Can you tell us a little bit about yourself:
So I’ve gotten into coffee in 2012, so it’s been about 10 years. I have always been making coffee and got into coffee roasting in 2016. I got an opportunity to roast for Deluca coffee in 2016. And I have found my passion from that moment.
What makes you so passionate about this industry?
I feel like coffee is something that change all the time, and it’s seasonal, and I enjoy coffee and enjoy roasting, enjoy drinking it because you can never guess. You can’t do the same thing and get the same results all the time. And that’s what I find fascinating. I like trying, and trial and error, and learning. Every day in coffee is learning for me and that’s what I enjoy about coffee.
Has that been a bit of a journey to become your own roaster?
I kind of feel like once you get very passionate about coffee, it’s very natural that you want to know how the coffee is roasted, and even from the farming end. And I find roasting is very, I can connect to coffee better from roasting because I get to choose the coffee and I see the story of the farms, of the processing, and I get to choose it and then I get to roast it how I like the coffee to shine and that what makes me love coffee so much is from roasting.
All right, so just thinking about Ickle, the name Ickle, and this place, does it have any sort of meaning behind Ickle?
So if you Google the word ickle, it means little and it says it’s child’s word for little in the UK. So when I was choosing the name, I was actually Googling other words for little or small or tiny. And that’s because I know that I want to keep this business small. I want to be always micro roaster. I want to roast small batch. I want to keep it small so I can always keep doing it on my own. And the word ickle actually comes up and I feel like it explains itself in the word. You don’t need to know the meaning, it actually gives you the feeling of small or something cute, something tiny. And I really like the word, so I chose it.
So you get to work with your sister. Has this always been a shared passion together? And tell us a bit about what it’s like working with your sister.?
So me working with my sister, what’s funny is she doesn’t drink coffee and she doesn’t really enjoy wine or fine dining or coffee at all. But she was always my supporter in every step of my career. And when I started Ickle, I was starting by myself. So I was buying, roasting, selling to coffee friends. And then naturally, once it gets a little… Naturally when it was growing, I needed help and she was there to help me, doing everything back of house. So a lot of accounting, admins, paying the bills, anything that is not touching, roasting, drinking coffee, that’s all my sister’s job. And she adds in and make Ickle complete.
Can you tell us a bit about sustainability and why that’s so important to you?
So with the sustainability, it’s not only important for coffee. I think it’s for every things that we consume in our daily basis. And because I work with coffee and I drink a lot of coffee and I love having the produce coming from the farms, and knowing the climate change and everything that’s affecting so much from the farming end. So I feel like it’s our responsibility as the shop itself to maintain, to practice sustainability. And that’s why all of our packaging are quite eco-friendly. Like our cups here, it’s made of plant pulp, which is agricultural waste and it’s organic plant ink. And we encourage people to bring in their own packaging or tins to fill up their coffee beans as well.
So coming into this space, it’s so colorful, it has a really distinctive feel. Can you talk about the vision behind that and that sort of came together?
So when I was planning to open the shop, originally I looked for city sites, but that was from before the pandemic. And I was pretty lucky that I didn’t find anything, and the pandemic comes and I was seeing how my wholesale customers are doing during pandemic. And I was seeing that a lot of neighborhood cafes are doing really well, and I was looking around the area that I live. I live in Riverwood, so I was looking at something no more than five kilometers radius, which is convenient. Less driving and also keeps it very local. So Kingsgrove comes really naturally because it’s very quiet and the reason I choose quiet, because I don’t want to be another cafe in such a crowded area. So I want to bring specialty coffee to somewhere that is a little bit unusual for people to think about. And so far I think it’s been doing great. We have a lot of people who coming in and enjoy our coffee and really appreciate what we do, which is quite surprisingly for the area.
Can you talk to us a bit about the artwork and the colours and that sort of thing?
So with Ickle Coffee, all of the designs and packaging that we did, it’s between me and my best friend, who is based overseas and she only does the freelance work for us only. It’s reflecting what we are, not only me but her as well. Growing up, enjoying the same art and loving colors and fun. So with this space… With this space, I try to make it as friendly as possible. So not too pretentious, not too fancy, but also have a lot of colors and a lot of vibrance and family-friendly. So just very, this place basically looked like what my bedroom could have been.
How important local is to you and why you sort of choose to work with certain brands that are local?
So we try to work with local suppliers with milk, as well with the dairy. We buy direct to the dairy farmers. And with alternative milk, we choose the brand that is Australian owned and Australian made. And I find it really important because that’s Australian economy and also Australian jobs, and also less carbon footprint in traveling. And also I do believe in Australian standards in manufacturing and that’s really important to all of our customers as well.
How do you think The Alternative products perform?
So when we started the shop, we blind taste all of the alternative milk options and we find the alternative has really creamy and neutral taste and that actually enhance our coffee of choice. We do light roast and we find it hard to find alternative milk products that has no sourness, and that with the alternative creaminess and neutralness with our fruit tea, light coffee, it actually blends really well and it gives us a lot of harmonious taste and also highlight the taste that we want to highlight in our coffee as well.
Has there been any sort of big challenges throughout the journey to where you’ve got to today? And if you have any advice for people wanting to start out and become a roaster?
I find everyone has different challenges, and I think you just got to wait for your moment and just never stop trying. I feel like there are challenges that comes, but with the right people surrounded me and also with our product that is, I believe is very high quality, I find that with the pandemic and everything, our customers still believe in us and continue to support us and we do our best to support them as much as we can. We do give discounts and stuff during the pandemic, if that’s the least that we could help our customers. And with that we actually get the support back. And I find everyone that looking to get into roasting, just never stop learning, never stop trying. Just don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it. And yeah, just keep going. If you love it, just keep going.
Are there any role models that have shaped your journey to here?
There are a few people that I really look up to in this industry. One person is Daniel from Double Tap. People talk of him very highly and I feel like his business is really honest. His service, his quality is high. And this is what we aim to do with our business as well, is to be honest, be transparent, deliver high quality, and also make people feel comfortable walking in the shop. Feeling welcome, where this is the safe place for people to hang and enjoy their day or enjoy their cup of coffee. And I think that’s really important for cafes is to make customer feel welcome, feel happy to be here. And we are always happy to serve customers. We want to be the smallest part of their day to make their day good.
So what does the future look like for Ickle?
I really love what we have now. I really love the wholesale side of the business and I really love this Kingsgrove shop. I see Ickle grow from next year, maybe have multiple shops. If it’s sustainable, of course. And yeah, I really want to take it as it comes. Whenever opportunity comes, whenever it’s the right time, whenever the right place comes, then Ickle will be there.