With its loyal and ever-growing customer base, Adelaide’s Exchange Coffee is an important part of the city’s thriving East End neighbourhood and community. Tom Roden and his talented team offer quality-focused service, cooking up fresh, delicious breakfast and lunch dishes and, of course, serving beautiful coffees!
Exchange has been brewing Market Lane coffee and selling our beans for over a decade, since they opened their doors in July 2013. Tom chatted to us about the inspiration behind Exchange Coffee’s name, his history in hospitality, and his favourite way to brew coffee at home.
Market Lane Coffee: Is there a story behind the name ‘Exchange’?
Tom Roden: There is indeed. My goal in opening a coffee bar was to emulate some of the characteristics common to the European coffee houses of the 18th century. Back then, coffee houses tended to be spaces that encouraged interaction and engagement among guests, and between guests and staff. A variety of people would frequent those places and talk all things politics, poetry, etc.
I was all too aware that many modern coffee shops of the 2000s era tended to build bars and be fitted out in a way that inhibited this kind of engagement, or implicitly encouraged individual guests to close themselves off to other guests. (Think someone sitting in a big Starbucks armchair, headphones on, laptop open.) I was keen to ensure that the space at Exchange was one of communality and one that facilitated engagement. I’m proud that we've been able to achieve this.
You’ve been working in hospitality for some time now. Where did it all begin? What are some of the more memorable places you worked before opening Exchange?
My first job in hospitality (and coffee, in fact) was in 2004, working for a mobile coffee and food van that attended events and shows. We're talking stale, old-school, near-undrinkable espresso, super hot milk and plastic tampers. Fairground coffee at best. But it was the first time I ever operated an espresso machine, and it did eventually lead to my first cafe job.
The most memorable place I’ve been employed is Workshop Coffee in London, where I had the privilege of being part of the team that opened their second store in Marylebone. Not only did it give me keen insight into the operations and challenges of a fledgling business, but I also got to work with some great people and dive deep into specialty coffee. At the time, London was going through its specialty coffee boom, and there was real excitement and interest in the industry. I learned a huge amount while there, enough to make me feel equipped to start my own business.
Who is someone that inspired you during the early days of setting up Exchange? Is there anyone you find particularly inspiring today?
Fran, my wife, has always and continues to inspire me. She moved to Australia from the UK and threw herself behind my project and endured some tough years as the business was establishing itself. I don’t think I would have made it this far without her!
How do you enjoy coffee at home?
I'm a big fan of the Aeropress – mine has travelled around the world with me. Recently, I’ve enjoyed getting to grips with the Tricolate, which is what we brew with in-store at Exchange. It's an interesting dripper that produces very clean, vibrant cups and can achieve higher levels of extraction without compromising cup quality.
Who are your customers at Exchange? What have been some of the most special moments serving people in your shop?
Our customers are many and varied, and very loyal. We’re fortunate that our physical location opens us up to a broad demographic – we’re just as accessible for those who seek us out as to those who stumble upon us. To paint in broad strokes, however, our customers are young, discerning and overwhelmingly friendly.
There have been myriad special moments; the best ones are hard to tease out. However, it gives me great pride that Exchange has been the place in which many people have met, made friends, developed relationships, started businesses, written books, won jobs, and so much more. To me this is evidence that my overarching goal for Exchange has been met.
Do you have any favourite coffee producer/s or cooperative/s, and why?
I've always been a fan of coffees from the Mamani family in Bolivia. When I lived and worked in London more than a decade ago, we were roasting and brewing a coffee from Juana Mamani, which remains a fond memory of mine. It's lovely that we now get to brew coffee at Exchange from the same Mamani family, more than a decade later, roasted by Market Lane, who are our longtime partners. Juana's story is inspiring – she’s now part of the Sol de la Mañana program – and the coffees that her family produce are superb.
What are your plans or goals for Exchange Coffee in the coming years?
We were fortunate to recently take over the shop space next door to us, which allowed us to expand and renovate the store for a second time. This effectively doubled the space that we started with in 2013 and will allow Exchange to continue to grow in our current premises. My goal for the short-term is to ensure we make the most of this new opportunity we have in the East End.
I'm conscious that there are generally limited opportunities for professional development in the cafe industry, so I would love to see enough growth that would allow us to add more employment structure, and be able to offer more and diverse roles to team members. In the medium-term, should we be able to realise it, I am considering a potential second site. Mum's the word at the moment, though!
To learn more about Market Lane’s wholesale coffee program, visit our Wholesale Coffee page.