A chance meeting of minds and an irresistible combination of flavours have propelled two lively lads from the Moreton Bay Region and their chilli coffee onto the world stage.
The lads, James Sullivan and Douglas Bates launched Chilli Coffee in March but it’s a journey James started about two years ago.
The experienced coffee roaster, barista, and lover of coffee and spicy food’s first foray into chilli coffee was a pretty basic pour-over version.
He knew he had an idea that would take off, he’d started selling it from his coffee truck, but needed some help to take it to the next level.
James had been looking for an advisor and jumped at the chance to be part of a State Government mentorship program. It was at a program event, in December 2019 that James met Douglas and they instantly connected.
“When I got home, I said to my wife, ‘I’ve just been in an episode of Shark Tank which was bloody awful but there’s one good guy and I think he got what I was talking about’. I was going to ring him, but he beat me to it and rang me first,” James recalls.
The pair met the next day at Doug’s coffee truck on the side of the road at Burpengary.
“He started speaking to me with regards to what we could. He also researched chilli coffee and it didn’t exist,” James recalls.
A few weeks later, they shook hands and agreed to go into partnership.
“He was like a sponge. He was like a big kid and the reason I said, ‘James I’d like to talk to you’ was because he didn’t know what he had and I did. When I did the research that night (after the first meeting) I was so excited, I said to my wife ‘I just met this guy … it was like looking at myself in the mirror’,” Douglas explains.
Chilli Coffee has evolved from a pour-over coffee to ground coffee infused with chilli, which can be used in commercial and domestic machines.
It was launched on March 10 at Basil and Vine Italian restaurant at Burpengary, and the following week James and Doug entered it in the 2020 Mr Chilli Awards where they won first place in the Chilli Beverage category for Australia and New Zealand.
Then COVID-19 hit, cafes and restaurants closed, and the pair put their plans to hit the sales trail on hold.
Rather than sitting idle, a foreign concept to these two go-getters, they developed their brand, website and started dreaming up new products.
They started with just three coffees – mild, medium and hot versions – and now have a super mild variety and chilli coffee syrup, which can be added to hot or cold drinks.
“Together we’ll bounce ideas, we’ll have epiphanies regularly, daily we’re having epiphanies … the syrup was an epiphany. I went down to my local Woolworths to buy a coffee syrup but they’d stopped selling it,” Douglas explains.
At that moment, he told James they needed to make a chilli coffee syrup and within a few weeks, they’d done it.
They now have five registered companies, about 40 domain names registered, 16 new products in the pipeline and hundreds more in mind.
“We look at each other regularly and say we’ve got to slow down, we’ve got to crawl before we run,” Douglas says.
“There’s no shortage of ideas for what we’re doing. The enthusiasm is there, we’ve had some significant kicks, but we’ve had some significant wins.”
“When we first made it, there were no others anywhere. It didn’t exist when you did a Google search. There’s lots of people who get an idea, but who acts on it?,” James says.
“We can produce it day after day, after day the same anywhere in the world. It’s almost too simple. That’s why when people say how do you do it, we can’t tell them.
“It’s almost a case of, why didn’t someone else do this? It’s a first. When I was a kid growing up, I wanted to invent two things: it was either the straw or the ashtray. I would have loved to have invented those – (back then) every house had straws and ashtrays and I thought if you invented them you were rich.
“Then to have come all this way down the track and invent something that isn’t there, I’m in heaven. You don’t get that opportunity very often.”
“They complement each other. Coffee with the caffeine is addictive for a lot of people, when you have chilli it triggers the feel-good endorphins…,” Douglas explains.
“It’s the most amazing experience. You get this feel-good sensation drinking coffee. It fills the body with a journey of taste you don’t get from normal coffee and it lingers. When you have this coffee, it’s morish.”
Oh, and it’s rich in Vitamin C. James says an orange has 63mg of vitamin C per 100 g, while chilli has 254mg per 100g.
Want to know more about Chilli Coffee? Check out their website.
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