Darryl and Rachel Stace are the proprietors of a popular Armidale café called Altitude Coffee and Roastery. Darryl explains how every coffee served is made from their own roasted beans.
How long have you lived in Armidale?
I actually grew up just down the road in Walcha. I left there in 2000 and moved to a few different parts of Australia and even to New Zealand for a while. In 2008 Rachel and I planned to move back to Australia and chose Armidale, because it had a climate that we liked without some of the major water issues that many regions face. It was also appealing, because we would have family living nearby. Plus, neither Rachel nor I like the fast pace of big city life, but still want to live somewhere that is well serviced – Armidale ticks that box too!
Tell us about your family …
Rachel and I have four great kids. Ethan (10), Bailey (8) and Ashtyn (5), who all attend Sandon Public School and Mikaela (2), who would love to be at school with her big brothers! They are pretty typical kids – into scooters, rollerblades, anything noisy or dirty! We are lucky enough to have both of our parents living in Armidale now – and also my brother and his family too. We have had a great deal of support from our families while setting Altitude up – lots of extra background input from both of our parents, which we really appreciate.
Darryl, you have been in the hospitality industry for years. Tell us about that …
I started my first bar job at the Walcha RSL Club when I was 18 and since then have worked in about 10 different pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafés. These varied greatly in style, from an Irish bar in Darwin to a 4.5 star restaurant in Nelson Bay. Coffee became a serious part of my life when, in 2006 I became the manager of the Nelson Airport Café (New Zealand). Making coffee fast and to a high standard became a necessary skill there, as they produced over 250 cups of coffee every day! Typically though, the hospitality industry is very demanding on family life, so this was one of the reasons we began to think about finding a niche for ourselves that would fit around family a bit better.
Where did the inspiration for coffee come from?
Nelson had a handful of boutique coffee roasteries, ranging from small shop style roasters in a café situation to a massive 60 kg roaster in its own warehouse setting. Rachel and I were intrigued by the whole process of creating something from scratch that folks enjoy every day. Roasting coffee is one of those things that you just don’t think about, but there’s a real process to go through before you can finally enjoy your favourite cup of coffee. The idea of creating the coffee from scratch and serving it in our own café in Armidale was immensely appealing. We spoke to as many roasters as we could before we left New Zealand, and the plan began to unfold. We arrived in Armidale early 2008 and by November, we had opened Altitude Coffee Roastery.
Why is Altitude coffee so different from other regional coffee shops?
These are our passions – great coffee, delicious food, great service. We create the coffee you drink with us ourselves, tweaking until we get the flavour just right, roasting it ourselves and serving it with care each time. We roast several times a week to make sure that the coffee we serve is at its best and not staled from storage. We also pride ourselves on hand making all the goodies we sell in our shop. Rachel, Peter, Julie and I all bake, and we often have taste test parties when we are developing a new menu item. One of our main aims is to provide all of your coffee needs … fresh beans to take home, barista supplies including cleaning products – even an espresso machine. I have also run some domestic machine courses to help folks make better coffee on their home machines. We even have a coffee cart available for local events!
Where do you source your coffee beans from?
The green (raw) beans come from several regions around the world, but particularly regions of higher altitude and warm climate. Each place that a bean comes from is called an origin. The blends we create in our shop combine several bean origins. Sublime, our original café blend contains 5 different origins, all roasted to bring out their best qualities. Currently we are featuring a gorgeous single origin from Zambia, and we also use beans from Brazil, Ethiopia, Mexico, Indonesia, India, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
How many other businesses serve your coffee?
We have a wide range of wholesale clients within the New England region, including cafés, restaurants, hotels – even a few wineries. While most of these are in the Armidale area, the furthest is on the edge of the Queensland border. Living regionally does present some challenges for businesses needing coffee, and we are aiming to fill the gap that the big guys leave – particularly in service and freshness. I have done several trips on the road to help clients with their coffee making, machine servicing and training. It’s a really gratifying part of what we do.
Who works at Altitude?
We are really lucky to have a small but fantastic team working with us, beginning with Peter (Rachel’s dad), Julie (my mum) and two great casuals, Imogen and Karina. Rachel also deals with all the office work and background bits, as well as the kids! It makes such a difference having the right people working with you. People joke about it being weird having your father-in-law working with you, but we’re all a great team and we couldn’t do it without them.
Visit Altitude Coffee and Roastery’s Website at www.altitudecoffeeroastery.com.au