An Australian Coffee Arrival Marks the First of 100 Shops
“We always seem to take on big projects during a worldwide economic downturn,” said co-founder of Australia’s Gumption Coffee, Hazel de los Reyes, who grew up in the Philippines before moving to the Sydney area.
De los Reyes said that 2008 marked their Sydney expansion, which now features a roastery and three cafes, plus a smattering of awards, like “Australia’s Best Coffee,” four years in a row from the Sydney Morning Herald.
De los Reyes and business partner Clare Lim plotted their U.S. debut back in 2017, with the 6,000-square-foot Industry City roastery and cafe opening in 2018 (168 39th Street, Building 19, Industry City). Their first retail location in Manhattan opened at 106 W. 45th St. in the fall -- months into the pandemic that’s forced most office workers to stay home. The pandemic is giving them a bit of wiggle room to hit the right notes for the market, de los Reyes said, the first in a U.S. expansion that’s on track to expand to 100-plus stores across the country over the next decade.
Founded in Sydney in 2003 as Coffee Alchemy, Gumption rolled into the New York market with “gumption,” a descriptor of how the duo sees the New York clientele. The coffee line comes with similar descriptors, with single-origin from Oaxaca named “Gratitude” and an everyday bold blend dubbed “Greatness: NYC in a cup.”
Gumption joins a fleet of Australian coffee shop imports, starting with Bluestone Lane, which debuted in the U.S. back in 2010; Little Collins and its 2013 opening; Two Hands’ launch in 2014; and the Black Fox arrival in 2016.
The biggest difference in navigating the U.S. market has to do with what coffee beans are available for roasting, said de los Reyes. Over the fall, beans from Colombia and Mexico were harvested, while those from Ethiopia and Bolivia are just arriving. In some ways, said de los Reyes, they’re really treating coffee as a seasonal product.
“There are beans that we just couldn’t really get in Australia,” she said. “It would take months to get them.”
While most Australians who visit their shop ask for a cup of coffee -- shorthand for a flat white, a latte, or a cappuccino, de los Reyes prefers drip. “You can really taste the flavors of the beans,” she said. And with so many more available to her, it’s what she wants to drink.
In addition to coffee ($3-$5), pastries like kouign-amann, ham and Gruyere croissants, and a spiced pumpkin loaf ($4-$9) are also available.
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