It was Paul Jackson, Managing Director on Danes Specialty Coffee, who confirmed to Rob that Riverina Fresh had something special on its hands in terms of consistency and functionality.
“The partnership has always gone back to the quality of the milk,” Paul says. “We really value that quality and consistency, because it’s meant when we’re working on our blends, we can design them around a milk that doesn’t dominate or add flavours, that complements a good blend and a good roast.”
Danes’ relationship with Riverina Fresh dates back more than 20 years, with the dairy company contributing to many of the roaster’s projects that would help shape the soon-to-flourish specialty coffee industry.
“Even back then, when we started the Danes Specialty Coffee Institute in 1999 and Danes Grand Barista Championship in 2001, they sponsored our competitions and training programs with their milk,” Paul says. “But you don’t maintain a relationship for 20 years with a product, it’s with the brand and the people behind it. Initially it was through Steve Reilly [from Reilly & Sons Foodservice championing the brand in Sydney,] now it continues with Rob, who has built Riverina Fresh into what it is today.”
Receiving encouragement from Paul to look deeper into the world of coffee, Riverina Fresh began working with more existing coffee industry partners, including the likes of Dukes and Toby’s Estate, to identify what was unique about its milk.
“People in the specialty coffee industry want to know everything about the finished product and how ingredients like milk interact with different blends and products. Because milk is in 90 per cent of coffees sold in Australia, it was one of the first areas the industry focused on,” Rob says.
He adds there is no one reason Riverina Fresh works well with coffee. Instead, it’s the result of a variety of processes and techniques from the farm level to Riverina Fresh’s production facility and distribution.
“We have learnt a lot over the last 10 years and now have a much better understanding about how to manage the variables that contribute to high performing, consistent milk,” Rob says.
“More than anything, we’ve tried to educate the industry and give them access to our team and to our farmers’ practices. The benefits have gone both ways. Farmers like most people, want to be part of something and understand why they get up every day. Working directly with the coffee industry has given them direct feedback from baristas and roasters that say ‘we care about what you do’, and ‘we want to present your milk to the world’.”