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Proudly Pouring | Mrs Underwood, Stanmore

Proudly Pouring | Mrs Underwood, Stanmore

The first thing you notice when you wander into Mrs Underwood is that the pace isn’t frenetic – rather, it’s the kind of slow and gentle setting that reminds you of a small-town café, not a bustling inner-city one. The café is dotted with quiet freelancers slowly sipping on a brew as they work, old friends laughing over endless pots of tea, and a woman balancing her bub on her hip chatting to the staff like they’ve known each other forever.

Run by long-time food industry veteran Rebecca Perry-Mathews, Mrs Underwood does simple, well. There’s an impressive cabinet of freshly-baked delights, a small menu with a focus on seasonal ingredients and, well, exceptional coffee (if we do say so ourselves).

Everything is prepared freshly daily – you’ll find Rebecca in the café baking pastries, cakes, salads and sandwiches from 4:30 am, getting the cabinet stocked for the day. You won’t find a kitchen teaming with pre-prepped food and more chefs than you can count here. It’s just Rebecca, and you can taste the love, care and attention-to-detail laced through everything she hand-prepares, from her famous preserves and jams to her unique pies and out-of-this-world pastries.

For Rebecca, Mrs Underwood is about a few simple things – real food, great coffee, cultivating community and slowing down. A true community cornerstone, the café aims to cultivate long-lasting, meaningful relationships amidst the anonymity and lack of connection that is too often synonymous with big ‘ol cities like Sydney.

She doesn’t buy into a surface-level money-for-goods model – the experience of coming to Mrs Underwood is more than grabbing a coffee and bite on the go. It’s the place where the barista knows your name, your coffee order, and your story. It’s the place that invites you to slow down a moment to really appreciate the food you’re eating, while you exchange a smile with the woman who lovingly prepared it before dawn. It’s the place to grab a book, meet a friend, and take a step back from our busy lives while you sip on a stellar Little Marionette brew.

Visit Mrs Underwood at 16 Douglas Street, Stanmore | Follow Mrs Underwood on Instagram and Facebook.

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Travelling with Ed Cutcliffe

Travelling with Ed Cutcliffe

This article was originally published on Smudge Eats | Words by Jonette George

When The Little Marionette’s founder, Ed Cutcliffe, decided to start up in London, he realised that the coffee culture would be quite different from ours back in Australia. Luckily, two of his co-workers, Kirby Sinclair and Wesley Cusick, had moved to London to train, play and coach squash. During their time there, they found they couldn’t get a decent coffee anywhere. Otherwise, they loved the city and wanted to move there!

They were great mates with Ed and had worked in all corners of The Little Marionette business in Sydney. After consulting him, the three of them decided to start up a roasting business with minimal outlay. The boys started coaching squash for income while they spent a year building the business in Winchester, just one-hour south-west of London.

They found that being Australian was an advantage, but Ed said it wouldn’t matter how good your sales skills were, they didn’t help in London.  Being an Australian roaster helped but, most of all, it was quality that won over the locals.

Party at Pavillion, Sloan Square | Image by Reverb London

Ed said they adapted their approach to meet the market expectations. They had to redefine their flavour profile whilst not compromising on quality, and adapt that into their roasting style.

“We found London was a different market,” Ed said. “I found the coffee scene was about 7-8 years behind Australia with regard to consumer appreciation and delivery expectations.”

“We found that double ristrettos were the norm, and split shots were just not being used anywhere.”

He believes that this will evolve over the coming years, the same as it has in Australia. “The coffee market is driven by expat Australians,” he said, “who are trying to make their antipodean coffee experience and products relevant to a very different consumer.”

The Little Marionette boys seem to have hit the mark. Their roastery, The Roasting Party, has successfully pushed into the wholesale market throughout the UK as well as Europe. They have also helped more operators open multiple stores than any other brand.

They have also recently opened their own store – Party on Pavilion – a laneway cafe just off Sloane Street. Owned by the 8th Earl of Cadogan, the shop is part of one of the largest property portfolios in London. When Lord Cadogan sent a survey to his tenants recently, he asked them what facilities they would like located nearby. Amongst the mix of requests was good coffee and the Earl went to the market to find the best. He approached The Roasting Party to set up shop, and the rest is history. Set amongst other artisan stores, and with Bill Granger’s restaurant, Granger & Co, at the end of the lane, the boys wave a cheery hello to the Earl as he walks by daily to and from work.

The puppeteer founder of Little Marionette is not one to sit still. He has also sent his puppet strings into the New York market. A client who was going to open a cafe in Paramatta decided to open in New York instead. With the help of Ed, they studied the US market and found another demographic again.

Ed said that the New York market was being driven by expats who, like those in London, were adapting to very different requirements. Firstly, the market is still filter-driven with 60% of the coffee sold in summer and 40% in winter being filter coffee.

He also found that there were two extremes of espresso coffee being served – either double ristrettos or very fast split shots. There was no in between – no slow extractions producing a nice chocolatey, coffee flavour.

Together with Lee Zheng and Sid Chitnis, the trio have taken on the coffee scene and produced what they believe will be a unique experience to the coffee drinkers of New York at their east-side cafe, Saltwater, using coffee that Ed is shipping over from Australia. You can find it on East 12th Street, NYC.

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Why reusable coffee cup discounts are not sustainable

Why reusable coffee cup discounts are not sustainable

This article was originally published on Good Food | Words by Edward Cutcliffe

Australia’s coffee culture is world-renowned, and rightly so. Recent years have seen a huge focus on sustainability and the environment – which is awesome and something we fully support at The Little Marionette – but who should be footing the bill for this in a low-margin industry?

I remember paying about $3 for a coffee in Balmain in 2000. Eighteen years down the track there has been less than 10 percent growth in the price of coffee at many cafes while the cost of goods sold has increased about 400 percent. The profit has been sucked out of the sector so it’s important that initiatives to reduce waste and increase sustainability reward the businesses adopting responsible practices.

The coffee-drinking public is becoming more particular about what they drink, and as a fully-fledged coffee nerd, I love this. However, the reality of this is that we need to use more expensive milk and pay more for biodegradable cups. The industry is now using about 24 grams of coffee per basket where we used to use seven grams to cater for Australia’s espresso habits. There is also an increased worldwide demand for coffee, which increases the price of beans. Roasters need to absorb these price rises to stay competitive.

Giving a 50¢ discount to customers who bring a reusable cup is a noble idea in theory, but disposable cups only cost about 14¢ to 16¢. Either the price of coffee needs to be raised across the board to account for this or we erode already slim profits to remain competitive.

We still wholeheartedly encourage the use of reusable cups and give away a free coffee with each reusable cup we sell. Along with donations to sustainability charities, this cuts our margin on the cup but helps to combat the waste issue.

Coffee pod machines are also terrible for the environment and something that we think many pod customers aren’t aware of. Not only are the foil and plastic pods non-compostable and a huge creator of waste, the machines themselves are essentially disposable. It’s cheaper and easier to buy a new one when something goes wrong. Potential environmentally friendly solutions are cardboard or bagasse (sugar cane pulp) pods but these are yet to be proven effective.

Coffee is a commodity that is traded globally in a highly competitive market. At The Little Marionette we love the industry and do everything we can to minimise our impact on the environment and the sustainability of the supply chain that gets the product to us.

To address waste issues more permanently I would like to see a holistic approach by the industry rather than gimmicks focused on convenience or cost.

If we are serious about being environmentally friendly, consumers and providers of coffee both need to accept that this comes at a higher price to keep the industry sustainable.