17 Karen Avenue, Mermaid Beach
Sometimes in life we will find ourselves at a crossroads, with the decision we make dramatically shaping the rest of our lives. For Alex Winter, that decision was a debate between wine or coffee, New York or Bali, the fast lane or grass roots. Luckily for the Gold Coast, he chose the latter, and embarked on a journey that has now lead to him opening KoKo Coffee Roasters, a boutique coffee roaster, wholesaler and retail outlet in Mermaid Beach.
I’m greeted into KoKo Coffee Roasters by owner Alex with a laid back smile and the offer of a cold filter coffee made on Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans, revealing his magic powers extend beyond great coffee to also psychically knowing exactly what I wanted.
Occupying a great space in the industrial area of Mermaid Beach, wedged between 19KAREN art gallery on one side and the new The Borrowed Nursery on the other, KoKo Coffee Roasters keeps things industrial with its fit-out. Small design accents dotted around as though in homage to its creative neighbours. A beautiful, custom built matte black La Marzocco machine sits front and centre on the bench, itching to make you a coffee, whilst the Roaster is visible in the background.
What makes KoKo Coffee Roasters a point of difference is that they are open to the public and anyone can come in, try the coffee and take home some beans stamped with their logo of a crown wearing bear cradling a hot coffee as “our coffee helps to bring out your inner grizzly!” Alex informs me.
Alex’s love of coffee started from a very young age when he snuck an espresso before school one day and was immediately hooked. Fast forward a few years and it was this love of coffee that perhaps drove him to forgo an internship with Wine Marketing Australia in New York for an AYAD exchange working in an Australian aid development program in Bali.
“I had to make a tough decision, and thankfully it was the right one,” Alex informs me. He discusses his work with the women who would grow and pick their own coffee beans, moving them from selling their produce to a co-op for whatever price they could obtain to roasting the beans themselves, packaging and selling their own brand.
He also became involved in micro-enterprise, assisting villages with small loans and practical training to improve their operation and business. These rural villages were roasting their beans using primitive techniques, so Alex taught them to roast properly, declaring: “That’s where my love of roasting came from.”
After 18 months, Alex came home and added a Master of International Business to his Wine Marketing and Business Degrees and took off again this time to Bangkok where he worked for the UN in the Office of Drugs and Crime, primarily dealing with Human Trafficking. It was here that another fork in his path appeared: whether he remained in Bangkok, or come back to the Gold Coast and roast coffee. Clearly the allure of our golden beaches was understandably too much to pass up, and so KoKo Coffee Roasters was born.
Every cup of KoKo Coffee that you consume comes with the knowledge that each bean was handpicked by Alex, who has visited many coffee farms around the world, selecting the very best for his venture. Researching where to go, he recently embarked on a three week trip around Brazil, visiting five farms in three weeks and bringing what he learned home, essentially completing the circle of speciality coffee from the farmer with their green beans, to the buyer, the roaster, the barista and finally to the consumer.
“It was a magical experience. I learned a lot, made some fantastic connections and tasted some fantastic coffees,” he enthuses.
With quality being of paramount importance, Alex spent many days considering the beans and on the cupping table perfecting the two KoKo coffee blends. The Bear Hug is mellow, with flavours of milk chocolate and nougat. The espresso I sample has a woody scent with mild tannins that build with each sip along with a flavour of dark cherry. In piccolo form the Bear Hug is perfection, with a beautiful aroma and the sweeter caramel and nougat flavours being enhanced by the milk.
KoKo Coffee’s Dehibernator blend is bolder, with punchier flavours of toffee and dark chocolate, which Alex says is more suited to the GC market as we like our coffee “with a bit of oomph”, which is exactly what I experience when digging into a short macchiato of the blend. Sharply scented with notes of almond, bites of citrus permeate the flavour of the coffee with banana and the gloriously bitter dark chocolate rounding out the experience.
If you are interested in coffee and strike up a conversation with Alex, it’s easy to find yourself lost in the discussion as his passion and knowledge seems boundless where his favourite topic is concerned. In discussing the coffee scene on the Gold Coast his eyes light up with excitement.
“It’s booming, it’s fantastic!
“More and more people are growing to appreciate good coffee, they are seeking out new places and hunting down good coffee.”
Currently, open to the public from 6:30am to 1:00pm Monday through Friday, and 7:00am to 1pm on Saturday, make some time to drop by KoKo Coffee Roasters, become lost in the great coffee and unleash your inner grizzly.