Having good coffee in close proximity is a matter of survival in Melbourne. During my recent 12 month stint working at the University of Melbourne, my twice (sometimes thrice) daily caffeine hit was administered by coffee enthusiast, Guy and his team at House of Cards. They not only serve the best coffee and custard tarts on campus, they do some good while they’re at it.
“I expected to do the traditional thing: go to university, get a degree, get a job. But in 2007, I decided I wanted to own a café.
This wasn’t the path I saw myself going down at all.
I had studied Psychology at La Trobe. It was a growing field, I found it interesting, but I was never the best student. I couldn’t sit still for long enough to study properly and always enjoyed more hands-on things. While there, I worked at a café on campus and once I finished my undergraduate, I started working in another café closer to home.
Things started to snowball after I went back to La Trobe to visit friends. I saw my former employer and he told me he was looking to expand and needed a barista.
That was it. I took the job.
A while later, an opportunity to take over a socially responsible coffee cart at the University of Melbourne came up. We had wanted to expand, we already knew the university setting, and it fit perfectly with our individual passions: I loved coffee, my partner had a great business mind, and our boss came from a social work background.
House of Cards was born in 2013. And four years later, we’re serving up 1,000 cups a day. I’ve been trained by the best – the Singaporean barista champion, Ryan Tan and the latte art champion, Ben Morrow – and our socially responsible café has big plans for the future. We’re really passionate about quality coffee and quality service. I could chew your ear off about coffee for hours.
Whenever you think to yourself, ‘goddamn, that’s good coffee,’ it will be Direct Trade.
Direct Trade is the Third Wave coffee movement. It means buyers are buying coffee directly from its origin. That’s exactly what high end roasters such as Small Batch, Proud Mary, St Ali, Rumble Coffee, and our partners, Clark St Coffee Roasters, are all doing. They’ve moved away from Fair Trade (the Second Wave), which saw intermediary organisations getting involved to tick lots of boxes, taking some of the profits from coffee sales and capping coffee prices.
With the Second Wave, there were no real incentives for the coffee producers to focus on quality.
Now, the relationship between the buyer and the grower has been simplified, and there is more control over the quality of coffee. Buyers source coffee from its origin – they approach farmers directly with a money exchange so there is no price capping and the quality of the coffee becomes the most important detail. In this instance, money goes directly to the farmers and in many arrangements also supports the surrounding community.
The world of coffee is always changing, and as an individual you can influence that change- I want to be part of it.
We can all do some good in the world and even small gestures can lead to real change. Through the everyday act of drinking coffee, we’re raising awareness and donating a portion of our profits to charity.
With every purchase, customers choose to support one of four causes: environmental, cultural, social or health. We support four new charities each month and rely heavily on suggestions from our customers, who seem genuinely interested in knowing which organisation they’re supporting. Hopefully, if they’re interested in a particular organisation, they may be inspired to find out more and get involved.
Supporting local charities wasn’t necessarily something I had personally considered – but for me, it’s become about more than donating. It feels empty if you donate money and walk away. It’s not just about reeling off a spiel to our customers – it’s actually become integral to our brand story. It’s also about raising awareness and giving customers the opportunity to raise issues they’re passionate about.
It’s about creating a conversation.
We’ve just developed our website so now we can provide even more information about the organisations we’re supporting.
Over the next five years, we’re looking to expand quite rapidly. We’d really love to get into every university in Australia. We can all do some good in the world and our long term goal is to increase donations from $500 a month to $10,000 a month. That’s not just something that sets us apart, it’s something that universities can hang their hat on too.
Our philosophy is pretty simple; to leave the world better than we found it.”