By Kerrie Robertson
A decommissioned fire station is now the hottest place to have a coffee in Renmark.
Builder and passionate foodie Callum Benda and his physiotherapist wife Lauren have transformed the disused building into a thriving coffee roasting business and café: Arrosto Coffee.
Callum’s passion for good coffee and food began as a teenager when he helped out a local caterer.
Finishing his building apprenticeship at age 19, his weekends were kept busy helping out mates with odd jobs. It was then he realised he needed a hobby.
“I love coffee and no-one else was roasting coffee in the Riverland at the time,” Callum says.
“We lived in the fire station so we built a roasting room in the backyard.
“We started with a little five kilogram roaster and had one espresso machine on the bench and that was it – now we’ve got a 15kg roaster which is hooked up to computers for batch consistency.
“When we first started we were roasting 20kg a week – we’re now doing up to 300kg a week.”
In the early days Callum and Lauren sold their beans, grounds, and pods at the local farmers market, to local businesses for their staff, and through Foodland and a few specialty stores.
“Two and a half years ago we decided it was time to give the public and tourists something more, and so they could see who we are and where we were,” Callum says.
“We live in a fire station so we thought that would be a good marketing tool.”
So how did they end up living in a fire station?
“I wanted to buy a house when I was 19 and I went around and looked at everything that was for sale – the bank would only give me $180,000 and everything for $180k and under was asbestos with 2.4 metre ceilings, old and needing new carpets, kitchen and bathroom,” Callum recalls.
“While we were looking this popped up and it was marketed as ‘renovate or detonate’.
“Mum jokingly said we should go have a look – it was a solid building, it had a bathroom, it had a kitchen and potential for bedrooms and a lounge room so we went to the government auction and we won it.
“It was cheap, unique, something different and it was a solid building.”
When he bought the premises, the old red fire hydrant was still out the front – a condition of sale was that he had to have it removed, so it now has pride of place on the main counter as a working beer font.
“It’s off that we pour the Firehouse Stout that we do in collaboration with the Woolshed Brewery,” Callum says.
Cold drip is the latest offering from Arrosto – and its sales are red hot – so much so, Callum has imported the first ever ‘Brew Bomb’ machine to Australia to keep up with demand.
“Cold drip is simply water slowly passing through coffee – it’s different to cold brew – you actually get 30 percent more flavour out of cold drip.”
It’s also perfect for making espresso martinis, and Callum has a coffee liqueur which is about to be released in collaboration with Eric Semmler at 919 Wines.
“I think espresso martinis are just the trend at the moment – people want something a bit classier, a bit different and they’re looking for that coffee hit as well.”
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