Since the establishment of the first Buderim coffee farms in the 1870s, which soon became Queensland’s leading coffee growing area by 1911, the Sunshine Coast seems to have had an ongoing love affair with the bitter bean. Over time, however, the farms have slowly disappeared, but not our love for coffee.
With each cup improving on the last, our taste buds have become attuned to distinct flavours that conjure up words like ‘full-bodied’, ‘chocolaty’, ‘earthy’, ‘nutty’, ‘bitter’ which leads us to what kind of ‘finish’ we are left with to determine whether a coffee is good or not.
As local business owners, John and Maree Ratcliffe have discovered, coffee is not just a drink, it’s a journey.
Raised in New Zealand, John and Maree met, married and moved to Sydney, Australia where John worked in recruitment and Maree in product management and marketing. They frequently visited their favourite Gloria Jeans cafe and became enthusiastic coffee lovers.
After six years living in Sydney and with a new baby, they decided they would like to better plan for their future so they looked into the option of owning a Gloria Jeans franchise. Within two months of enquiring, they had packed up their bags and moved to the Sunshine Coast to run the new Gloria Jeans on Buderim.
That was eight years ago. During that time, they have inadvertently become local heroes, though they would not see it that way.
For John and Maree, working for a living includes loving what you do and putting your whole self into the business and community. In the early stages of their new business, they decided to regularly deliver coffee to the teachers at the local school. It was happily welcomed and very quickly spread to fundraising for the local chappy.
Maree’s parents had always supported local school chaplains as she was growing up, so supporting Chappy Dave was very natural when they saw the wonderful work he was doing and how much he meant to the children at Buderim State School. They were able to help cover the federal funding gap in excess of $23000 last year. The overwhelming support from community businesses have ensured that Buderim State School will keep their Chappy.
The Ratcliffe’s have recently taken another step in their coffee journey. After selling their franchise, they have opened their own coffee shop, Evolution Espresso situated at the Chancellor Park marketplace.
“We have learnt so much about coffee and we are still learning,” says John. “Having our own coffee shop means we have more control over what we sell. Maree has a passion for baking and we have been able to stock her delicious home-made treats as well as sourcing coffee from all over the world.”
Their main source of coffee beans is Clean Skin Coffee situated in Brendale, QLD. Clean Skin coffee appealed to John and Maree because of the close relationship the owners have directly with the coffee farms from where the beans are purchased.
Buying direct has the advantage of knowing exactly which farms the beans come from which keeps good quality control as well as being fair to the farm workers.
The beans are received between two to four days after being roasted in Brisbane and are so fresh that each day brings a different flavour from the bean.
“Two or three days can make a huge difference to the taste,” says John, “for example, our house blend on day seven is smooth but has predominantly fruity flavours with a hint of chocolate, however on day twelve after it has had more time for the carbon dioxide to taper off it has subtle fruity flavours and a beautiful full-bodied chocolaty taste.”
John and Maree also offer single origin coffee with beans from all around the world. They were recently delighted with the beans from Yemen which they describe as ‘wild and winy with a rich body’. The Guatemalan New Oriente single origin is described as ‘incredibly smooth with a lovely brown sugar and butterscotch after taste’, and the Brazil Daterra Monte Cristo is ‘rich smooth and nutty with flavours of milk chocolate’.
As much as they love coffee, it is the people they come in contact with on a daily basis that are more important to them. Their heart motivation is very evident as they continue to explore the coffees of the world while also exploring different ways to support the local community.
(c)Rebecca Moore 2013
First published in the Good Life Magazine Summer 2013