Nearly one year ago, in Inkerman Street, next to the heritage listed St Kilda Post Office, a very small cafe called St Kilda Courtyard was open by two guys, Ryan Everett and Michael Stafford. What makes this place special is that it is the headquarters for their social enterprise called Pay A Sack Forward which began in Brisbane together with their previous cafe BAM Espresso. You may have seen their little hessian sacks around Melbourne’s cafes, which contain a tube where you can donate $5 which in turn purchases one survival sack for a homeless person in need. The whole point is that the items are bought, not donated – meaning you are directly contributing by helping buy essentials such as canned food, cereal, water, toothpaste, toothbrushes and soap. Michael operates the business in Brisbane while running his pain management clinic and driving an Uber on the side, while Ryan looks after things here in Melbourne, also working for another charity supporting homelessness and juggling an event management business.
It all may sound amazing and you’d be forgiven for wondering how the coffee fits into this story…so here goes. Nearly 15 years ago Di Bella Coffee started roasting in suburban Brisbane and has since built up not only a national presence, supplying many cafes around our city, but they have also expanded overseas. When the boys opened BAM, Di Bella supported them and when they decided to start St Kilda Courtyard, the company offered to help them again. What most people don’t know is that they not only donated the very cute baby blue Wega machine, but also the bench it sits on and the grinder, plus they provide the cafe with an allocation of beans every week which happens to be their Modena blend. The Courtyard uses this coffee because it’s versatile and a good all rounder, bold enough to drink with milk but smooth enough to enjoy black. It’s also easy to tune considering there are many baristas who work here, all who donate their time, because the sales from the coffee pays the rent and that’s how this cafe survives. Not only do you get to meet different people every time you go in, but customers can also pack a sack while there, making the cafe experience a whole lot more interesting and meaningful.
Coffee represents something different to everyone. For many of us it’s caffeine that wakes us up every morning and for others it’s that warming drink we share with friends over a catch up. But think about where it comes from. It’s a crop that most often grows in third world countries and needs to be farmed and harvested. It’s a commodity that when bought by roasters like Di Bella who ethically source their beans through their Crop to Cup program, aids the people in those communities. Back in Australia, they extend this assistance to St Kilda Courtyard, not only helping with the start up, but also giving weekly which in turn helps Pay A Sack Forward to grow so they can then give back to those in need in our own community, creating the ultimate circle of support. We all must make money to survive, but those who can do something good with it at the same time by helping people and performing acts of kindness, are truly special human beings. This is one situation where coffee really does bring people together and in a very small and humble south side cafe I found beautiful giving souls, my feel-good story to inspire me for the year ahead and of course…good coffee.
The Modena blend is not so easy to find so if you want to try it here are the four places to go –