Armidale's Top Bean

Armidale's Top Bean

The Land – Sam Norris 20 Jun, 2010

CAN’T get good coffee west of the Great Divide? Think again – Armidale barista and proprietor of the Daily Ritual, Ross Patch, recently carried a bronze medal out of the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show.

So it’s fitting the cappuccino blend should be labelled “Signature 2350”, after the town’s postcode.

In fact, it was Daily Ritual’s clients – Armidale residents – that delivered the feedback which helped produce the winning blend, giving the town more reason to be proud.

It’s the second such award in two years.

Ross is only relatively fresh to the barista game, having switched “brews” after he left behind 20 years pouring beers.

The change came when the former publican started wholesaling cookies into western NSW, which led to tea and coffee.

The retail side of the business started three years ago when he established the Jessie St café, The Daily Ritual, in the central business district.

Ross said producing a quality product was his goal in a world overflowing with multinational chain stores.

“It’s offering a point of difference to what they might get elsewhere,” he said.

In fact, he’s proved himself more than the barista who brews lattes and short blacks by sourcing and blending the beans himself.

Demand for his product in the university town is strong – he sells 70 per cent of his beans into homes. But it’s not just the professors and tutors drinking it, either.

“We even make up a (strong) blend to get the uni students going,” he said.

Generally, though, Ross found it was the 25 to 50 demographic sipping most often, and he’s found their tastes are more sophisticated than ever.

Unashamedly, Ross said the way to best refine a high quality blend was to serve it to those clients who are his strongest critics.

“I’ll say ‘here’s a new blend, what do you think’ and some of them aren’t scared to say what they think,” he said.

Soft to the palate, with chocolate overtones and a smooth finish, Ross said his award winning cappuccino was just an example of his philosophy.

“The blend has to be something you want to go back to again and again and consistency in product plays a large part.

“I work with independent people like professional roaster, Craig Summers, who’s based in Sydney, which helps make a quality product, too.”

Ross doesn’t miss his bar keep days, instead deriving much greater enjoyment serving a hot product that stimulates the senses.

“I wish I’d got into coffee years ago with what I know now,” he said.

Soon Ross will sell wine under his brand, producing it from New England grapes to offer a distinct taste in a similar way to his coffee – maybe making wine is a desire driven by his past.

The brand’s horizons are expanding rapidly, too, now the Jessie St retail outlet is an official stop on the regional food trail from Sydney.

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