Cam Price and Joe Pags ran their first cafe, Brooklands Coffee Co., together out of a window on Bondi’s Gould Street. After further success in a Martin Place kiosk they were able to realise their passion for vegan and sustainable food by opening Zeitgeist. Today, their newest venture – Coffee Bondi Beach – occupies a small, 100-year-old retail space, a short walk from where they first began.
Coffee Bondi Beach opened with the aim to become a gathering point where coffee lovers and those interested in sustainable food practices can hang out. It’s also a roastery. “There may be 120 coffee machines in Bondi, but there are no specialty coffee roasters,” Pags says. Price and Pags take customers behind the machine to demonstrate coffee-making techniques. They offer full transparency of their beans’ sources, collaborating with suppliers such as Reuben Hills. They also have an online bean delivery service: MyCOFFEE. They liken it to Netflix for coffee, where customers enter their coffee preferences and receive a weekly bag of beans from the roaster based on what they might like.
The most unique thing about Coffee Bondi Beach is its refusal to use cows’ milk. “The gig is up,” says Pags. “The reality behind the dairy industry is cruelty to animals, significant damage to our planet and negative affects to our bodies.” Pags cites documentaries such as Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives as changing his mind. Instead they use a distinct almond-and-macadamia blend produced at Zeitgeist Mylk Bar, the sister store around the corner. The term “mylk” is uses to describe cows’ milk substitutes. When asked about the information supporting the negative affects of farming almonds, he acknowledges the problems with almond milk but maintains its still better than cows milk. “I agree that all farming takes its toll on the world’s resources. Deforestation is mainly caused by soy farming but this soy is not for humans. It’s for cows to eat. Simply, this is hugely inefficient and that is the fundamental reason that the UN promotes a vegan diet.
Price admits it’s risky business. “Not every cafe has the capacity to give up cows’ milk,” he says. “I don't suggest people drink almond mylk or any nut mylk. In my perfect world everybody would be drinking specialty black coffee. But that is not for me to say. I can only respond to customer demand and at the moment there are more and more customers who are demanding dairy alternatives.”
The interior is minimal, with a Japanese influence. Designer Liam Mugavin commandeered the cafe’s look, collaborating with artisans from Adelaide design collective, Jam Factory. The furniture and floors are American oak, designed to give the impression that the furniture is ‘floating’. Everything inside the store is hand made, from the tiles along the front window, right down to the ceramic mugs and blown glass silos of coffee beans.
There’s also coffee on tap – a lightly sparkling refreshment that tastes halfway between filter and cold brew coffee. Try the Shaken, Not Steamed, a coffee and milk concoction made in a shaker. “At the end of the day, we’re teaching people that coffee can be different,” Pags says.