FOLLOWING the resounding success of his coffee roasting business and coffee outlets in Springwood and Katoomba, Cassiopeia Specialty Coffee owner Zac Suito is bringing his particular brand of fine coffee to the Hawkesbury.
The 30-year-old Katoomba resident opened-up his first coffee bar and juicery in Springwood when he was only 18, followed by a second coffee bar plus a roastery in Katoomba, and has now opened-up shop on the main drag in Windsor.
The 10-seater hole-in-the-wall is situated on George Street opposite the Royal Exchange Hotel, in a shopfront which had been vacant for years.
Mr Suito and his team are trying to tap-into the early morning take-away trade, and he’s hoping the store will become a destination and help bring an influx of people to the Windsor shopping strip.
“Our main focus is coffee,” Mr Suito told the Gazette. They offer a blend for milk-based orders, while their black coffee is single origin, and they also serve filter ($3.5 to $4).
“We roast our own coffee and we roast it a bit lighter, so you get a lot of sweet caramel and chocolate flavours. We source fresh crop seasonal coffees and where we can we deal directly with farmers.”
Mr Suito has traveled to Central America and Brazil on a number of occasions to visit farmers, taste their coffee, and source the beans for Cassiopeia’s brews.
During a trip to Colombia in 2016, he sat on the jury for the Colombian Association for Coffee’s Cup of Excellence competition, which included fellow roasters and importers from around the world.
“Our blend is seasonal which means it changes every six months, as coffee is a fruit and flavours can change harvest-to-harvest,” Mr Suito said.
“But we usually stick with the same countries for our blend - 50 per cent Brazil and 50 per cent Colombia. It gives us what we want in a milk-based coffee.
“For our black coffees we use our single origin which changes throughout the year, but we roast light so you can taste the complexity and the efforts that the producer has put into all stages of their harvest.”
They also make their own juices and smoothies to order ($6), and they offer a small range of sweets including banana bread, friands and Portugese custard tarts ($4), as well as house-baked fruit loaf ($5) and avocado on sourdough toast ($7). Punters can also buy Cassiopeia’s coffee beans to take home ($12 to $15), either whole or ground.
“For anybody who’s in a hurry, there’s convenient parking right out the front - they can jump out and be gone in two minutes. But obviously if they want a nice relaxing coffee they can come hang out here as well,” Mr Suito said.
Mr Suito believes people in Sydney’s west are becoming more discerning about their coffee.
“I’ve been happy with the coffees we’ve been making so far - it’s not as though we’ve been making large cappuccinos with five sugars, we’ve been making a lot of small flat whites and quite a few black coffees,” he said.
“People definitely are starting to take note of what they’re drinking. There’s nothing worse than paying $4 for a cup you can’t drink.”
Those in the market for a soy decaf, however, will be just as welcome as the rest at Cassiopeia - plus, they won’t be asked to pay extra for soy milk.
“We use a Swiss Water method for decaf. We roast all our decaf, and grind it as we go,” Mr Suito said.
New life in Windsor
Cassiopeia might be the first coffee bar of its kind in the Hawkesbury, but Mr Suito is confident there’s a local market for his offering. He said there aren’t any other specialty coffee bars between the Blue Mountains and Norwest, so the Windsor location made sense.
While he’s currently selling around 80 coffees a day compared to the 300-400 he turns over at the Katoomba cafe, he said these are great numbers considering the store has only been open a week.
“People are really enjoying it. It does take time to build-up a business but I really enjoy the challenge! I’m hoping I can make it work here. If you build it they will come - I really believe that,” he said.
Mr Suito said the shop was “pretty run down” when he moved in, having been vacant for so long. “We’re next door to an adult store, and there are two Thai massages down the road! So it’s an interesting location,” he laughed.
“I first looked at it six years ago but I was setting-up my warehouse so I was not able to do it, but I had a gut feeling. Then in 2013 when I got back from Panama, I looked again and it was still empty.
“I don’t know what it is - I’m not going to lie, it’s strange! - but I just had a good feeling about it and I couldn’t let it go - I just had to try it. So I thought, why not try it now?”
He said he has spent a fair bit of time in Windsor over the years and recognises there are opportunities to bring more tourists into the area - particularly on weekends. When he opened his first cafe in Springwood, the area was nowhere near as busy as it is now, and he said he hopes to see the same upswing occur in Windsor.
The cafe is located right by a cluster of other new shops run by young business-owners, who are all hoping to breathe new life in to the area. Other coffee shops and businesses have already given Cassiopeia and its staff a warm welcome.
“I’ve met quite a few of the cafe guys - they’re all really friendly,” Mr Suito said.
“There’s a cool sort of movement going on down here - I really like what Lime & Coconut and the George St Loft are doing, and I think it’s great to have them around. The more people we can bring to the area and create a nice atmosphere, it’ll benefit everybody.”
Mr Suito is keen to get locals involved in the business, including teenagers looking for a first job after school.
Cassiopeia also runs a wholesale arm, and Mr Suito said any cafes in the area looking to improve their coffee should get in touch.
“We’re happy to work with anybody. We can set up a tasting in the warehouse, and try to help them build up their volume over time,” he said.
Cassiopeia Specialty Coffee is located at 3/200 George Street, Windsor, and is open 6.30am to 2pm Mondays to Fridays, and 6.30am until midday on Saturdays and Sundays
- This story first appeared in the Hawkesbury Gazette.