Cafe Convos - Proud Mary Coffee - The Alternative Dairy Co.

Proud Mary run a truly iconic cafe and roastery in Collingwood, Victoria. Not only because they’ve given brew-lovers a heartfelt experience since 2009, but because they go the extra mile to build sustainable business practices in Melbourne, in Portland, and right down the supply chain to the origin of every bean. We sat down with Cafe Manager Brodie Roberts to talk sustainability and how grower information helps enrich every cup.

Tell us a little bit about yourself Brodie?

So my name’s Brodie. I’m the manager of Proud Mary Cafe in Collingwood. So I moved to Melbourne as soon as I finished high school. I fell into a job in a cafe, and never looked back. I have been really lucky to work in a whole bunch of really great places. I moved to the UK a few years ago and worked in London in the specialty coffee industry for a while, and that just helped cement everything. After coming back to Melbourne, I managed to get a job at Proud Mary, and here I am. It’s literally one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Was the cafe industry ‘Love at first sight’?

I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but I think after working in the industry for a while, it almost becomes an obsession, just to fine-tune and produce something of the highest quality that you possibly can and share that information and knowledge with as many people as possible.

 

Can you explain the vision behind Proud Mary Coffee?

The vision behind PM is quite strong. Nolan, the owner built the business on an origin trip where he discovered that there were a lot of inadequate practices and believed that there should be more information shared from origin to consumer. Our mission is to: excite customers, share stories and make a difference. We want to be able to share as much information and stories from origin and with that continue to hold strong, long standing relationships with them and share as much information as we can. And in the process, be able to serve some of the best coffee in the world.

 

 

We’re currently chatting in a different venue to the main cafe, can you tell us about this location?

 Yeah. So we’re at Aunty Peg’s which is our HQ, we’ve got our brew bar and roastery downstairs and up here, our office space, kitchen and coffee college. Hopefully in the near future we will open back up to the public with training and cupping sessions. It’s a beautiful space that we’ve put a lot of energy into.

What can people expect when they come to Proud Mary?

When people come to Proud Mary, we want everyone to come into a really relaxed and welcoming environment, somewhere that offers great service, amazing food and even better coffee. At the same time we are the messengers with information about all the products we serve. We love nerding out on anything product related and being able to share that information with as many people as possible.

 

 

You’re clearly very passionate about sustainability, can you expand on this?

I, myself, am quite passionate about sustainability, both in general practices in life, but then also in business practices. I’ve been fortunate enough to complete two levels of the SCA Coffee Sustainability Program. Hopefully I’ll complete the final course by the end of this year. I think that the topic in the industry is quite new and is something that we really need to push forward. I’m really lucky to work with an incredible company who is able to support my beliefs and really wants to try and help bridge that gap and develop the business itself, and help share that same information with other businesses.

It’s an incredible topic that many people know about, but I don’t think there’s enough information that’s readily available for people. With everything that’s going on with global warming and origin, the issues at social levels in terms of pricing and cost of living, and then everything to do with importing, exporting, and our level in terms of a day-to-day business of operating a cafe, there’s so many areas in which we could really make more of a conscious effort to monitor everything that we do to ensure that we make the best decisions possible to minimize any, I guess, negative impact that that may have in the future.

 

How important is it to Proud Mary that you source from and work with local suppliers?

So Proud Mary is an Australian owned and operated business. Being an Australian-owned business, we love to be able to support other local Australian-owned businesses that produce some really high-end quality stuff. When I came across Alternative Dairy Co just over a year ago, I thought,  it’s such an incredible product! Our almond milk that we’re currently using in the cafe, and have been using for almost a year now, is so neutral, It’s not very sweet or nutty. It textures really well. It’s actually the perfect vessel to be able to highlight the coffee itself and not actually impose on what you’re trying to produce for a customer. Honestly, it’s so good.

 

 

What’s some advice for anyone looking to get into this industry?

After many years of being in the industry, I think the biggest piece of advice I can give to people is to be a people person. Take everything with a grain of salt, and yet at the same time, take everything that people say seriously. So don’t read into everything too much, but just try and stay true to your values and be able to have your business model and be able to replicate that from start to finish.

 

Have you noticed a shift toward plant-based products?

I believe that probably in the last three years or so, there’s been an extreme shift in terms of demand for alternative-based products. Focusing on milk, the major competitors have obviously grown within the industry. I mean, back in the day, many years ago, there was really only two or three alternative milks, and some of them weren’t that great. I think that with everything that’s happening in the world and the shift towards more conscious decisions that people are making in what they’re consuming, it’s really great because everybody’s able to understand what’s going on. In terms of our alternative milk offering, we’re currently now sitting at 52-55% alternative, comparatively to whole milk, which is incredible.

I believe that hopefully in the future, Proud Mary is able to grow further as a business and be able to continue to share as many stories as possible, and support all the knowledge that we have and share that with everyone. We are fortunate enough to have a US space at the moment. And so, we have a roastery in Portland and a cafe in Portland, and we’re currently building a second cafe in Austin. Hopefully by that being done, we’re actually able to expand the company itself and help grow everything in between. In terms of this space here, I think that everybody’s really nailing all of our departments and we’re really just trying to push and improve every area of the business to continue to grow and keep a nice strong team.

 

 

 
Tell us why you love Proud Mary so much?

I mean, who doesn’t love Proud Mary? I personally love working for Proud Mary because it’s such an incredible company. Everybody here is so lovely, but we also have such incredible values and mottoes throughout the business. Everybody has such a strong ethos and we really want to stay true to everything that built the business. Everybody here is so kind and generous. And I think that everybody is just, honestly, such a legend. It’s such a great company to work for.