Growing up in Zimbabwe and then South Africa in the 1980’s, cafes simply weren’t a “thing.” I recall as a child being taken for tea and scones at Garlicks (a department store) in downtown Durban, which had a restaurant serving cakes, filtered coffee and high tea! This outing would have been declared a real “treat” and certainly wasn’t a daily or even monthly occurrence for our family. Fast forward to Australia today and cafés are in abundance in cities, suburbs, resorts, educational institutions and even industrial areas. They are places we frequent on a daily basis, and are a melting pot of cultures, backgrounds, expertise and talents. There is an intricate web of people and interactions that take place in a café environment. We often don’t stop to appreciate just where these conversations might lead, and the connections and opportunities they provide. In our specialty coffee café, Rock Hop Espresso, just 6 months old, I have come to appreciate this community and the friendships, business deals and creative endeavours that come out of this.
In the corner on the bench, a local author writes and submits an award-winning story. We see her working away at her craft, whilst sipping her daily specialty coffee, and marvel at her ability to write and create and find inspiration whilst she sits at the window gazing out of our café.
Local estate agents, lawyers, bank managers, exercise professionals and more, meet clients and team members, huddled around a table whilst they sip their favourite brew; signing deals, planning projects and enjoying a break from their workspaces. Grandparents look after their grandchildren, whilst they give mum and dad a necessary break, feeding them treats, whilst they sip at a much longed for coffee. The local ocean swimmers gather, still cold from their morning dip, to warm up with their favourite cuppa whilst chatting about their morning adventures in the sea. A team of professional sportspeople drop by to grab a piccolo on their way to a big training session at the pool.
Coffee culture shifts often, depending on people’s tastes, as well as their search for a place where they feel welcome, and can gather with like-minded people. Creating the right setting and energy, while also providing consistently high-quality coffee, is a delicate balance. As any new business owner knows, the first couple of years in a new business are tough. It is a huge lesson in delayed gratification - in looking ahead to the long term, whilst being present enough to provide high-quality service and consistent product daily, to returning customers. Throw in the challenges of uncertainty and constant change around restrictions and travel, and you not only have a new business, but a new set of circumstances to manage almost weekly.
We might be newbies to the neighbourhood in terms of establishment, however, our engagement with our customers and staff, and our focus on building relationships and being an integral part in that intertwined web of local people, business owners and travellers, means we are experiencing daily the magic that weaves this web of café culture. We are grateful to the people who contribute to this intricate web: the dedicated staff who are there early each day, serving coffee with a smile; the locals who are there for coffee and a chat; the professionals and service people on their way to a big day of work in the community; the writers and artists who spend time in our café as part of their creative process. Each one of these people brings with them a story, a talent and an energy, and we continue to be amazed at the support, humour, goodwill and friendships that we have been fortunate to experience, as just a small part of this magical web. At a time when community and social interaction is reduced by restrictions, the little moments we take to connect and interact with others around us, are even more important. It is the energy, support and friendships that fuel us to continue on this adventure and to ride the tough times with grace and perseverance.
Rock Hop Espresso, 12b Elizabeth Street, Coolum Specialty Coffee served daily 6am-1230.