Founder of Redback Coffee
Scottie Callaghan is no stranger to the coffee scene having been in the industry for 20 years with a trophy collection that includes the World Latte Art Champion, twice the Barista Champion of Australia and third in the World Barista Championship. “It all started when I was 19 years old working part-time at the Coffee Club in Sydney and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life” he says. “Out of curiosity, I asked the coffee supplier for a tour of their facilities and he agreed to bring me back to the roaster where, for the first time, I saw all these things that I didn’t know existed: green beans, roasting machines, and a cupping lab where I was amazed that the job of someone wearing a white lab coat was to test coffee all day. That marked the very beginning of this crazy coffee journey.”
“Fast forward to 2005, I started working as a barista at Toby’s Estate in Wooloomooloo and would spend my lunch breaks and days off helping the roaster carry buckets of green beans in an attempt to learn about roasting. I probably annoyed the crap out of him because I’d go on and on picking his brain with all sorts of question. When I switched to my next job at Danes as a training coordinator, myself and two other staff would buy our own green beans and on Friday nights, we’d spend 3-4 hours roasting coffee followed by pizza and beer. This was where I could put what I learned into practice and really experiment with roasting.”
But coffee wasn’t the reason why he left Australia and has called Hong Kong home for the last three and a half years. A family man first, the move to Hong Kong was spurred by his desire to expose his 3 children to different cultural experiences and offer them a more worldly perspective. And the offer at the time from Holly Brown to have him provide training and consulting to their staff sealed the deal on the move.
What’s your favorite coffee spot in Sydney?
It changes so quickly but one that I really liked last time I went back was Showbox Coffee Brewers in Manly. I’ll usually also go back to Single Origin Roasters in Surry Hills mostly for nostalgic reasons. Before our kids, my wife and I would come here for breakfast every week.
What do you miss the most about Australia?
The beaches. We used to live right by the beach in Avalon.
What have you enjoyed the most about Hong Kong?
The diversity. It’s truly the melting pot of cultures and I’m not just referring to international expats, but even local cultures differ from one suburb to the next. It’s absolutely fascinating.
How does the Hong Kong coffee scene compare with that of Australia?
On the pointy end, I’d say it’s identical. The quality in many of the specialty coffee shops around Hong Kong are fantastic, equal to Sydney or even Melbourne I’d say but the market penetration drops off pretty quick. Although the quality is there, a lot of people in Hong Kong still haven’t experienced what a really good cup of coffee can taste like. The biggest hold back for specialty coffee in my opinion is pricing – it needs to be to a level where more people in the market can afford.
What intrigues you the most about coffee?
There are 2 things. First, coffee is a difficult product to work with. Understanding it, having the ability to know what to look for when buying, getting the best out of it… none of that is easy. It’s challenging combined with the simplicity that, at the end of the day, it’s just a cup of coffee. Second, it’s the opportunity to the work with coffee producers. I’ve been lucky and have had the opportunity of working with producers in Colombia, Peru, and Indonesia and as we build the business, I want to make sure that we can continue to invest in developing more of these relationships.
Where does the name Redback come from?
It’s inspired by the Redback spider native to Australia, connecting us back to our roots since both Craig (other co-founder) and I are Australian.
How do you spend your free time when you’re not at the shop or roastery?
Having a young family with 3 kids keeps me pretty busy. Outside of that though I’m a big trail running enthusiast.
How do you make your coffee at home?
Brewing one of our single origin micro-lots through the Chemex.