Waaaaay back in the day (like, all the way the back to 2010, when the boys opened the OG Ducks in Bronte), we partnered up with a coffee roaster Single O. The founders Dion and Emma were our kind of people – passionate about their product and committed to running an ethical, sustainable business. Nine years and four restaurants later (soon to be five!), Single O is still the coffee we serve in every Ducks venue.
Keen to learn a little more about the biz behind your Three Blue Ducks brew? Read on…
How did Single O come about?
Maybe it was ‘cause we’d inadvertently absorbed the message of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’, but back in 2003 we decided it was time to throw in the towel on our white collar jobs and own the moment (and we’ve never let it go since). But instead of mom’s spaghetti, it was all four-cheese toasties and ristrettos on our sweaters.
Back then, it was super hard to get fresh, quality coffee (t’was a sea of shiny n stale Italian packet coffee) and we were bowled over by the huge spectrum of flavour that single origin coffees had and the stories we heard from growers at source. So, unable to get what we wanted, we decided to do it for ourselves & followed our noses (and tastebuds) into the world of specialty coffee and roasting.
Kicking things off with Boris (our first roaster) in our then tiny Surry Hills café, the rest is a bit of a blur of coffee, friends and making it up as we went along. The other big turning point in the early days was when D (who used to work primarily in the kitchen) cut his finger, got the sh*ts, and decided to start up a wholesale arm of the business.
Tell us about how Dion first got involved with the boys…
*hand’s microphone over to Dion*
One day, way back, three boys walked into the roastery and said, “We going to open up a café and serve great coffee and food and surf at least 3-4 times per week.”
I said, “Good luck.” Before asking, “Do any of you lot have a skill?”
One said, “I’m a great chef, I know how to cook.” That was Mark.
The other said, “I used to sell fruit and vegetables and I’m going to be on the floor.” That was Sam.
And the third said, “I’m going to learn how to make coffee.” That was Chris.
I was drawn in by their passion and enthusiasm, and really appreciated the honesty and integrity in their voices. So I said, “I’m going to support you boys ’cause I like you.”
And that’s when it began.
As a side note, they didn’t get to do much surfing in those early days – I’ve never seen a café so slammed!
We have a similar ethos – how is Single O tackling sustainability?
We’re not total saints but we do try to fight the good fight in as many ways as we can. We always source ethically and environmentally sound beans, products and produce. Our roastworks runs on solar power and our production process is almost entirely circular (all the bags and materials that come into the warehouse are redistributed for another use, e.g. coffee chaff waste is sent to a local egg farm to keep their chicks happy).
We also had a hand in pioneering The Juggler, the world’s first purpose-built café milk on tap system (we’ve saved more than 6 million milk bottles from the waste stream) and we’re always tryna be good foot soldiers in the war on waste by pushing reusables at our cafes (our standing bar and loan a mug initiative) and knocking up maybe the world’s first DIY cup travel cup rinser.
Then there was our No Death To Coffee fight, which was all about getting funds to the legends at World Coffee Research. Plus our recent partnership with Pura Cepa – a project trying to help unf*ck the coffee industry through science and full circle sustainability, while tinkering with some weird ‘n’ wonderful new fermentation processes.
What do you wish more people knew about what you do at Single O?
A big one for us is that the industry is in a lot of trouble and we’re passionate about doing our bit to try to help (see No Death). We may be a bunch of jokers, but when it comes to sourcing our coffee, we’re pretty bloody serious. We’ve a no compromise on sourcing approach where quality, sustainability and ethical beans are at the heart of everything we buy.
Then when it lands here, we obsessively test and tinker with the coffee from a roasting and evaluation point of view until we’re happy with the quality so that only the best coffee reaches your cup.
Another thing we’re super proud of is that we work with the greatest cafes and restaurants (and by extension the greatest people!) on the planet, we’re not the types to do lots of chest beating but this is pretty special to us.
We also like to think we punch above our weight when it comes to innovation and our challenger mindset – we’re not ones to rest on our laurels. For example, we launched a self-serve batch brew prototype earlier this year at our Surry café (as well as renovating the place and doing a whole new menu), our Batch Taps, all in the name of putting black coffee front and centre and encouraging folks to enjoy the full flavour gamut that single origin coffee provides.
What’s the secret to a great cup of coffee?
This is a deceptively simple question. To make good coffee you have to have good coffee… but good coffee means a lotta little things coming together in a perfect storm (in ya reusable takeaway cup).
Coffee production and processing are the first points where quality is set and from there it’s up to buyers to get the good stuff to the roasters who bring out the best in the green. Then, it’s on to baristas to meet the bar set at a farm, buying and roasting level.
For a barista, using a recipe that can be repeated is important but it’s also super important for your brew-master to be good at tasting… It’s easy enough to follow a recipe, but if the recipe isn’t working and can’t be correctly adjusted then you’re in trouble.
Consistency and quality at a cup level is key but it’s also crucial across the whole customer experience. You’ve got to have the goods from the coffee used, how it’s made, the vessel it comes in, to the environment and the service. If any of those aren’t up to scratch it detracts from the rest.
So yeah, nail all that and you’ve got yourself some black gold!