For so many of us, the local cafe isn’t just a source of essential caffeine – it’s a daily dose of connection as well. Feeling part of your local community can raise your spirits and fill your cup – but what about the lovely people behind the counter? In this very special new series, we take a look at six beautiful cafes both in Australia and beyond – speaking to the owners and staff to find out what their cafes and communities mean to them, and how they manage to fill their own cups. Next in the series is Sandy Hewitt of Bread, Espresso & in Thirroul – a tiny, music-filled cafe with a huge heart.
What did you do before you opened Bread, Espresso &?
I’m a Chinese Medicine practitioner and I work from home three days a week. I’ve been doing that for 10 years, but previously I worked as a nurse for many years and also in the restaurant industry. My husband and business partner, Norby, worked in the wine industry before opening the cafe.
Why do we have to wait for the weekend to do what we love? Why not live it?
Tell us about Bread, Espresso &. How did it begin?
It’s is a little hole-in-the-wall cafe that we opened in July 2015. We decided to open a cafe because we loved hanging out at cafes on our days off & it was something that we looked forward to doing together each week. I was exploring the idea of “Why do we have to wait for the weekend to do what we love? Why not live it?” These days, so many of us labour in jobs that we don’t necessarily love 5 days a week, and we hang out for those two days to do what we love. I said to Norby “why don’t we open a cafe?” He ran with the idea and before I knew it he found this space – within 6 weeks we were open! It all happened so fast. The people at Allpress came on board with us & it’s a wonderful partnership – they are truly supportive & we couldn’t be happier that we teamed up with them.
What’s the ethos behind the cafe – what drives you?
We always wanted to keep it super simple. It’s a small space & we knew from the start that this meant we had limitations – although it’s difficult not to get excited and add new things all the time. Most of all it’s about the interaction with the local community, and always striving to make the best cup of coffee for the customer. The playlist plays an important role in creating a fun, vibrant space to hang out – we love Tuxedo and Mayer Hawthorne, along with funk, soul and disco – it drives the staff to making cracking coffees. And the customers have been known to dance along while waiting in line on the weekend.
What kind of food and drink do you serve, and what are your signature dishes?
Again, it’s simple food – nothing fancy – but that means we can keep it affordable for people. It can be difficult to go out for a meal & a coffee for under $20 nowadays, but that’s what we offer. Our avocado on toast is so simple & so popular. We also do an amazing Masala Chai Porridge with caramelised bananas. People also love our toasties with crisps.
Where do you source your ingredients?
Our milk comes from South Coast Dairy, & our eggs come from happy chooks on a farm down the coast called Taluca Park. We order from our local fruit & veg and deli suppliers – they’re wonderful local businesses that really look after us and we appreciate that so much, and we love supporting them in return.
In what ways do you operate sustainably and why is it so important to you?
We got rid of single-use plastic in the cafe a long time ago – we don’t offer plastic bags or plastic straws, but use paper straws and paper smoothie cups, and cardboard and paper bags for takeaway. The biggest change has been installing a milk dispenser to reduce the plastic milk bottles that we receive from the milkman. We offer a discount when people BYO a coffee cup, plus their first coffee is free when they purchase a reusable cup from us. Our staff are wonderful eco-warriors so they are mindful of waste. If we have any retail bread or pastries left at the end of the day (although we order fairly well so it often sells) it’s given to staff, family & neighbours. We also leave the used coffee grounds in the driveway for people to take for garden composting.
Tell us about your staff – what do you look for when hiring people?
We have nine wonderful staff members at the moment – such an incredible team who truly care about us and the cafe. We’re super grateful to have them on board. When hiring, we’ve realised that a person’s attitude is most important to us. You can teach anyone to make a good coffee with enough time and attention, but attitude goes a long way in the long term. We like having a team who are happy to be at the cafe and keen to make our customers happy and feel at home.
Tell us about the community that’s built up around you.
We have an incredible community in the northern Illawarra region – they’re such loyal customers. The northern Illawarra is home to many successful artists, writers, actors, and creative and people with a holistic lifestyle. There are also world-class athletes, including cyclists who love to prop their bikes up in the yard and have a coffee.
And in what ways do you give back to your community? Do you host events?
We’re a local drop-off point for donations to The Homeless Hub in Wollongong. We grew up in Sydney where you often see people experiencing homelessness and it’s always been a cause that we wanted to contribute to. The community is very generous with donations and we order bulk milk, cereal, tea and soup to donate, and in winter we donate blankets and jackets.
How do you think food and drink serves to bring people together?
We see that in action everyday at the cafe when people run into each other and catch up, or they meet each other for the first time and they end up sitting together for a chat over coffee. Connections are made and it’s lovely.
How do you fill your own cup?
I’ve been meditating for about 25 years now and I have a daily practice. I like a good podcast too. Together we love to go for a drive down the coast, cook up a good meal and have a swim.
What’s your coffee order?
A soy latte.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love providing a space for people to come together to enjoy themselves. Life can be very stressful for busy people these days, so any kind of enjoyment is super important. Our little haven is a much-needed break from the often serious day-to-day living of work and responsibilities. You can grab a coffee, listen to some tunes, read our great selection of magazines (we subscribe to Peppermint, of course!) & even have a dance.
BETTER TOGETHER IS A COLLECTION OF PEPPERMINT PARTNERSHIPS WHERE WE TEAM UP WITH BRANDS WE LOVE TO BRING YOU INSPIRATIONAL STORIES.
THE DAILY RHYTHM HAS BEEN CREATED AS A COLLABORATION WITH OUR FRIENDS AT ALLPRESS ESPRESSO.