It’s no secret that we can be a little slow to catch on to things out here in the West. The tyranny of distance being what it is trends and fashions can tend to pass us by like so many rolling tumbleweeds as we lounge around in the baking heat a million miles away from the civilised world of the eastern states. Well at least it seems that way at times. As such it wouldn’t be that much of a shock if you’ve never heard of Di Bella Coffee before, but it turns out that they’re one of Australia’s fastest growing and most exciting large scale coffee roasters, and they’ve just opened a roasting warehouse/café in Fremantle. In light of this I thought I’d get myself down there last Friday afternoon and get to know the new kid on the block a little better.
Founded as a very small scale operation in Brisbane in 2002 by Phil Di Bella, the past decade and a bit has seen Di Bella Coffee come along in massive leaps and bounds to the point where they now have around 2.2 million cups of their coffee drunk per week, supply over 1200 wholesale accounts across the nation, have several overseas operations (in Shanghai and India), a Crop to Cup international bean purchasing program and now, finally, an outpost here in the Wild West. Needless to say I was very interested in finding out about the reasons behind their rather stellar rise to prominence.
Open and airy with a fairly low key fit out, the relaxed, Freo-esque vibe of the Di Bella Roasting Warehouse belies the fact that they take their coffee very, very seriously. Head barista Darren was nice enough to take some time to show me around their set up, and what an impressive one it is too. In addition to having some of the most technologically advanced coffee machines I’ve ever laid eyes on they have a team of very dedicated baristas behind them to ensure that the coffee they turn out in the cafe is always of the highest possible quality.
However, the espresso service is only one section of the total coffee operation at Di Bella. The Brew Bar is another very important part of what they do. Being a roasting warehouse they constantly have new, interesting blends and single origins on the go and pretty much all of them are available for sale to the public. In addition to the beans they also sell pretty much every type of coffee brewing technology too, from home espresso machines to cold drip, pour over and even the humble French press. That means that you can pop in for quick coffee and leave with everything you’ll need to make awesome stuff for yourself at home. They’re also all about educating the public too, so they’ll tell you what beans work best with which methods, how to get the best out of your set up and pretty much anything else you want to know about coffee in general too. It’s what they love to do, so if you share that passion then I’m sure you’ll get along with them just fine.
As far as the café side of things go, they’ve had few teething problems in terms of getting the right staff in place (especially in terms of getting a head chef), so rather than overstretch themselves by trying to put on a huge, elaborate menu straight off the bat they’ve focused on creating a small but solid menu of interesting breakfast and lunch items. While down there I was lucky enough to get to try out the Braised Wild Mushrooms on Toast. Consisting of a generous heaping of braised field and enoki mushrooms (my absolute favourite thing at the moment) served on toast and topped with crumbed, fried king oyster mushrooms, asparagus and salted ricotta it was a hearty and very satisfying feed and also very reasonably priced at $16. I also quite liked the sound of the coffee cured salmon with poached eggs and the eggs Benedict inspired potato rosti dish. Now while the food side of things is still definitely a work in progress what they have at the moment is still very decent and more than good enough to play a competent supporting role to the star of the show: their coffee.
Now that I’ve experienced it for myself I can definitely understand how they’ve come such a long way in such a relatively short space in time. In addition to providing another great place to go for a coffee and a bite to eat down in Freo, the opening of their Roasting Warehouse raises the bar for coffee companies everywhere in Perth due to the fact that they offer such a complete coffee experience. More than just roasting great coffee, they’re focused on educating people and generally contributing to the advancement and development of Australian coffee culture in general. This coupled with their obvious passion and enthusiasm for what they do ensures that they should continue to do well on the national, international, and more importantly for us, the local level for a long time to come.
Disclosure: As I attended Di Bella Roasting Warehouse as a guest I did not pay for any food or coffee.