
“Almond has grown in popularity in recent years and I believe a lot of soy drinkers made the transition to almond milk for various health reasons,” says Passaro. “But for those that are health conscious it is important to note that in some almond-milk products the actual percentage of almonds is very small and they can also sometimes have a lot of additives, so it’s important to check the ingredients. The performance of it can vary greatly depending on the brand – our preference is for Milklab.”
Along with oat, soy is probably the easiest plant-based gateway milk due to its neutral flavour, creaminess and protein content, which are both comparative to cow milk. There’s a bit of a nutty taste to it, but it’s not expressed strongly.
“Soy was the most popular plant-based milk for a long time, but as others have grown in popularity, a lot of soy drinkers made the switch to other products, a trend we’ll see continue with new entrants,” says Passaro. “It can tend to curdle with some coffee depending on the origin, [such as] washed African beans, which can be higher in acidity.”
Macadamia milk is a little buttery, but less rich than you’d imagine based on the taste of the nut itself. It’s got a medium thickness and works with all coffee brews reliably. “A number of cafes make their own macadamia milks, which is great,” says Passaro. “We really like Macamilk, an Australian brand that uses macadamias from Byron Bay.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Will & Co.