Down a mural-clad, festoon-lit laneway in Hamilton you can find a passionate local (and recently elected Mayor) busily roasting aromatic coffee beans, serving not only the customers that flock to this much-loved café, but supplying beans to many of the region’s other much-loved coffee spots too.
Roxburgh House is usually a café, providore, event space, bar and restaurant, famous for its wood-fired pizzas and of course, their freshly roasted coffee. At the moment, to meet the demand for take-away coffees and lunches on the go, The Rox has set up shop in the laneway that runs parallel to this historic architectural gem.
Walk past the cabinets full of food, past the coffee sacks hanging from the marquee roof and beyond the mural painted by local artist, Jasmine Mansbridge, and the Roxburgh harbors a secret.
Right here, nestled in a backstreet of Hamilton, huge sacks of pale green coffee beans arrive after being hand-picked from small high-altitude farms in Brazil and Central America, with some beans also making their way from Africa and Ethiopia. They grow like cherries and are sundried for a couple of weeks before being packed and shipped right here, to this hidden gem in Western Victoria, where more and more producers, growers and makers are honing their craft.
“We buy our beans through co-operatives where we know farmers are paid a fair amount for their product,” says Bruach Colliton, owner of Roxburgh House, chief coffee roaster and recently elected Mayor of Southern Grampians Shire.
“Since Coronavirus, we’ve still been able to access the beans, and the domestic market has actually picked up. We send our roasted beans from here in Hamilton to Perth, Hobart and Queensland… all around Australia actually.”
“We supply 10 other small businesses around our local region too – from the Dunkeld Old Bakery to Coleraine’s Catching Pen, the Penshurst Store and Café Gray here in Hamilton. We also supply to the broader Grampians and Great Ocean Road regions too, including Henty and Grampians wineries like Blue Pyrenees Estate, Red Rock Olives up in Pomonal, The Ministry of Ombibulous Studies in Port Fairy, and a couple of cool spots in Geelong; The Aviary and Little Birdy.”
“To reduce waste and work towards a circular economy, we deliver the beans in 5kg reusable drums, which the cafes bring right back to us for us to refill. We have around 40 drums out at any one time across Australia, and they’re swapped out as we need them back here in the roastery, a bit like the old-fashioned way milk bottles were circulated.”
The roasting process is a science, and we didn’t dare distract Bruach as he carefully timed the temperature that the beans reached, monitored the graphs on screen, and picked out any unwanted beans by hand. This attention to detail is applied to every one of the 50kgs of beans that are roasted in a day, with the roaster cranked 2 or 3 times a week to meet demand.
When we talked about the lockdowns and how the Roxburgh has been able to adapt so quickly to the changing restrictions, Bruach was thankful for his passionate staff and supporting family. Bruach reflected on the opportunity he has had to slow down and spend time with his wife and 4 children, but there’s no stopping his entrepreneurial spirit.
“We’re working on some exciting things for the future… new products and some hands-on experiences… so stay tuned!”
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