Founded in 2009, Sydney coffee roaster Beancraft Coffee has been steadily accruing a small but passionate following for its specialty-grade coffee blends and origins.
Its excellence in roasting earned recognition at the 2012 and 2020 Golden Bean Awards.
Recently it has branched out with an offering of specialty teas and a curated collection of coffee brew gear and bundles. Take away the bells and whistles though, and Beancraft Coffee is built on solid foundations: a love for excellent coffee and the technical expertise to produce it.
Beancraft is a third wave coffee roaster, and its philosophy can be better understood with some context about the coffee industry. The first wave of coffee hit our shores in the middle of the 20th century: coffee became commonplace, mass-produced, and was mainly of the drip brew and instant variety. It was a mere vehicle for caffeine, the chemical that allows many people to become functional in the morning. The second wave gave rise to large cafe chains in the 70s; think Starbucks and Costa Coffee. Coffee was no longer just a commodity, coffee shops became social places. Espresso based drinks like the frappuccino became popular but there still wasn’t much distinction in quality or flavour.
In the third wave, which we are currently experiencing, coffee is an artisanal product; there is a focus on micro-roasting and culinary appreciation.
Beancraft’s founder, Anee does not believe in underestimating the average Australian consumer, a mistake he says is common. ‘Lots of roasters like to inundate customers with jargon to seem intellectual. They focus more on branding and less on how good their coffee is. But Australian coffee culture is highly sophisticated and we trust consumers to see through the fluff. If you focus on excellence, other things will follow.’
Anee believes the Australian consumer is better placed to understand and appreciate quality coffee. ‘This has enabled our coffee industry to grow faster than the rest of the world. This is a hypercompetitive environment; it fuels innovation. And it’s propelled us further than the rest of the world.’
Beancraft is proud to be a small family business — a team which collectively possesses backgrounds in marketing, risk management, and finance. Its members, self-proclaimed ‘coffee nerds,’ are united by a passion for the beverage. Anee says, ‘There’s infinite possibilities within the industry, because it’s at the intersection of art and science. You need a philosophy, but you have to apply science to realise it.’
Anee’s fascination with coffee began at a young age, when his family took him to visit the coffee farms they owned in South India at the time. He didn’t fall in love with the beverage itself until his university days. Later, despite finding success in a risk management career, Anee felt a growing pull towards the coffee industry. ‘Roasting gives me the chance to create something I can touch and feel. I can see firsthand how our work brings joy to people. It’s incredibly satisfying.’ He says this is how he came to christen his coffee; in his own words, he went ‘from bean counting (risk management) to bean crafting.’
Beancraft also places a great emphasis on responsible agricultural practices, and this means having a direct line of contact to coffee growers. However, Anee is skeptical of the efficacy of fair trade practices, which supposedly ensure growers are paid a living wage. ‘As a consumer, when you see that fair trade stamp on your coffee box, you feel good. But we need to do our due diligence: how transparent are your favourite coffee roaster’s business practices?’
In reality, the importers — the middlemen — take a sizable cut of the possible profit. Fair trade in recent years has gone through a cycle of being sensationalised as the antidote to unsustainable business practices, and being discredited for not being advantageous to farmers or ensuring any tangible benefits. Small farms often can’t afford to get fair trade certified, and there is no guarantee that those who do get the certification will enact substantial changes within their business. Farms then often have to compromise on the quality of coffee because they have paid a high price for certification.
‘The key to all this is transparency,’ Anee says. ‘How are the bodies who provide these certifications enabling roasters to produce high quality coffee while also ensuring benefits for farmers?’
Anee is more optimistic about the direct trade model, in which middlemen are cut out. However, this does not come without its caveats. Buying directly from a farm means buying huge amounts of produce, which is beneficial for large roasters, but extremely impractical for small roasters. Anee says, ‘Larger companies need to take initiative, because for them, this is actually feasible as they require a large volume of beans.’
How does Beancraft circumvent this issue? Anee’s strategy is to focus on quality and provide a higher price to farmers to ensure a higher incentive for producing excellent coffee. But it is his opinion that direct trade needs to be regulated and standardised. ‘Only then can roasters articulate the positive effect of their practices to consumers with transparency.’
When building a business, Anee believes in putting the customer at the heart of everything. ‘Everything has to align with your business philosophy. There is always an opportunity to take shortcuts to make a good buck. But I make sure to bond with like-minded people who believe in integrity when it comes to business.’
In creating Beancraft’s most beloved house blend, Enchanté, Anee says he wanted to craft a signature blend that would represent the entire coffee industry. Enchanté consists of beans from the three main coffee regions worldwide, each individually roasted to bring out their unique strengths and nuances. The next step, he says, was to balance all three. Anee is a believer in post-blending. ‘When creating a new blend, you have to be aware of the upsides and limitations of the origin of each bean, and think about what end result you’re trying to achieve. What makes for a good cup of coffee?’ In Beancraft’s case, the answer seems to be a love for excellence, the joy of creating an artisanal product from scratch, and the courage to strike out on your own.
So what’s next for Beancraft? Anee says he plans to open a retail outlet and move to a larger premises, and as always, discover and master new frontiers in coffee roasting.