Guest post by Sarah Robins – ‘Girl Has Appetite’. Sarah is a passionate advocate for local food producers and sustainable food systems.
Did you partake in one of the 16.3 million coffees consumed in Australia today? Possibly more than one? If not coffee, perhaps chai or hot chocolate is more your cup of tea? Bean origin, cacao sustainability, powder or syrup, made from leaves or a bag; these are now all decisive factors at our favourite cafes.
Recently the all-important bottle of milk has also come into focus, both for the low ticket price of mainstream brands in the supermarket and resulting impact on local dairy farmers, as well as flavour and quality. Boutique milk producers are rising to the challenge of shortening food chains and our preference for locally sourced products, with several local dairies debuting in recent years.
Saint David Dairy is one such producer, a micro dairy tucked away in the side streets of Fitzroy in an area which once boasted more than 25 dairy producers. Milk for coffee is where the business started, initially supplying only baristas. “I believe in doing one thing well before moving on,” says founder Ben Evans. While most milk looks pretty similar to the average person, its composition, fat content and body become evident when making coffee. “We do a ‘froth’ test, as well as a taste test every day to make sure the milk is how it should be. It’s performance-based,” he adds.
Freshness is everything in the dairy world. Ben’s team collect milk at 3.30am; it’s processed and hand-bottled by midday. With deliveries six days a week it can be just 6 hours from cow to coffee cup. Saint David Dairy’s full fat pasteurised milk is available homogenised or with the layer of cream on the top that was once commonplace. Reduced fat milk, cream and double cream – the latter with no thickeners or additive – are also in their product range.
The business is the culmination of a plan Ben hatched more than ten years ago. Dairy farming is in the genes, thanks to his mother’s side of the family. His career started with a dairy cadetship at Murray Goulburn and went on to encompass cheese making and butter production around Australia and overseas.
The rise of the microbrewery and support for local produce was the inspiration for a small scale business with a strong product offering, while Fitzroy has a special place in his heart as the location where he met his wife. There’s also the proximity to customers (ie low food miles) and potential for retail – which recently commenced with milk sales via a window hatch on St David Street, just near the corner of Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.
Working in a small space has presented both opportunities and challenges with space maximisation, customisation of machinery and a smart production line essential to success. Ben’s keen to consider expanding into fresh cheeses like ricotta and perhaps sourcing his milk from a single farm in the future.
Since becoming a supplier in late 2014, MCEC have used 1950 litres of full cream milk and 142 litres of cream from Saint David Dairy to produce their award-winning ice cream, Labna and yoghurt.