The unbent highway flanked by boulder sized termite mounds dissolves into the distant horizon.
A white Toyota Hiace roars into view, a cloud of black smoke trailing in its wake.
The slightly sun burnt driver grips the steering wheel with white knuckles, whilst his future wife hovers above the passenger seat which is spewing black smoke from the under-seat engine. Fear in her eyes and a fire extinguisher in her hands.
“How far till the next town?!”
“200km, give or take”
“Hold it together, we can do this”
That was the reality of our adventures north along the majestic west coast of Australia. It is a picturesque place to travel, with ‘Wild West’ invoking scenery that feels almost like a movie set. All it took was a small oil leak to completely unravel that fairytale, needless to say I am better at making coffee than I am at mechanics.
Our only soundtrack in the camper was a triple disc 90’s hit compilation album with Seal, Mr Big and Vanilla Ice as highlights, it provided endless entertainment. The journey was dramatic but fun, there were so many amazing sights including the Pinnacles Desert, home to thousands of limestone pillars, the alien-like space scape they create is breathtaking.
Another astonishing sight was less planned, as we drove a long stretch of straight road there appeared to be an effervescent shimmering cloud in the distance. It mesmerised me, and my intrigue urged me to speed up towards this glittering mass. My wonder turned to horror in an instant as the sight I had assumed to be an angelic trick of the light turned out to be a swarm of locusts. As hundreds upon hundreds of them crashed against the windscreen both me and the future Mrs Hatch Coffee screamed. Another stark reminder that we were still in Australia.
Now the immediate dilemma we were facing was actually two fold. One, we were running out of money and two, we were running out of time. We initially tried to kill two birds with one stone by acquiring agricultural work along the way, this would have allowed us to extend our working holiday visas. We kept being in the wrong place at the wrong time, too early or too late in the season for the areas we were passing through. We made it as far as Broome and decided to settle there for a while, a remote town with epic beaches, the tourist season there was just beginning so it was an ideal time to find work. We quickly moved into a campsite and after a brief safety talk about the sea crocodiles we were off on the job hunt. Claire instantly secured a unique role as a camel photographer. I was also able to secure a fantastic and exciting job as a barista with Kimberly Coffee, however it was only part-time so I was forced to top up my income as a kitchen hand in the Australian version of KFC, a takeaway named Chicken Treat! I’ve avoided entering chicken restaurants since this trip.
Working for Kimberly Coffee Company gave me great insight about the multifaceted world of coffee. I learnt about the roasting processes, from green coffee all the way to the perfect espresso, this job taught me a lot. I ran their market stall outlet on busy market days, working clean and fast was essential as the stall was manic and every customer had a unique order. These days when you see me working in Hatch Coffee you will notice there is a smooth and precise order to everything I do, being able to chat to customers whilst making perfect drinks at high speed takes a lot of practice. I learnt those skills on that market stall, totally exposed in temperatures pushing 40 degrees it wasn’t an easy job but it continued to ignite my interest in coffee.
We had some great times in Broome and were able to save up enough money to fund an amazing time in South East Asia before heading back to the UK. Looking back, when I arrived in Australia I was seeking adventure, what I actually found was an interest and knowledge in coffee that has changed the course of my life. I still had a great deal more to learn before I was ready to open Hatch Coffee. Stay tuned.
The journey to Albany was an epic adventure, the highlights were varied and I could talk about them all day so pop by Hatch Coffee in person for a brew if you want to know more details… the abbreviated highlights are:
Climbing a 58 metre tree with no health or safety considerations whatsoever. The future Mrs Hatch Coffee bailed on this one and waited at the bottom as I scaled the Gloucester tree, a former fire look-out point, only to realise when I reached the top that she still had the camera.
Seeing a troop of wild kangaroos hop by as we brushed our teeth at the side of the road before bed. This was a great accidental wildlife sighting.
Realising quite how small the world is as we bumped into so many people that we had a connection with, including the guy that originally converted our new camper van.
Walking a stretch of the Bibbulmun track, it was such a great walk even the snakes didn’t put us off.
We arrived in Albany on Anzac Day which unknown to us at the time is a big public holiday in Australia. It was the biggest town we had stopped in for a long time and we both had our hearts set on a wonderful breakfast cooked in an independent cafe with endless supplies of great coffee. Alas it was not to be as pretty much everywhere that looked interesting was closed due to the public holiday. I never understood why people closed businesses on a bank holiday until I started running a business of my own; I’m definitely not work shy but it is really important even in the hospitality industry to get a day off every now and then! That is why we decided to close Hatch on weekends and bank holidays and make sure that we had some balance between hard work and play.
Anyway back to the adventures….
The weather was wild and the sea was crashing against the rocks so we spent most of our time in Albany eating Anzac biscuits and planning our route back north to warmer weather … we were starting to run out of funds again and needed to find work fairly soon. I was torn between pursuing a job which would enhance my new found love of coffee and finding some agricultural work which would allow me and the future Mrs Hatch Coffee to extend our working holiday visas. Find out what we ended up doing in the next update….
Our new adventure partner, Seymour the campervan, was well travelled. To say that this guy had issues would be a massive understatement, but that just made us love him even more. From leaky fuel tanks to smoking oil leaks, there were many challenges to contend with.
On the whole, as you would expect, life as an adventurer was pretty easy going. When we first got Seymour we were on the west coast of Australia, just south of Perth. Our first major decision was simple – which direction to head in, north or south. To save any further debate and to avoid future disappointment we choose to do both, first looping south to explore the tastes and treats that this diverse region has to offer. We unfolded our map and planned a route south to Albany, a mere 608km away, and off we went.
Having the flexibility and time to stop off anywhere that takes your fancy is one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. To be able to stay another day when you stumble across an unexpected beauty spot or just quickly stop off for a pie in a one horse town, this total feeling of freedom was a pure delight.
Our lifestyle was relaxed and routines were out of the window but I still relied on the essential caffeine boost of a cup of coffee to start my day. Our eco-cups were the most used item in the van, although I do have to admit that in rural camping spots I was still forced to rely on making a cup of instant. This made it even more enjoyable when we found a coffee shop that really stood out from the crowd, a great independent coffee shop never fails to put a smile on my face and along our route there were a number of little coffee gems to be found. We stumbled across countless independent cafes and coffee bars that kept us fuelled for our adventures and I continued to learn from every drink. Frequenting a wide range of coffee shops helped me to learn about great coffee, it also allowed me to see what made a place stand out from the crowd as an outstanding independent business. All of this knowledge eventually went into forming the key principals behind Hatch Coffee.
Long goodbyes and farewell drinks a plenty, we departed Melbourne with heavy hearts but high expectations. We planned to head west to experience life on the road as ‘backpackers’, but first a quick pit stop in Tasmania.
Travelling and sleeping in a Nissan Micra was not the most sensible or comfortable way to see this beautiful island but with such fantastic sights to see it was well worth it. Highlights of Tasmania included:
- Knocking on a Wombats bottom (this may sound bizarre if you know nothing about wombats yet as I discovered wombats have a very hard bone plate in their bottom so that if they are chased by a predator they can stick their head in a hole and use their bum to block the entrance for safety – genius!)
- Seeing a real life Tasmanian devil (Nothing like the cartoon)
- Climbing Cradle Mountain, a very cold but scenic adventure!
It wasn’t all highlights though, Tasmania was also the home of the worst cappuccino I tasted in the whole of Australia. I won’t name and shame the cafe responsible for this disastrous, over heated, frothy excuse for a coffee; I will say that it is important in life to experience and understand when something is really wrong in order to be able to recognise and create something truly brilliant. Learning to appreciate coffee is often about knowing when something isn’t quite right!
The next leg of our journey began with a cross country flight to Perth. At this point we were feeling flush from our zoo savings and convinced ourselves that buying a camper van was a great idea. We were right. Our first van viewing introduced us to a peculiar gentleman that pre-warned us not to worry about the smell inside, explaining that he had recently butchered a kangaroo in the back to feed to his dogs. He assured us that the smell would soon fade; we quickly thanked him for his time and made our excuses. After plenty of duds we were beginning to feel rather dejected, but on a sunny day in a nondescript Fremantle carpark we met ‘Seymour’.
Seymour was an ex-australian telecoms van, he had more miles on the clock than the distance from earth to the moon and had been lovingly converted to include everything that we needed. It was love at first sight. The following weeks would see my coffee brewing skills pushed to new limits – we often found ourselves stranded in the rural outback with nothing more than instant coffee and Coffeemate as a milk substitute, but storms draw something out of us that calm seas don’t.
To be continued…….
A new year meant getting a new job. I had spent my Christmas camping with friends along the Great Ocean Road, there had been many an adventure including a slightly drunken walk home on which I thought I was being approached by a rather aggressive looking wild dog. As it got closer I began to freak out until I realised it was actually a wild Koala, an amazing sighting. Returning to Melbourne it seemed fitting that my next role would involve working in close quarters with them (Koalas not dogs).
Both future Mrs Hatch Coffee and I secured positions at Melbourne Zoo, working for a catering contractor, Liberty Catering. My past experiences of zoo catering in the UK led me to expect tinned burgers and instant coffee, but thankfully my initial predictions were erroneous. The company did everything in house and they actually had real chefs! They had their own bakery, a bistro and most importantly several high end coffee outlets spread around the zoo. It was in one of these said outlets, ironically a small wooden hut, were I cut my teeth as a fledgling barista. Being a complete novice I was constantly pestering my peers with questions and day by day my confidence grew.
I loved every minute of working in that coffee hut, it was located right next to the Meerkat enclosure so there was always plenty to see. We were desperately trying to save as much money as possible ready for our onward adventures so I would take every available shift; this meant that I would get to work with a multitude of colleagues. I met some amazing people and some very skilled barista’s, each one would have their unique style and idiosyncrasies; all of this informed my own style and to this day I still incorporate certain mannerisms I learned in that hut. Although the biggest lesson that I took away with me was that Meerkats like to be sprinkled with cold water on a hot day.
Leaving Melbourne, and my job at the zoo, was a bittersweet experience. I had been given the opportunity to meet some amazing people who had helped to further ignite my passion for coffee. It was a tough decision to move on but in the end we decided that the world is a big place, full of adventure, and we needed to continue to explore it.
To be continued……
I’m sure, since the first instalment of my blog over two years ago you’ve been waiting with baited breath to hear what will happen next. I apologise for my tardiness as I am not as consistent with my writing skills as I am with my coffee making, but I intend on changing that.
I imagine blogging is just like learning to ride a bike. It’s all fun and games, until your cousin lets go when he promised not to and you end up with a hole in your lip. Thanks Stephen!
Anyway where was I? Ah, so me and the future Mrs Hatch Coffee arrived in Melbourne in search of adventure and after buying our first round of drinks instantly realised that our assumed plentiful savings were in fact considered ‘pocket change’ in our new local.
Going door to door with CV in hand I managed to secure a role at the Beach Comber in St Kilda as a waiter. It was less than minimum wage, but work was work. During this role I was to wait tables but was forbade to look at, let alone touch the espresso machine. This honour was reserved for the “barista”.
The definition of a barista is a person who makes and serves coffee (such as espresso) to the public, but this description lacks the ethereal elements that are incomprehensible to the average onlooker.
What I witnessed on my first day was an individual who had great pride in his work, striving for perfection with every beverage put on the pass. The bell would ring to signal a drink order was ready and I was consistently enamoured by what I was presented with.
I left my job at the Beach Comber on Christmas Eve to go camping on the Great Ocean Road with friends. What did I take with me? Not the knowledge of how to make great coffee but the intrigue to pursue a similar role in my next employment.
To be continued……