When David Kennedy opened a gourmet French patisserie in Sydney, it was far from his liking that the establishment soon came to be known amongst his friends as ’the sticky bun shop’. He wasn’t selling production line pastries from some chain bakery, these were the finest creations in puff and choux pastry, lovingly hand crafted by highly qualified patissiers to the highest standards. ’Sticky buns’ indeed – how dare they!
But the name stuck. And, of course, the Sticky Bun Shop was run by the Sticky Bun Man. The mouthful of a nickname was soon trimmed to Sticky Bun and eventually, in his circle of friends and family, David became simply ’Bun’.
So now you know how Bun Coffee came to be – at least in name.
Bun Coffee has become somewhat of a Byron Bay success story. David had been in the coffee game in Sydney for many years, first as a cafe owner, then as head roaster for a family-owned roastery, Gourmet Gold, before his northern migration.
David had originally connected with Gourmet Gold to create his own, unique blend for his cafe. Venturing into the roastery, he was immediately struck by the exotic locations printed on the hessian sacks of beans, the rich aromas and the entire process of blending and roasting, formulating recipes for that perfect flavour. When he sold his cafe, the logical next step in his career was to join Gourmet Gold.
“When we sold that cafe,” recalls David, “they [Gourmet Gold] asked if I’d like to join their company, in sales initially, but because I was so interested in the roasting side of it, I kept hanging around the roastery. Eventually the head roaster handed in his notice and they asked me if I’d like to take over.”
David still tips his hat to the small, family business, without whom he may never have learned the intricate skills required. Bun Coffee officially opened its doors in 2005, David finally managing to make the move north from his life in Sydney. However, his initial plans for a small, boutique cafe-roastery in Bangalow were soon quashed by council, entwined in the tangles of red tape.
“We arrived here in the early part of 2005,” David remembers, “and had a premises in Bangalow – the old Reading stores building – which I’d seen a few years previously as a completely run-down, boarded-up property. I thought to myself, ‘what a great place to put a coffee roastery,’ and approached the owner. I actually had the roaster in storage in Bangalow, the tables and chairs in the shop, refrigeration, the whole lot, but it wouldn’t go through council.”
Back to the drawing board and with the blessing of hindsight, David and Jenny realised that perhaps their original game plan had been a little hasty. What would have been a small, retail cafe was almost forced into becoming the ever-expanding wholesale coffee roasting business it is today.
Looking now at Bun Coffee‘s gamut of blends and roasts, its gourmet hot chocolate and its tea range, it’s hard to believe that there was never a grand plan for creating their extensive collection of products.
David says the original concept was to have three simple products: “I wanted to do a 100 percent Australian coffee – and I had already been selling one at markets back in Sydney – I wanted to have a Rainforest Alliance blend and I wanted to have a 100 percent organic blend.”
Each of these roasts reflects David’s inherent desire for creating an ethical product. The Australian blend supports the local growers and business, as well as reducing food miles and the carbon footprint, the Rainforest Alliance blend ensures the overseas beans are farmed sustainably, and the 100 percent organic removes the usage of chemicals and pesticides. These three roasts remain some of Bun Coffee‘s best sellers to this day, almost a decade later, and remain the foundation of the business ethos.
“If I had the choice of sustainably or unsustainably grown beans, why would I choose the latter,” says David of his ethical perspectives. “So we started off with the Rainforest Alliance and the organic and we’ve now gone to Fair Trade organic as well. Organic is a ‘why wouldn’t you’ scenario. If all our coffee could be organic and Rainforest Alliance, that would be great. However, for some of my established recipes, the beans are only available as one or the other.”
David’s exemplary business principles are not confined only to the beans he sources. He is continually exploring ways to improve the company’s footprint, from organic teas to sustainable packaging. The packaging is a particular bugbear, a thorn in David’s side that he is struggling to extricate. The nature of the vented, breathable bags makes them very hard to manufacture in sustainable or recyclable materials.
As well as their continued and ongoing support of Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, organic and choosing sustainable, recyclable packaging wherever possible – such as with their teas and hot chocolates – David and Jenny were recently made aware of So They Can. So They Can‘s mission, as they state so eloquently on their website, ‘is to work together with communities in Africa to educate and empower, so they can break the poverty cycle, realise their own potential and meet their own needs.’ Bun Coffee now produces a Kenya AA, single origin roast, all profits of which go directly to helping this exceptional cause.
“We’ve partnered with So They Can,” David explains, “which is a small, not-for-profit organisation in Kenya. 100 percent of profits from that particular bean that we sell goes to them every month. We don’t make anything out of it. They put that money directly into great things. They have a feed mill that produces really high-quality chicken feed and they cover the delivery fees to get the feed to the people who need it. They have orphanages, build schools – educating the people is the most important thing for them.”
It is this and the many continued, altruistic efforts that really set Bun Coffee apart, as well as the exceptional quality and flavour of their coffee, and the world is taking notice. Already, Bun Coffee is distributed, both for retail and wholesale, across the country and is fast becoming a recognised and respected roastery in the cafe industry. They have also recently established distribution in California and have just helped launch a ‘Bun Coffee Byron Bay’ cafe and retail outlet in Tokyo.
“Developing products for the Japanese scene will be a big thing because it is a very different market to us,” says David of this new venture. “The Japanese market is the biggest market for high-end, single-origin coffees in the world, so we’ve brought out a range of 100 gram packs of rare, single origin coffees to cater just for that.”
The expansion of Bun Coffee has been exceptional, beyond David’s early aspirations and certainly outshining David’s ever-present humility. He roasts because he loves to roast. Bun Coffee is not a business, it is a passion. He maintains a very personal connection with all his stockists and consumers, visiting every cafe personally, training staff in the nuances of baristaship and ensuring they are using his product to its fullest potential, for the reputations of both Bun Coffee and the outlet, and ultimately for customer satisfaction. Within Australia, every product is distributed directly, no middleman or wholesaler is used, to maintain that personal connection.
David is quick to admit that he is very lucky. He lives in a beautiful part of the world, earns his crust doing what he loves and has been blessed by a business growth surpassing expectation.
It’s not a bad outcome for the ‘Sticky Bun Man.’
Bun Coffee is located at Unit 15-17/ 1A Banksia Drive in Byron’s Arts and Industry Estate. Visit their espresso bar and retail store, join them on Facebook or keep an eye out for the Bun Coffee logo at your local coffee merchant.
– This article first appeared on Common Ground Australia on Nov 4, 2014