Exchange Specialty Coffee – 2013-2015

Exchange Specialty Coffee is just over 2 years old, and like Single Origin Roasters, I’ve loved watching it grow. I was their “first” customer when they opened (technically their second), and in a non-creepy way, this has become my second home in Adelaide. While I admit to having a heavy bias towards and strong familiarity with this cafe, I still benchmark other cafes against the service I receive from here, because why not!

I have a preference for cafes with food (Artificer being the exception), and watching the food here evolve has been fantastic. The coffee is almost exclusively sourced from Market Lane now, compared to the early days when Tom wanted to cycle through coffees from Mecca and Reuben Hills. Like Single O, their food menu and presentation has always been great, but I feel that while Single O has shifted away from my presentation preferences, Exchange has shifted towards what I like to see (and take pictures of!).

I don’t talk about this place like I do other cafes. I couldn’t really ever review this place because of how regularly come here, instead I constantly recall my experiences and interactions when I’m here.

I’ve never had a customer-barista relationship like this one before, and I’m continually surprised and impressed by Tom and his team’s level of hospitality. I’m allowed to stay back a little while, I’m told that yes, I can order a coffee to have here less than 5 minutes before closing, and all the baristas love sharing samples of coffees they receive from others’ travels with me. Is it because I’m special? No. They treat everyone this way, and that makes me very happy.

I’m even further impressed by the fact that they all seem to remember what I talk to them about! There’s being polite, then there’s actually listening to you all of the time. Recently, it saddened me that while I was talking to (at?) a work colleague and explained that my baristas listen to me, he simply said, “I thought baristas just make your coffee.” No, they need to do so much more. A cafe’s success is measured by its overall experience, and not just the coffee. Hence the food, the service, the level of knowledge and communication are all important.

I truly appreciate that my barista converses with me – whether it be about planting rhubarb and the amount of worms in the soil in his garden, a recommendation of choosing Dinner by Heston over The Fat Duck, and even giving the heads up that Heston Blumenthal would be visiting a nearby bar so that I got the opportunity to meet him in person!

The same goes for his staff – they pick out the largest pastries for me, give me coffee tastings, update me about cafes in other states, allowing me to join in some shenanigans over a cookie-devouring butternut pumpkin, and even the chef has spoken to me about his amazing french toast muffins!

I might take pictures of food, but I use them to recall the experiences I have at the places where I’ve consumed and therefore have a story from.

Okay, enough about the staff – they are all amazing in my eyes. That’s only half of what a cafe is about. The other half is the customers. It’s here that I met my first real, bona fide snob – who had opinions on things that I didn’t quite agree with, though because I’m the type who likes to consider things from other perspectives, didn’t feel the need to disagree with, either.

I’ve met other baristas and what I feel are prominent people in the hospitality industry here (there was this one evening, when I stayed back an hour past closing just to learn about their PoS system because I just happened to politely butt into a conversation about some Acaia Lunar scales between someone running his own cafe and Tom?! And then I got to introduce myself and shake his hand!)

I’ve even had water handed to me by fellow customers because the staff were busy!

It’s because of all the above that I believe they’ve been so successful – they’ve now got a dedicated chef, an improved and more seasonal food menu, and double(ish) the staff they started with. Their trading hours have continually increased. And I hope they continue to be at the forefront of the Adelaide cafe experience!

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