The Mean Green Coffee Machine, if you haven't heard of them yet, is a pop up coffee cart delivering delicious Eco-Friendly coffee around Adelaide. Green, sustainable and passionate about local and ethically sourced products. It is impossible not to come away from their cart without an eco-friendly option and they really have thought of everything!
Run by Nicole and Charlie, their enthusiasm, passion and attitude is inspiring and when I got in touch with them, they were happy to share their story about how it all started and what happens behind the scenes which is truly impressive.
Check out their story and details on how and where to find them PLUS hot to request an appearance at your next playground or private event!
You can find the Mean Green Coffee Machine at the POSH Markets this Sunday 16th December between 10am - 5pm.
How Did The Mean Green Coffee Machine Get Started and What Inspired It?
Charlie came up with the idea a couple of years ago when he started taking his boys, Oliver then 5 and George 3yrs, to a local playground in South Plympton and noticed that there was a real market for someone to be there selling coffee to the hoards of other mums, dads, grandparents & carers who were there with their kids too.
If they weren’t already holding a takeaway coffee from somewhere they’d picked up on the way, they were certainly looking at those with them in envy!
This got the ol’ entrepreneurial juices flowing that started entering conversations amongst family & other friends with children who wholeheartedly supported the idea & agreed there was a real need for coffee to be more readily available at parks & playgrounds where there wasn’t anything nearby.
It’s great that there’s so much more awareness and action happening now in terms of how businesses in all industry sectors can operate greener and minimise waste, but even just a couple of years ago this wasn’t the practiced norm at all & there really wasn’t much of a push for it at all.
Charlie started off looking into the types of products he would be sourcing and really wanted to make sure this was all ethical and done for the right reasons and it was in this process of researching the Fair Trade system further that the whole green aspect of operating was ignited that would extend to sourcing biodegradable/compostable packaging that we still use today, that back then hardly anyone, if anyone was using.
Charlie really saw this as a point of difference & so the name ‘Mean Green Coffee Machine’ was born and designs for the coffee cart started getting underway!
Initially it was a case of really just wanting to get our name out there & we approached a lot of different sporting clubs, schools, community events and prowled the Adelaide events calendar to see what we could apply for.
We began focusing a lot more on our branding earlier this year & sought to more actively promote what we stood for, making a few more relationships with like-minded individuals, groups & organisations who we did a few jobs for that was great – both for feeling so good as well as the publicity.
That’s not to say that we’ll turn a job down unless it’s specifically an eco-event! It’s just that we’re really motivated to show both the customers we’re serving as well as the event organisers we’re working with that it is possible, economical, sustainable & downright essential to run businesses green.
As parents of young children and being so aware of how fortunate we are to live in Adelaide which offers such an amazing quality of life, we love introducing our kids to the wonders of the world around us for them to appreciate and be grateful for too.
We want them to know that in order for the biodiversity and natural beauty of our planet to survive and still be there for them & their children to enjoy, that we ALL need to do our little bit to ensure it’s not polluted & destroyed.
We’re so happy that there’s so much more public awareness & education going on now both in schools and the media that’s reinforcing all of this too.
What Were You Both Doing Before You Embarked on This Adventure?
Both of us were pretty much doing what we’re still doing now as well… Charlie works with Great Southern Rail on the trains as an attendant/occasionally Train Manager and is a hands-on Dad with his two boys, Oliver now 7yrs and George 5yrs old.
For me (Nicole), I’ve been doing bookkeeping for a couple of clients working predominantly from home while my two children, Ava 8yrs & Ryder 5yrs old have been growing up, but now that they will both be in school as of next year, I am taking on more responsibilities in my family’s business as well. I do the books there too as well as managing the social media/marketing platforms and am enjoying that I can also introduce some of my environmental findings into this workplace to hopefully make a few changes in our operations there too!
Charlie’s work experience lies firmly within the hospitality industry and so his emphasis on service and quality in the end product being served to customers is paramount.
Whether it was working a bar in Rundle Street in his younger years (the original Tapas), later managing one (The Treasury) or even the years spent as a croupier with The Casino a few moons ago, if it’s one thing that Charlie is gifted with, it’s relating to so many different people and understanding how important it is to make everyone feel special.
We both seem to have that customer service trait in common, whereby my earlier employment experience in sales positions developed this emphasis for me.
I’ve also always been very passionate about the ‘healthy mind – healthy body’ way of life, sparked and developed through undertaking a BSc at the University of Adelaide, but really fueled after working for a period of time both in a holistic health club in London for a couple of years back in 2000/2001 and then a few years within a health club here in Adelaide subsequent to returning back to Australia.
Having my own children was the biggest motivation to want to be the healthiest I could be for them and I have always researched what goes into the foods that they’re eating, wanting to avoid processed foods, getting them involved with growing our own organic vegetables and educating them about the various nutritional benefits of different foods.
So I guess all of this has culminated fairly nicely into us now investing our expertise & passions into this little mobile coffee cart enterprise we have been building up… having a lot of fun along the way!
What Have You Put In Place to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Takeaway Coffee?
As far as the takeaway coffee and all aspects of our mobile trading goes with respect to serving food and drinks to customers, all of the consumables by way of cups, lids, spoons, stirrers, straws (for our iced drinks), napkins, cake serving trays & multi-drink holders are not just completely biodegradable, but compostable as well.
Both of these process ultimately mean the materials break down & return to nature, whereby the benefit of being biodegradable means that they’ll ultimately breakdown within a year (or less) if they end up in landfill, which is beneficial in that they do reduce the buildup of waste if they end up in this stream.
But the added benefit of being compostable means that these products can also be added to green waste and offer the earth nutrients when the material has completely broken down.
But we knew that there was still A LOT more that we could do…
We registered with the Responsible Cafes organisation whereby we encourage people to always bring their BYO keepcup with them for refills and we reward them with a discount.
If a customer forgets theirs or doesn’t yet own one and would like to purchase one of ours, we have a program whereby we donate to a charity called the Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund to plant native Australian trees in order to help us offset our carbon footprint for any emissions we may still generate in our operations.
Oh, and our BYO Cups are ultimately biodegradable too… over 4-5yrs of use because they’re derived from bamboo and plant oils!
The latest endeavor that we’re extremely proud of is having been accepted as a Partner within the Carbon Neutral Adelaide Program, run through the City of Adelaide Council .
They’re inviting both businesses and individuals to join the program and play a part towards making Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2020 with net zero emissions by 2080!
I Love That You Source Locally in South Australia and are Focused on Sustainable Ingredients - Has This Been Challenging and What Are Your Favourite Local Items in the Coffee Cart?
Not at all! We are so spoilt for choice with so many amazing products available here in SA, if not Australia!
Where we have ventured further afield is with the coffee beans & teas we source and this was because we were specially looking for these products on a Direct Trade basis.
For us the priority was to be directly supporting the coffee growers in the countries of origin and ensuring that as much of the proceeds of our buying was going to them & not to a string of middle men along the supply chain instead. We buy our beans through an Australian owned / internationally operating coffee trading company called Latorre & Dutch.
(Image Courtesy www.facebook.com/latorredutch/photos)
The thing we love about this company is that they do so much more than just act as a mediator between the farmers & the buyer – they support small, family run farms both logistically & financially, providing them with the knowledge & equipment they need to ensure integrity of product and quality control, all the while striving to create and maintain sustainability for the people & the environment along the way.
The other fantastic thing about all of this, is that the beans that we get from these smaller farms are very unique!
Our current favourite blend is one with 50% Brazilian & 50% unwashed Ethiopian beans (unwashed gives these beans a very earthy, but very smooth finish on the palate).
(Image Courtesy www.facebook.com/latorredutch/photos)
For the tea lovers, we’ve sourced the Origin Tea blends , an Australian owned company that has 36 different plantations in Sri Lanka they harvest their tea leaves from. We were really impressed with how ethically they operate as well as having tea bags that are environmentally friendly, ie., contain no plastic!
Their pyramid tea bags are derived from a bio-product called Soilon which is corn starch based & biodegradable/compostable.
What we love even more is their strong stance towards ensuring that the growers & leaf pickers are being looked after as well through their T4Change charity program where they contribute to housing developments, schools & free health care as just a few initiatives they’re embarking on in the local Sri Lankan communities.
(Image Courtesy www.facebook.com/pg/OriginTeaAustralia/photos)
The story behind how the founder of where we source our chocolate & chai mixes from is truly remarkable and we fell in love with his story. We were even happier to discover that Chai Me is Australian owned & operated and furthermore, all organic & 100% natural, with no milk powder fillers or added sugar!
The story goes that Marcus Child, originally from Surry Hills, NSW, sold his share in a café and then embarked on a journey of forty thousand kilometres through 12 countries on his motorcycle in search of the ingredients & methodology that goes into creating the ‘perfect chai’… now that’s dedication to researching a product!
Having tasted the goods from many a chai wallah on the streets of India & Nepal during travels some 8yrs ago now, I was pretty keen to try his mix and see if it stood up to my memories… and it most definitely does! He does all of this out of a fully sustainable factory in North Sydney where he aims to minimise the footprint on the environment wherever possible in his operations.
(Image Courtesy www.chaime.com.au)
We source all of our milks through either South Australian (dairy milk & lactose free) or Australian (soy, coconut & almond) and wherever possible, we always go for organic too.
Although we don’t make our own, we are so happy we have easy access to the 100% pure fruit Mountain Fresh juices we have for the kids as a cold drink alternative, who are based right here in Mt Compass, SA.
But to answer your question about our favourite local items we have on our cart, we’ve just introduced a vegan/raw cake option to our food menu which we’re VERY excited to be showcasing this Sunday at the POSH Markets being held at The Harts Mill, Port Adelaide…
they look absolutely stunning and we can assure you after devouring a sample box recently, they taste EVEN BETTER than they look!
We didn’t start off offering vegan desserts on our menu, but it’s obviously a very natural progression as we know the environmental benefits that a vegan diet promotes. We will still be keeping a couple of our other popular small cakes which although they’re not vegan, they are gluten free (Lemon Polenta plus Orange, Almond & Poppyseed).
(Image Courtesy www.fromthewild.com.au)
The other locally sourced product we sell that we adore are the WRAPPA reusable food wraps that the lovely Cheryl Sanders makes here in Adelaide.
We carry both her beeswax & vegan wraps that customers can either buy on their own, or we do a ‘Cake & Wrappa’ special where we can wrap their cake in it to take away. I just love the funky & quirky patterns that she uses, they look great! We use them at home ourselves too for the kids’ sandwiches, cut fruit, leftovers, etc.
Last, but most certainly not least, we have been supporting a few local fruit & veg shops that have been sourcing some of the sweetest, most delicious fruits in season that we’ve been prepping ourselves and freezing in bulk to make up our 100% pure fruit icecreams, which are a hit with the adults just as much as the kids!
Do Most Customers Appreciate the Eco-Friendly Aspects OR Are They Just Looking for a Great Cup of Coffee?
Is it a chance to educate them and start a conversation?
For sure, there are definitely a few customers that really don’t take much of an interest in what we’re promoting behind the cup of coffee they’re hanging for! 😊
We can usually suss out if a customer isn’t keen to strike up a conversation or feel like they’re being preached to and as much as we’re very passionate about what we do, we’re definitely not evangelical about it & respect other’s personal views.
It is such a wonderful experience though when we do have those people who we would have to say are the majority, who look at the signage we have up explaining what we’re doing/how we’re operating and love it when they might share some information they know something about from their own personal experiences or the media, or ask us questions to find out more.
What gives us the most joy though is when we have other parents come up and their kids start telling us what they know about environmental issues!
We’ve had a lot of accolades from parents congratulating us for doing what we’re doing and offering healthy food options for the kids. It’s so rewarding making that connection with other parents who place their children’s future as something we all need to fight for. It really does make it all worth while!
What Happens To All The Coffee Grinds ?
We use them for all sorts of things!
They have some amazing qualities that we’ve posted on our social media pages to alert other about too, such as sprinkling on the garden as a natural pest repellent with the added benefit of providing nutrients to the soil.
Used coffee grinds are also excellent for adding to coconut oil (solidified) to make a granular paste and use as a natural skin exfoliant.
We’ve used a bucket at some of our events that we have our used coffee grinds in that we invite customers who’s bought a drink to use their empty cup to fill & take home with them, but otherwise, we either sprinkle them on our own herb & vegie patch at home and put any excess straight into our green waste bin.
What advice can you give people to green their coffee habits straight away?
It really depends on how they’re consuming their coffee… if a home based pod coffee machine is being used, we do urge people to either go with the actual Nespresso brand which some businesses have introduced a recycling station for dropping used ones into, or finding out if there is a similar program run for the pods they do use. Alternatively, although time consuming, these pods can be open & the used coffee grinds extracted before rinsing the cannister for recycling.
Obviously plunger coffee or the used grinds from any espresso machine should be going on the garden or into green waste.
We definitely advise that if you haven’t already got your own reusable BYO Keepcup in the car ready for those impromptu takeaway coffee, get one organised asap… or contact us and we’ll get one to you!
Try to source the coffee beans you buy from a local roaster who operates ethically and looks after the coffee growers and supports sustainable farming practices.
As a mum who is often forced to visit playgrounds against my will, having a coffee cart is a huge motivator! If parents are planning a play date, or a playground party, can they request your cart?
Ha ha ha! If we had a dollar for everytime we had a parent, grandparent or carer come up to us when we’ve popped up at a playground to exclaim that we have just ‘saved them’, we’d have a good little kitty going!
YES! We love being there for mother’s group catchups, playdates, birthday parties or any type of gathering that’s looking for coffee (and the rest! 😊)
We’ve done a few private functions for kindy’s & in particular 1st Year birthday parties either in people’s homes or at a local park and they’re so much fun!
We love the intimate setting and being able to offer our services exclusively to the guests at these gatherings who we quite often end up having great conversations with about kids, life, the environment and all manner of things really! 😉
But it doesn’t have to necessarily be a private booking to have our services at a playground if a party or gathering is being planned. If it’s a park/playground that we have a permit to trade in already and it’s a day we would ordinarily be out for the general public, we’ve had people just come to us and open a tab for their guests to come up & order whenever they’re ready.
As a thankyou to the host if we’ve attended a private function, we offer a discount that can be taken up at any time for future events too.
Where can people find your mean green coffee machine on a regular basis?
That’s a tricky one to answer at the moment… 2019 may be bringing a slight change to our usual days of popping up in the parks & playground on a Wednesday & Thursday and the occasional Sunday when we weren’t booked for markets or events.
We were trading for a while there at Marshmallow Park, Glen Osmond Road in the City and occasionally popping up at Bonython Park as well.
We’ve recently arranged a permit with the City of Burnside Council too so that we can pop up at the Tusmore Park Wading Pool on those hot days when families enjoy bringing the kids out for a cooling splash and swim.
There’s been a few changes happening in our full time jobs recently which has meant less time out & about doing what we truly love and then there’s the 4 children we have that are CONSTANTLY demanding of our time! 😉 So it’s a little bit hard to give a definitive timetable at the moment… but we are ALWAYS open for bookings or enquiries to be at a particular location for a certain event.
Again, the best thing to do is stay tuned to our Facebook page where we update regularly where we’re intending to pop up so that people can make plans to meet where we’ll have the coffees flowing!
I would love to see this taken on by more councils, events and even real estate agents. Is this something you plan to do more of? (and is there something that people can do to help this happen)
So would we! We are always wanting to hear from any community group, business or event organisers that are eco-minded who would be keen to collaborate in some way where we can offer a service or activity to the public as well as look after them with delicious, locally sourced and environmentally friendly food & drinks!
We supported the City of Adelaide Council earlier this year in Bonython Park for a Native Beehive making event, whereby volunteers came to help arrange hollowed out wooden logs into an enclosure and plant some seedlings to create a beautiful new garden for the native bees to enjoy.
We also recently participated in the official opening of a new parkland space opposite the new RAH, where patients, hospital workers, local businesses and members of the public can go to enjoy, overlooking the new SACA grounds.
One thing we did have an idea for this year but didn’t find a chance to facilitate was in line with either World Environment Day (June 5th) or National Tree Day (July 29th) whereby the local Council could entice people to a tree planting activity where people could get involved with revegetating a nominated area whilst we provided some warming drinks and delicious treats to volunteers… not to mention some used coffee grinds for fertilizing the soil!
It’s really through word of mouth that a lot of these things come to fruition and the right people being in the right place at the right time. If anyone has any ideas, we’d love to hear from you!
A huge thank you to both Nicole and Charlie for taking the time to answer my questions and share their story. Don't forget, they'll be set up at the PoOSH Markets in Port Adelaide this Sunday, 16th December.