Black Saturdays at Sample Coffee

Image credit: George Popov/ Broadsheet Sydney

This article was published in Broadsheet Sydney‘s Weekend e-newsletter (October 5th/6th, 2012 edition). Photo by George Popov.

It’s been a busy 10 months for Sample Coffee, since first opening shop in Surry Hills last December. Owner Reuben Mardan decided to open the coffee bar, tucked away on the lower end of Devonshire Street, after 10 years in the industry, three years of which were spent roasting coffee for Single Origin, another five at Mecca and rounded out with some insightful travels to coffee farms in Brazil, Panama and Costa Rica.

“The focus was always about being a place for education,” says Mardan. “The more educated the customers are, the more demand for higher quality coffee there will be.

“I hoped to create a shop that could focus all its energy on service and coffee and not be inhibited by preparing and serving food. And I wanted to source coffee from top roasters to give our customers a chance to drink these different coffees weekly,” he continues. “So far, we’ve had over 15 different coffee roasters available.

So the introduction of the monthly ‘Black Saturday’ coffee tastings, named for the fact they only serve black or filter coffee, seemed like a natural progression, even if they were a little incidental. The first coffee event, held back in June, was intended as a farewell of sorts for Sample’s much loved but little used lever espresso machine and was so well received that it has since become a regular occurrence. The next is on this weekend, Saturday October 6.

“Monday to Friday we operate as a pretty normal coffee-focused coffee bar,” explains Mardan. “On the Black Saturday events, by taking milk out of the equation, we are able to offer – or force – the customer into trying black coffee. We have the time to talk them through it and help them identify the different flavours in the coffee. Over half of the customers who walk in are unaware of what we are doing but give it a go. A lot of our regular customers come in and swap their flat white for a filter brew too.”

Mardan hopes that the monthly events will highlight to customers why he and the majority of industry professionals enjoy their coffee sans milk. Each Black Saturday will focus on different aspects of the coffee, such as its origins, processing style and varietals and how this affects the cup flavour. October hones in on El Salvador varietals.

“El Salvador coffee has just come in season so there is a lots of variety from different roasters. Customers can try one cup or take the full flight and try them all,” says Mardan.

“The end goal is get more people to enjoy black coffee and appreciate the labour and dedication that goes into quality coffee.”