A Sip Down Under at The Aussie Bean
"From the get-go our mission was to bring the fair dinkum Australian coffee culture to the United States. That includes not only the same style of coffee beverages but also the same social connection that the coffee culture in Australia is famous for. This is why we do not offer wifi at The Aussie Bean Roastery + Cafe. We provide a social environment for our customers to drink and enjoy their coffee" - Gavin Wilkinson, Co-Owner of The Aussie Bean
Featured March Coffee Shop: The Aussie Bean
As a local hot spot for Chapman students, the Aussie Bean has always held a special place in this babe's heart. I can remember the first time I smelled the delicious aroma of Australian brewed coffee wafting from the windows of their Chapman campus food truck. It was not long before the Aussie Bean established itself as a staple for the students and were able to open their first location right in the heart of Old Town Orange.
We were honored to interview co-owners, and husband and wife duo, Gavin and Natalie Wilkinson about their journey bringing Australian-style coffee to the states. Check them out!
Tell us a little bit about how you two met?
NW: I was in Melbourne, Australia working the Australian Open in January 2009 and Gavin was the very first Aussie I met, he was a camera operator working the same show as me. We worked in a tiny room shoulder length apart fourteen hours a day for just over two weeks. He had me at “G’day” we became best friends and fell in love. Now, eight years later we are husband and wife, business partners, and mum and dad to our 14 month old son Jackson.
Did you both have aspirations to open your own coffee shop prior to starting The Aussie Bean?
GW: Yes, I had always dreamt of owning a coffee shop.
You mention “fast-food” quality coffee offered here in the U.S. What do you mean by this?
GW: My definition of “fast-food coffee” is coffee that is sold through very large chains. This mass produced coffee tends to be over-roasted, thus compromising the natural sweetness and flavor of the bean and losing a good percentage of the caffeine. This leaves you with coffee that typically requires the addition of heavy creams, large amounts of sugar, syrups, and artificial flavors to make it palatable. Most people don't understand that the kick they are getting is mostly from the added sugars.
What do you think makes Australian coffee different/better?
GW: We serve Australian-style coffee (not to be confused with Australian grown coffee). As our roaster, I choose to medium roast our coffee, which is very much the norm in Australia. With a medium roast you retain the natural sweetness and flavor profiles of the bean. That together with having baristas who hand stretch the milk--a process that when combined with the right temperature pulls the natural sweetness of the milk into the drink with the result being a delicious coffee that is naturally sweet. Australian-style coffee is served in smaller, more traditional serving sizes. The coffee flavor is what we want to stand out--not the milk or other ingredients (like chocolate in a mocha or chai in a dirty chai). With this smaller serving, you’re actually receiving the correct dose of coffee that is weighed out for consistency and hand tamped by a real barista, that is why we hand craft every cup at The Aussie Bean.
You started as a coffee truck on the Chapman Campus before opening your location in old town. Why did you decide to expand to a shop? Is your coffee truck still in service?!
NW: We always wanted to open a brick-and-mortar. In order for this endeavor to be successful, the location was key. We looked for over a year at available spaces and just didn’t find what we wanted. We decided to go mobile for two reasons; there was a need for a full service mobile coffee bar in Orange County and we wanted to get our coffee and brand name out there. Starting out as a “coffee truck” was a really fun way for us to break into the coffee business. We were (and still are) a husband and wife owned business, your mum and pop shop. We are one of the littles guys in an industry with big heavy hitters. We were also introducing a new way of drinking coffee to people who didn’t necessarily know what Australian-style coffee was. I’ll never forget our first day serving on Chapman University. We were both so nervous, it was a very exciting and anxious time. Needless to say, our first day on campus was a huge success and we were overwhelmed by the positive feedback and response we were given. We still serve from our full service mobile coffee bar daily at various office buildings during the week and special events on the weekends.
Why did you choose Old Town Orange as your first permanent location? Do you have plans/hopes for expansion?
NW: I was born in Orange, and so was The Aussie Bean. Our first roasting facility was in Orange, and it’s where our mobile coffee bar started serving on campus at Chapman University and on Saturdays at the Orange Home Grown Artisan Farmer’s Market. On Gavin’s first trip to America, I took him to Orange to tour Chapman (my alma mater). We were walking through the circle and he said it reminded him of his home town Bendigo, Victoria. The decision to create and grow our business in Orange was an easy one.
What has been the best part of owning and running your own coffee business?
GW: Creating something and watching people enjoy it, hearing their feedback and comments gives me a great sense of satisfaction. The relationships I am able to build with those people gives me even more satisfaction.
NW: What I love about working in a coffee shop is that we have the unique privilege of seeing our customers every day. Gavin and I are very outgoing and talkative (sometimes we never shut up!) We absolutely love knowing our customers by name (and favorite drink). This business has allowed us to build relationships with our loyal customers and I can honestly say we’ve made some very special friends along the way.
What is your most popular coffee beverage and which is YOUR personal favorite?
NW: Our most popular coffee beverage is without a doubt our flat white, which also happens to be my personal favorite!
GW: My favorite drink is our long black because I love to taste the flavor of the coffee without milk. With that said I still enjoy an authentic Flat White.
Lastly, what would you define as a “Babe with Coffee”?
GW: A happy person drinking coffee.