11 April 2024

From beans to brews: Gerringong specialty coffee roaster’s 15-year journey to elevate South Coast's coffee culture

| Kellie O'Brien
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Daily Grind Coffee

Daily Grind Coffee started roasting its blends 15 years ago. Photo: Supplied.

Starting with a couple of beans in the basement of a cafe in Gerringong, coffee roaster Daily Grind Coffee embarked on a mission 15 years ago to elevate specialty coffee on the South Coast, filling a void in an era dominated by major coffee chains.

This endeavour birthed the renowned Werri Blend, now a staple in the region’s coffee scene.

When Pat Hoptman moved to Gerringong from Sydney with his young family in 2009, he met chef John Svinos from Gerringong Deli Cafe who he’d got to know through Sydney trade shows.

“He wanted to branch out from the kitchen and explore the world of coffee and coffee roasting, and he ended up just doing some roasting for himself within the cafe,” Pat said.

“As soon as I arrived in Gerringong, he said, ‘Well, you work in the coffee industry and you’ve come down here; I want to get into the coffee industry, how about we do something together?’”

John roasted the handcrafted coffee blends, while Pat took to the road sourcing new business for wholesale and retail distribution.

“Together we just struck up a friendship as well as a partnership and that’s how we started,” he said.

John recently retired from the business and Richard “Ricky” De Lorenzo, a well-respected roaster in Sydney who joined the business 10 years ago, has now become Pat’s business partner.

Many of the blends have familiar South Coast names, but it’s most renowned blend, the Werri Blend, was the first.

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“It’s the one that people know us most for,” he said.

“When the Royal Easter Show came along, for a few years we entered the competition in coffee and we would always enter the Werri Blend.

“It’s been synonymous with the one that gets the most attention and the most awards, so it is a popular blend of ours.”

He said other blends included the Seven Mile Blend as a nod to Gerroa, and the newer Five Islands Blend, which was a slightly darker reserve blend with hazelnut and caramel tones.

“Both of us agreed there wasn’t much quality coffee on the South Coast back then,” he said.

“There really was only the big players delivering coffee which were traditionally from the Italian style roasts.

“So we were bringing down a kind of coffee which was synonymous with the new wave of coffee, which was not roasting the hell out of it, just actually getting the flavours from it and educating the market.

“It was really bringing specialty coffee to the forefront of the South Coast.

“I think that’s probably where our motivation stemmed from because I had coffee experience in Sydney.”

Today, they service accounts from Sydney to the Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands, with customers in Sydney opting for their coffee so as to stand out and serve something unique.

“Once we got going, we managed to grow quite quickly in those early days, particularly because there wasn’t that many options,” he said.

“I guess the other advantage is I’m local and available, and that means a lot in coffee when you’re in trouble and you run out of product, you’ve got problems with the coffee, or you need training for your staff.”

Today, he admits there’s “a bit more choice now than there ever was before” through new South Coast coffee roasters popping up.

However, he said their customers returned due to leveraging off their knowledge and experience to drive coffee sales, extending the relationship further than simply being a supplier.

“Coffee is kind of a special relationship because it’s just not finished yet, they still have to make it and get that right,” he said.

“John and I, when we started the business, we delivered the coffee ourselves, which was fine.

“As we grew, it became a bit more pressured to be able to deliver the coffee ourselves, just because of the flow of the week and not having a lot of staff, but we’ve actually maintained that until even today and now we’re just not going to change that.

“We’re never going to have someone that doesn’t work in the business to deliver the coffee that doesn’t understand what to do if there’s a question or an issue at the other end.

“We have no intention of being a big business.”

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High grade beans are sourced from Indonesia, Africa and South America with direct trade relationships with farmers and growers within those locations.

“It’s high-grade Arabica beans mainly, so we deal with the top end of the market which is called specialty coffee,” he said.

“So we pay more for our coffee but we get a better quality product to deal with.”

Pat said he had witnessed changes in coffee consumption since starting the business through different styles and types of coffee, and alternative milks playing a huge part now.

“I think all our blends seem to do OK, but I really feel like this Dark Reserve is the fastest growing blend,” he said.

“My instincts are telling me we’re going back to the days where the coffee was a bit more satisfying and had a bit more punch or said something – not too mild, not too weak.”

Within the roastery, they have a small section for people to buy beans for home or a cup of coffee, but were now looking to set up a small eatery on a mezzanine level and space for people to watch the roasting happening.

Learn more about Daily Grind Coffee.

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Pat is a hunk!!

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