Hey guys

We are so pleased to announce that we are now sponsoring one of the most popular sports podcasts available on iTunes. ‘The Carlton Show’ has been rapidly growing from week to week and we are really excited to be involved.

Given the recent plight of the Carlton footy club we felt that the timing of this podcast was perfect and due to its frank and raw style, has not only given the Carlton faithful an opportunity to feed their hunger for Blues news but has somehow created a community of like minded fans whom, indirectly, now feel like they really are a part of our club rebuild. Which incidentally is going along just beautifully. We really wanted to get involved and are incredibly thankful for the opportunity that The Carlton Show guys have presented us.

The podcast is unashamedly all about the Carlton Football Club and is hosted by Melbourne media personality, the great Andy Maher with fellow bluebaggers - the brilliant Bazz and the cool, calm and (most of the time) collected Gecko. Light hearted conversation, thoughtful analysis and banter that will keep you entertained from go to whoa. No sugar coating in this podcast.

If you bleed Navy Blue then this podcast is for you. Subscribe at iTunes.

We will provide all listeners with:

-       10% discount on all orders placed on our website blackvelvetcoffee.com.au by entering the discount code CARLTONSHOW upon checkout.

-       10% off all retail bags of coffee purchased in store by mentioning the Carlton Show.

-       Any cafe owners interested in talking to us re wholesale coffee are offered special deals on pricing and a gift upon changing over to Black Velvet

Get onboard Bluebaggers!

WIN!

A Melbourne winter can get pretty cold and somehow this cold season seems to drag on forever. Wouldn’t it be nice to get away?

We are giving away a weekend getaway at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld, Victoria.

‘The Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, is a destination that celebrates nature. The majestic Grampians National Park provides a stunning backdrop to our Dining Room which has been awarded ‘2 hats’ by the Age Good Food Guide 2015 & 2016, award winning wine collection, beautiful accommodation, wedding and conferencing facilities. Our nearby Mount Sturgeon Homestead and cottages are steeped in Australian pastoral history and are the perfect place to relax. A three hour drive from Melbourne, or one hour from the Great Ocean Road, a visit to the Royal Mail Hotel will leave you inspired.’

 

Your prize includes:

  • One night in a Deluxe Mountain View Room – Victoria’s best deluxe accommodation 2016
  • Taste and tour of the Royal Mail Cellar
  • A 5 course dining experience for two people (wine matching not included) in the Royal Mail Dining Room. Awarded ‘2 hats’ it has been listed in the top 10 restaurants in Australia
  • Full breakfast for 2 people
  • A kitchen garden tour with your chef
  • Total prize value $600

Conditions:

  • Every $25 deposited into your pre paid coffee card = 1 entry
  • Entries are unlimited. You can enter as many times as you like
  • Competition closes at 4pm on 25th August 2017
  • To enter, all participants must register their full name and phone number in store

 

Competition is now open. Don’t miss out!

Meet Tom.

 

Tom is a valued and long-standing member of Black Velvet Coffee. He began as a barista, moved to Store Manager and is soon to take on the role of General Manager. Along with his rise in position in our company, his beard has grown concurrently (and grown, and grown...)

It’s time to shave it off and Tom is volunteering to risk his lumberjack image to raise money through The World’s Greatest Shave and raise vital funds for the Leukaemia Foundation’s important work.

Each day, 35 Australians will be given the devastating news that they have leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma or a blood related disorder. Blood cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in Australia, claiming more lives than breast cancer or melanoma. An Australian loses their life to blood cancer every 2 hours, far too many to ignore.  

So, let’s all get together, sponsor Tom and amaze ourselves with the sight that awaits us underneath his bushy growth.

When: Friday 17th March at 1PM

Where: Black Velvet Espresso, 136 Exhibition St Melbourne

How to sponsor: Use the following link or donate in-store.

https://secure.leukaemiafoundation.org.au/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?RegistrationID=664948

You’ll find some special treats from Black Velvet available on the day and there are guaranteed to be a few laughs! So, get involved, sponsor Tom and let’s help make this world a little easier for some deserving members of our community.

We often get asked 'which is the best coffee machine to buy for home?' It's a tough question to answer. Quite simply, one could spend $200 or $2000. One could spend $6k too but for your Saturday morning coffee, I'm not sure why you would.

We hear it all the time. People who have spent $300 and then wonder why the coffee doesn't taste anything like the coffee they purchase from their local cafe. There are so many reasons why. The major decision that needs to be made is this... Are you looking to purchase an 'appliance' or are you looking to purchase an 'espresso machine'? 

These are 2 very different things.

An appliance is simply that. It's a household machine designed to make life easier. These are usually found at Harvey Norman or The Good Guys and most often are designed and manufactured by companies that produce washing machines, microwave ovens and toasters. These appliances have a water reservoir that heats via some sort of heating element and releases water at the touch of a button. The ever popular 'pod' style machines are also an appliance that work a similar way and no matter how much one attempts to convince themselves that pods are the way to go, they simply don't resemble espresso in any way.

An espresso machine is designed and manufactured by companies who specialise in building machines to extract espresso. To understand the difference between an 'appliance' and an espresso machine means understanding the process to extract espresso and what is required to do so.

Espresso is the oil extracted from finely ground coffee with water and heat and done so under pressure. Lots of pressure. Without pressure it simply doesn't work. Household coffee appliances are missing the most critical part of the equation - pressure. Without it, one is simply running hot water through ground coffee which in simple terms is providing coffee coloured water in the cup. It looks pale in colour, has an almost 'watery' mouthfeel and quite frankly tastes awful.

The reason why you'll never replicate the same flavour as the local coffee house is because they use an espresso machine that is equipped with a water boiler and 'heat exchanger'. The heat exchange is probably the single most important feature that one should look for in a domestic 'espresso machine' and has many advantages.

The boiler of a heat exchanger machine is filled to about two thirds with water, allowing space for steam. As the water heats, steam pressure builds and you are able to extract your espresso as well as steam milk at the same time. One can also use the hot water spout (tea) at the same time. Water used for your coffee extraction always comes from your clean water supply while tea water comes directly from the boiler.

Further to this, there are also twin boiler machines but unless you're experimenting with different coffees brewed at different temperatures it's complete overkill for home use.


Without boring you with detail, let's just say this. If you're looking at an espresso machine for home and don't want to spend a small fortune I'd look at something like the Breville Barista Express. It has a built in adjustable grinder and really is about as good as you're going to get. This machine will set you back around $700 or so. Just be mindful that it won't ever give you the commercial espresso taste. It's also an 'appliance' so it won't last forever.

If you want to spend around $2000 - $2500 you might want to look at the Simonelli Musica. It's stylish, can be plumbed in, is fully adjustable and programmable, has a commercial group head and handle and with maintenance will last a lifetime. Great machine.

If you really want to go crazy and want a machine that will give you an unbelievable espresso then check out the La Marzocco GS3. This is a serious machine and it's absolutely stunning. You'll love the design and you'll love the espresso it produces. You're looking at around $6500 but it will last a lifetime and beyond and with a few tips from a good barista, you'll be making better coffee than your local cafe. Trust me...this is worth every cent.

If you're unhappy with any of this advice then you're better off with an Aeropress. Check them out at blackvelvetcoffee.com.au. For around $50 it's so much better than any 'coffee appliance'.


Do you serve decaf?

December 20, 2015

1 comment

I hate to ask but do you guys serve decaf?

I can't believe how many times we get asked this question. Clearly the implication is that there are still so many cafes that don't. For the life of me...why wouldn't you? Is it out of laziness? Is it because the almighty barista sees it as sacrilegious to serve or consume decaf coffee? Is stroking the ego of the self indulgent barista more important than offering an alternative to a paying customer?

When my wife Jackie was pregnant with our 2 beautiful children she chose to forfeit alcohol and caffeine for the entire term of both pregnancies. That was her choice and I supported her all the way. In fact I was thrilled at her decision. Each to their own of course. There were times, however, that she simply craved the taste and experience of drinking coffee. On those occasions she drank decaf. Sure it didn't give her the hit of caffeine that she sometimes enjoys but it gave her the opportunity to enjoy the experience of coffee and, as she puts it, feel like part of society again. Even if just for a moment.

There are some people who simply don't enjoy the high that they experience from caffeine. They love drinking coffee and love the experience of coffee but the caffeine buzz is just too much. For them, decaf is perfect.

There are some beautiful decaf coffees around and, when extracted with the same care as is taken with the caffeinated variety, can taste magnificent. We use a Colombian Swiss Water Decaf and often get it sent back because it tastes like 'regular coffee' and of course, couldn't possibly be decaf. We take that as a compliment.

There are baristas out there who will go to extraordinary lengths to show you their newest ways of extracting coffee. They'll offer regular milk. They'll offer skinny milk. They'll offer soy and now almond milk. Batch brew coffee is now on offer as well as cold filtered coffee. They'll offer the pour over, the Aeropress and the syphon. They'll show off their latest science experiments with their latest coffee making apparatus. Yet they won't offer the simplest of all. A decaf flat white.

There are so many reason why people chose to drink decaf. There are also reasons why certain people have no option but to drink it. Just ask Mrs Black Velvet.

So don't be scared to ask. One shouldn't be made to feel like a 2nd class citizen for having to ask and then consume the decaf variety.

Last week, at Black Velvet Espresso, we had a customer who was upset that a cup of coffee was delivered to another person first; a person that ordered after her. She made her frustration clear, and although her coffee was now ready, demanded her money back, and wouldn’t allow me to explain.

We rarely have unsatisfied customers at Black Velvet, so this took me aback. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t given the opportunity to explain the coffee making process and irritated at her manner.

Then it hit me. Why should a customer understand the coffee making process in high volume cafes? Unless she had stood behind a machine and made thousands of cups of coffee, all the while doing it as fast as she could, she couldn’t possibly know! I’m sure that I would also be aggrieved if someone appeared to ‘bump the queue’ without knowing why. So, on behalf of our baristas at Black Velvet, please let me explain…

Our Espresso bar is very busy, particularly between 7:30 – 11am. People can queue in large lines, and every morning we have a cloud of people gathering in, and around our little shop. We do all we can to speed up the process of coffee making so that everyone will get their coffee faster. We can’t extract coffee or steam milk faster than we do, so we have to find valuable seconds in other ways. We physically move fast; arrange orders whilst filling a group handle; develop a strong chemistry with each other etc. However, the best way that we can find valuable seconds is through ‘bunching’ orders. We can extract two shots out of one group head; we can steam full-cream milk for two small coffees in one jug; we can extract a long black for a customer if the barista on milk is pouring etc.

In this particular case, the customer in question ordered skim milk; however, the customers before and after, were drinking soy. The barista filled and steamed a large jug to be able to serve two customers in one hit; therefore the customer in question was pushed back one order. This is an unfortunate by-product; however, due to this technique, the overall wait time was much less.

We all have ‘tricks of the trade’ to assist us in being more productive in our line of work; now you know ours! I hope you have enjoyed this insight into the world of a professional barista, and have a greater understanding the processes we go through to make sure you get your coffee at the highest quality, within a reasonable amount of time.

Happy caffeinating!

 

It seems everyone wants to open a cafe. It's become to 'go to' business idea and when one poses the question of why, the answer invariably, is either for a lifestyle change or because it's an easy way to make money. Both of these answers can only come from people who either haven't worked in the industry, haven't done any research or both.

There are so many things that need to be considered before taking the plunge. The question I have is...How badly do you want it?

I don't write this as the absolute authority on building cafes but I've built 5 before so this blog is an attempt to give you some idea of the things that most people seem to neglect when they are considering a move like purchasing or building a cafe. In particular, building a cafe from the ground up.

Firstly, ask yourself the most important question of all. 'Why am I doing this?' 'What is my goal?' If you have to think about the answer for longer than a few seconds, you're in strife. If your answer is about making money or about a perceived 'lifestyle change' to allow you a load of spare time you never had before then think again because you're about to work harder than you ever have before.

If your answer is because you have a passion for the industry, that your are hospitable by nature and that you're prepared to do 'whatever it takes' to achieve your goal then you're on the right path.

Secondly, you need an idea. There are literally 1000's of cafes out there. There are cafes everywhere. Too many in fact. Forget what you're going to call it. That will come later. The first thing to decide is an image or a brand that you are trying to create and ask yourself some questions. What is your target market? Who are you aiming towards? What do I want my brand to portray? You've got no chance if you attempt to mimic others so determine the image you are trying to create without copying everyone else and ensure that every decision you make from this moment on is in line with this image. Once all of these questions are answered, the name of your business will come to you without much trouble at all.

Finding the right site is the next thing. Where is the best location to build my business? If your target market is young families with kids then the CBD mightn't be the right location. If your dream is to service the corporate world during the business hours of Monday to Friday then building in the suburbs is probably the wrong move. I don't believe the location is as critical as others make out as I'm of the belief that creating a 'destination' means it can go almost anywhere. Create something 'different' and something of quality and people will find a way to get to you. Remember this though. The rent you pay is determined by the area of the floor space of your site and in parts of the Melbourne CBD there are sites that can cost around $2200 or more, per square metre per year. Do the maths on a site of 50 square metres and you're up to $110,000 + GST per year. That's a lot of coffee.

You'll need a budget. Where's the money coming from? Will you need finance? Are you funding it yourself? How much money do I need? The answer to the last question is about 20% more than you think.

If your plan is to gain finance from a bank you'll need to provide more information than you can possibly imagine. They don't just hand out business loans like they used to. Loan negotiation can be tedious and, without some sort of collateral, extremely difficult. You might even be asked to provide banks with a breakdown or your proposed equipment purchases before they give you any money and as obvious as this may sound, repayments can be a killer. Believe me. The more money you can put in the better off you're going to be.

While we're on the subject of money, think about this. Building the cafe of your dreams means a designer and a builder or shop fitter. Sourcing and filling these positions takes time and research. Take notes from every cafe you frequent and note some ideas that appeal to you. Then develop a short list of of designers and builders you wish to contact.

A designer will ask you questions about everything that will no doubt make you think about things you hadn't even considered. Keep in mind that weeks can go by between an initial briefing meeting to the first drawings and then changes upon changes will take place until a final design is approved. When I say 'approved' that means approved by you. We haven't even begun the process of having these designs approved by your landlord yet. Depending on your landlord, this can be a nightmare.

By the time you get to the shop fitting process, a lot of the tedious work has been completed. Shop fitting includes joinery, plumbing, electrical including lighting, concreting, painting and so on. It also includes furniture. The fit out is your biggest cost. I've known people to spend $30K on a fit out. I've also known people to spend $1m or more. The only advice I can give you is to continually do your maths and ask yourself...How many plates of food or cups of coffee do I need to sell each week to be able to make repayments on expensive loans for a fit out? Am I likely to sell more coffee if I spend $100K than I would if I only spent $60K?

There are so many other costs that need to be considered. You'll need surveyor permits, permits and certification from the council and the health department. You'll need building permits, food registration and ultimately you'll need insurance. All of these could easily total around $10K.

Your landlord will require a bank guarantee, which might be $10K or $50K. It could be even more. This is a cost that must also be considered. You'll need working capital so that you've got some cash in the bank to get the doors open in order to buy stock, pay wages etc. You'll need a months rent in advance.

Then there's the miscellaneous costs to get your business open. You'll need signage, graphic design for logos, staff uniforms, POS equipment, music system, equipment and machinery which might include coffee machines and grinders, refrigeration, food display, kitchen & cooking equipment and dishwashing equipment. The list goes on.

You'll need opening stock, cutlery, crockery, floor mats, chopping boards, tongs and food storage tubs. You'll also need cleaning products like detergents and sanitisers, mops and buckets and so on and so on.

We haven't even spoken about the biggest ongoing cost of all. Staff.

And if if all of that sounds tough, then following all of this, one has to work on and in the business. These businesses require manpower and many hours to make them successful and success doesn't happen overnight. But that discussion however, is for another time.

As I said earlier, I've opened 5 cafes over the last 20 years and as we get ready to open the next Black Velvet store I can assure you the nerves and apprehension are still overwhelming. I'm still learning and am still talking to as many experienced people as I can to gain advice and assistance.

If you are considering taking the plunge and you would like to make contact then please get in touch. Black Velvet can assist in all things coffee as well as some help and advice on how to get started.

I'll ask the same question I asked earlier. How badly do you want it?

If you asked most cafe owners to discuss the challenges they face while operating their business, I would guarantee the majority would say that finding and retaining staff would create the biggest headache. It's an all too familiar issue. In fact, most recently I was speaking to a particular cafe owner who said that he finds himself having to search for staff on almost a monthly basis. Monthly!?! I can only imagine how much money that must cost.

He was saying that it's impossible to find good, reliable, professional staff that do the job for the right reasons. Impossible he said. Impossible to find staff that do it because they've chosen it as a career. Funnily enough this is also a person who outwardly displays his hatred for the industry in which he works. I guess it stands to reason that he encounters these issues.

How many times have you walked past a cafe and found a notice stuck to the front window displaying the words 'staff wanted' or 'barista wanted'. They're everywhere and not surprisingly, these are often the same places that seem to be forever searching for staff.

I'll never forget the words I heard listening to a radio interview with the former Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett about 10 years ago. Jeff was talking about this very issue and although it was in reference to much larger companies, the same philosophy applies. He said, quite simply, that the best people for the jobs you are trying to fill are currently employed. They're not 'looking for work'. If they're proficient at the job they do, then they are already under someone else's employ. Staff like this are out there in the industry, putting in the hours trying to better themselves, trying to improve, working with other professionals and trying to learn from good people who respect and love the industry.

A hand written note, stuck to the front window will no doubt attract people. The response will be immediate. Are they, however, the type of people you're looking for? The best people for the job you're trying to fill are not walking up and down the street. If you're going to continue to search the cheap and easy way, with the handwritten note stuck to the window, you'll continue to attract the person who is wandering up and down the street searching for a way to find the money they need for the next overseas trip that has already been booked for 3 months time.

The way to get them is to go and find them. Target places that you know are the best with staff that you know are the best and offer them an opportunity that they may not be getting currently. Sound brutal? Maybe. It's a brutal industry. Find the people you want, make a short list and present them with an opportunity and I guarantee you'll find someone who won't let you down, who will turn up on Saturday morning, who won't expect every public holiday off work and who will work as hard as they possibly can to get to where they want to be. Suddenly your biggest headache will be gone.

What will it cost? A few hours walking the pavement.

Black Velvet Coffee has a strong ethos about giving back to our country and our community. In the coming week, we are also asking you to help, and as a reward, please come and watch our head roaster, Darren Silverman take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Usually, to take part, one is nominated and the task completed within 48 hours. However, Darren is nominating himself and we’ll be dumping the iced water on his head in a week to give us that time to earn as much money to assist in the research of Motor Neurone Disease and support those living with MND as we possibly can.

 

According to MND Australia:

“Motor function is controlled by the upper motor neurones in the brain that descend to the spinal cord; these neurones activate lower motor neurones. The lower motor neurones exit the spinal cord and directly activate muscles. With no nerves to activate them, muscles gradually weaken and waste. MND can affect a person’s ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe.”

Currently, MND has no known cure and there is no effective treatment. This results in 2 people dying from MND every day, with two new cases being diagnosed. We need to help change these facts. Wonderfully, this challenge is creating awareness and gathering donations for this devastating disease and we are looking forward to doing our part.

 

Please donate in-store within the next week or online using the following link https://www.mndaust.asn.au/How-your-donation-helps/Ways-to-donate.aspx

Black Velvet Coffee will be matching the money raised in-store and donated using the website above.

 

The challenge will be completed Thursday 28th August at 10:45am at Black Velvet Espresso. 3 new people will be nominated after the event.

 

 

Hospitality is a transient industry and is still considered to be an industry that requires very little skill. Anyone can do it. If this was the case, then why do more than 50% fail in the first 12 months?

There are literally thousands of venues - way too many. The people most happy about this saturation are the good operators. They are made to look even better.

In my experience, there are two types of cafe owners. The first is the one who truly believes that it's an easy way to make money. They are the also the one who makes a great sandwich and figure they should open a cafe.

The other does it because it's a career move. They love the industry. It's part of them. These are the people who leave the industry when they choose rather than having the choice made for them.

Too many people enter the industry and find that the amount of work required was never something they anticipated. Long hours, long days, long weeks and very little down time. It's tough going and can break even the fittest and strongest.

Is there a formula for success? Or should I say, survival?

The vital ingredient is really quite simple. Here's the scoop. Not every person in the world is a naturally hospitable person. There are some that are. It's part of their make up. These are the people that love to talk, to share, to give, to meet, to offer themselves and are also the ones who take enormous pleasure in pleasing other people. Interestingly, as I write, I sit in a little cafe and attempt to strike up a conversation with the owner who, after a one word answer to my question, was unable to take his eyes of the World Cup replay on his specially mounted television. Really? Really.

There are people who look forward to building relationships. People who take satisfaction in giving pleasure to others, through their hospitality. If this is not you, if this is not part of your make up where these qualities come naturally, the hospitality industry is the wrong fit and whether it happens in a month or a year or even longer, it will eventually get the better of you. You can only fool yourself and your customers for so long. I call it, the 3 year fade.

It's not just about serving food and beverages. It's not just about filling a group handle and pushing a button. The work is too hard and too time consuming to survive for longer than 2-3 years if hospitality is not a part of you.

You see, it's not just a cup of coffee anymore. It's a moment of indulgence. A moment in time to which people look forward. It's also expensive. People get hired over coffee. They get fired over coffee. They meet, they catch up, they say goodbye over coffee. For a cafe owner or barista, to be part of that moment should be seen as an honour and a privilege. It's not the other way around. The customer should never be made to feel intimidated for being in the presence of the 'great barista'.

If being part of another persons 'moment' is a chore, or if the World Cup penalty shoot out takes precedence, then hospitality simply isn't for you.