ED THOMAS reckons that he was not passionate about coffee until Janelle and his wife moved to Sydney in 2002 where they found themselves in a "significant coffee culture"
They first saw coffee being roasted there and dared to dream that one day it was something they could do.
In 2006, they returned to the Redcliffe Peninsula with the idea in their minds and they took the plunge in 2008 to launch Neli Coffee at Clontarf.
Investment banking was Ed's background and Janelle's was in hospitality. But that didn't stop them, they started with a roaster and a small counter.
“We bobbled along until we got an idea of what we were doing,” Ed recalls.
During the day, Janelle ran the business while Ed continued working in finance, switching to shorts and t-shirts after a day in the office and roasting coffee until 11 pm, four days a week.
He says he could only sustain this for a short time, before having to give up working in finance and commit working full-time in the coffee business.
“A few things went our way and I was able to throw that career in the bin and start again. That was in 2012,” he says.
Ed, Janelle and their team have since worked hard to build a reputation for roasting and delivering high-quality specialty coffee.
“Our aim has always been to try to source the best coffee we can and do as little to it as possible so the coffee itself shines, not what we’ve done to it,” Ed says.
Ed likens the search for quality coffee beans to purchasing different cuts of meat and says the coffee will never taste good if beans are not of the highest standard.
Over the years, their work has created a top five list of countries of source – Brazil, Ethiopia, Columbia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Ed and Janelle supply a large number of cafés with Neli Coffee, have a strong relationship with their wholesale and retail customers and run a busy café on site.
“We’ve never had ambitions to be the biggest. We’ve always wanted to be as good as we possibly can be,” Ed says.
This year, they launched their second brand called Moreton Bay Coffee Co (MBCC), which embraces their coastal position and has an environmental focus.
“We wanted to start a green brand,” Ed explains.
They have added a second roaster, which is fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly, and they use the recyclable packaging.
Ed says the new brand was well received on the market and they had positive reviews on how the coffee tasted.
“People take coffee very seriously. I’m lucky to be in an industry where people recognise quality,” he says.
“The biggest thing is we enjoy what we do. It’s challenging and rewarding but it’s not like we’re pulling teeth or giving someone bad news. When someone comes in they’re after a coffee. We’re a place of happiness.”
Ed says Brisbane has now far surpassed the coffee culture that captured his imagination all those years ago in Sydney.
“I think Brisbane has some of the best coffee anywhere, around Australia and the world,” he says.
To learn more about Neli Coffee visit nelicoffee.com.au
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