Old Quarter Coffee Merchants - A Full Review
Having opened, owned and operated a cafe myself for many years, I can say with the utmost confidence - I have tried a lot of different coffee.
Maybe even too much if there's such a thing.
As such, I've become super picky with the coffee I drink (i.e. the classic Australian coffee snob) - opting only for coffee beans that are delicious and taste the part, but also come from a roastery that can showcase traceable and ethical sourcing paired with sustainable business practices.
Spoiler Alert: Old Quarter Coffee Merchants tick all of these boxes comfortably.
Who Are Old Quarter Coffee Merchants?
The brainchild of joint owners and founders Yose and Amelia - Old Quarter Coffee Merchants was born from a shared love of travel, coffee, community and giving back where they can.
Now nestled in the Ballina Industrial Estate in Northern NSW, the Old Quarter idea first took shape during Amelia and Yose's travels through the 'Old Quarter' of Vietnam's bustling Hanoi city.
In 2017, the first shipment of their coffee landed in Australia from Vietnam. The wheels were now well and truly in motion, they'd found their namesake and the rest is history.
They've since gone from strength to strength to not only produce an incredible range of delicious coffee - but have also become a force for good on a mission that supports numerous farming partners, villages and ethnic minority groups throughout Southeast Asia.
What I Like About Old Quarter (Both The Coffee & Business)
First & Foremost - Amazing Coffee:
I'm not going to mince words here. I believe that Old Quarter produces some of the best coffee I've ever tried in Australia (and again, boy have I tried some coffee).
At this point, I've tried every single origin and blend they offer - and I haven't found one I wouldn't recommend or buy again. I definitely have my favourites - and there are obviously certain varietals that are better suited to certain brewing methods and ways of taking your coffee (e.g. black vs milk), so I will go into this in detail below.
An Incredible, Unique & Diverse Range:
Coffee lovers typically have their 'daily driver' which is their go-to brew, however, many coffee adventurers are always looking to try something new and widen their flavour horizons.
Old Quarter has covered all bases with a regular line-up of 10 different blends and single origins sourced from 6 unique Southeast Asian growing regions.
From the First Light & Cloud Nine blends to the Sumatra Gayo-Bies and Vietnam K'ho single-origin beans - there is a flavour profile for every palate. Furthermore, you'll often find exclusive and limited one-off specialty coffee releases supporting unique projects.
The Best Business Practices In Australian Coffee:
Old Quarter's business ethos is as high-quality as the coffee they produce. In fact, you can't separate the two. The founding principles of the business are so intertwined with its coffee that the mission is as much about being an agent for good as it is about producing world-class coffee.
In taking it a leap beyond the often arbitrary idea of 'ethical' - Amelia & Yose operate the business based on 8 key principles (find out more here):
- Developing personal relationships with all involved in the supply chain to ensure zero exploitation
- Farmers set the green bean price according to unique needs and situation
- Harvests are purchased a year in advance to ensure cash flow and security for farming partners
- Supporting ethnic minorities with 90% of their purchasing
- Favouring small holders to foster diverse and organic agriculture
- Exclusively source Southeast Asian green beans to put them on the map
- Directly support Southeast Asian communities through their 'Optimism Exchange' programs
- Organic as the standard - every coffee in their range is 100% organic
So, apart from the flavour, there are many reasons to enjoy their coffee and experience the 'daily happy'. And furthermore, they offer a '2 Sips Guarantee', meaning - if you ever find a coffee in the range you don't like after 2 sips, they'll happily refund it for you.
Anything To Improve?
I think for an authentic review of any product or brand - a reviewer should identify and outline any shortcomings as enthusiastically as they sing the praises of what they like - however, I'm struggling to draw out anything to call 'room for improvement'.
You will no doubt find cheaper coffee than Old Quarter in the aisles of the big supermarkets but this isn't a net positive for the coffee industry and most people involved. Someone has to cover these costs - and it's usually the growers and farmers who wear this burden.
- Some of the best coffee in Australia (in my humble opinion)
- A diverse range that gives a flavour tour all across Southeast Asia
- Top-class business practices that ensure everyone in the supply chain (from green bean to cappuccino) benefits
- You can find cheaper coffee from bigger brands - but keep in mind that this typically means someone isn't being paid fairly
Which Old Quarter Coffee Is Best For:
This will be a quick overview of what I believe is the best coffee match for each style and brewing method. This is only my opinion, you should definitely experiment yourself though to see which one you like best!
Myanmar Pa'o: The Aeropress is my most used brewing method so this coffee has seen a lot of me. A super well-balanced medium roast that goes great with a splash of cream. On the odd occasion that I've run out of cream - it does make a really smooth black coffee as well.
French Press (Plunger):
First Light Blend: I'm less experienced with Old Quarter coffee plunger style, but have had a few cups of the First Light blend via the French Press and definitely enjoyed it. I prefer blends when using the plunger method and this is a great light-medium roast blend from Myanmar & Laos that always produces great coffee both ways. It also makes a big difference when you dial in your french press brewing ratio as well.
Village Blend: This is the definite go-to when it comes to espresso coffee and it's what you'll find being poured if you make the trip to the Old Quarter cafe. A blend of 3 different beans and 3 different processing methods - this is a delicious and full-bodied espresso roast that embodies the diversity of the OQ sourcing ethos.
Thailand Akha: Single origins are great for cold brew coffee as it's a brilliant opportunity to bring out some of the subtler flavour notes. The Thailand Akha shines here with some well-developed sweetness and acidity.
Where To Buy Old Quarter Coffee?
If you're anywhere close to Ballina - do yourself a favour and drop by the cafe to grab a bag off the shelf. Amelia and Yose are always welcoming.
If you live a bit further abroad - you can purchase their full range online, and get free shipping on any order over $75
Other Customer Reviews:
Don't just take my word for it - it's always good to get a few different opinions. Here are a few reviews that other customers have left for Old Quarter lately:
- ”These are the most delicious coffee beans, we love them! I look forward to drinking a cup every single morning. You cannot beat Old Quarter for flavour and ethics ~ yum!!” - Emma J.
- ”I've been buying this coffee for 2 years now and it's honestly the best coffee I've had so far. The Vietnam K'Ho is definitely my fave but all their coffees are bloody delicious. I was a little late placing my orders sometimes so now I order through their subscription service which is super convenient, plus saves me paying for shipping! 10/10 recommend to anyone who loves coffee.” Beatrice E.
- ”Love this coffee. I use the Vietnam beans in my espresso machine, it's so creamy, smooth and delicious. Ordering is easy and customer service and speed of delivery is perfect. I love supporting Australian businesses with a worldly cause, and Old Quarter Coffee Merchants are just that. Well done! I'll definitely be spreading the good word.” Teagin H.
Do Old Quarter Offer Wholesale Coffee?
They definitely do offer wholesale and are now available in a number of different cafes across Australia. If you're a cafe or food business of any type and are keen to serve some epic coffee - get in touch with them here. They can also provide training, equipment and an obligation-free tasting.
Do Old Quarter Offer Returns Or A Guarantee?
They definitely do. If you aren't happy with your coffee, you can get in touch for a full refund or store credit within 14 days. You read their full Returns Policy here.
What About Free Shipping?
All orders over $75 currently ship Australia-wide for free!
Do They Sell Brewing Gear As Well?
They absolutely do. From the Porlex Grinder, scales and cold brew pots to the Airscape storage system and mighty AeroPress - Old Quarter has some great brewing equipment on offer. You can check out their full range of brewing gear here. They've also got some cool merch for those of you chasing a new shirt or hat ;)
I love seeing businesses that not only produce top-of-class products but also create a business model that is a vehicle for change within their industry. This is Old Quarter to a tee.
As a coffee lover - I can't fault a single bean. Everything I've tried, I'd happily drink again and there are some products in their range that in my opinion, qualify as the best coffee currently being produced in Australia.
In addition - it's important to remember that where you spend your money can often be a 'vote' for what you want to see more of in the world so it definitely adds another element of enjoyment to the morning coffee when you know you're contributing in some part to a business that is doing all it can to support everyone involved.