An Afternoon With an International Coffee Legend

Given Scottie Callaghan’s upbringing, it’s perhaps no surprise that he achieved the title of Australian Barista Champion. He was born in the coffee producing country of Indonesia and grew up in Burwood amongst the coffee cultures of Greece, Lebanon & Italy. In 1999 He began working at The Coffee Club in Hornsby where he posed himself a question that would change the arc of his career. “There must be more to coffee than this?”

Scottie Callaghan

Scottie answered that question by taking out the Australian Barista Championship in 2006 and by becoming the world latte art champion in 2007. In 2010 he took out the Australian championship for a second time and placed third in the International Championship in London.

Scottie now works at the Belaroma Coffee Centre in Manly Vale on Sydney’s Northern Beaches where he wears many hats. He is involved in research and development, quality assurance and training for the company which was established in 1968. I met up with Scottie in the tasting room at Belaroma’s headquarters to learn more about the quality assurance process and to try it for myself.

The Belaroma Coffee Centre

Scottie had recently returned from a trip to Peru where he had spent two weeks living with a coffee farmer he met in 2010 on a research trip. Although he was somewhat jetlagged, having flown in to Sydney from Hong Kong that morning he became animated when talking about his Peruvian Journey. “I made a commitment to buy his beans” explained Scottie. “This allows the farmer to invest in his farm, safe in the knowledge there will be a consistent income.”

Peruvian Coffee Beans - Photo Credit: Scottie Callaghan

That consistent income has allowed the farmer, Dionicio Aguilar to invest in new equipment to make the job of processing the beans much easier. On his return trip to Peru in April, Scottie took back a sample of the coffee that had been roasted back in Australia from Dionicio’s beans. By all accounts, it was an emotional moment as the farmer was finally able to experience his beans as a finished product.

Scottie took me through part of the quality assurance process known as cupping, where coffee is evaluated through smell and taste. The quality assurance teams at Belaroma undertake 30 – 60 cupping sessions each day to ensure the quality of their coffee before distribution. The coffee is assessed in three ways. Firstly, the ground coffee aroma is assessed by smelling the coffee while dry, then hot water is poured over the grounds and after a few minutes the wet aroma is assessed. Finally, when the coffee is 65°C – 70°C, the coffee is tasted.

As part of the exercise, I had to assess four sets of three bowls, to figure out which of the bowls was the odd one out. I’m going to blame the fact that I was getting over a cold, but I only got one right. I guess it’s not time for me to give up my day job.

My failed attempt at cupping

We moved downstairs for lunch. Belaroma Coffee Centre has an excellent menu, prepared by Executive Chef Chris Blatchford. The menu features street style cuisine, built around local produce and drawing inspiration from the countries where Belaroma purchases its coffee. The Autumn menu features ingredients from Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil and Indonesia making the dishes a great match with the various coffees served or with a beer or wine.

Executive Chef Chris Blatchford

I tried adobo braised beef cheeks with a red cabbage, coriander and lime slaw and was served on a large floury tortilla. The adobo sauce had caramel coffee incorporated into it, further enhancing the flavour. I washed it down with a glass of Kilikanoon Shiraz Grenache, but not before trying Scottie’s  Peruvian coffee, Tiempo. It was rich and fruity with a touch of caramel. Having heard the story of how the beans made it to Australia from Peru, it added an extra dimension to the coffee as I had seen the mountains the coffee was plucked from.

The warm roast vegetable salad with quinoa, nuts, greens and grilled haloumi also looked fantastic and I look forward to trying that on my next visit. Belaroma have also recently released a new range of organic and fair trade coffees called Botanica, with beans sourced from Colombia, Nicaragua, Timor and New Guinea. The blend was originally created for a customer in Victoria, but has undergone four months of refinement to become the coffee it is today.

Adobo Braised Beef Cheeks

Warm Roast Vegetable Salad

The Northern Beaches hasn’t always been known as coffee hotspot, but with Scottie and the team at Belaroma constantly seeking an increasingly diverse and interesting range of coffees, the future is looking bright.

Thanks to Scottie and the team at Belaroma Coffee Roasting Company for hosting me

Belaroma Coffee Centre

75 Kenneth Road
Manly Vale NSW 2093
02 8976 9999

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Author:Jeremy Bowell

Jeremy Bowell is the founder and editor of Taste Explorer. He also writes for,, and has featured in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Living section. He is an avid connoisseur of all things food and drink related.
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    Thanks to Scottie and the team at Belaroma Coffee Roasting Company for hosting me

    What an interesting thought…