hey brew : brown sugar espresso


Lucy from Brown Sugar Espresso in Mangerton

How was Brown Sugar Espresso born?
I was a social worker, and in 2014 I quit my job, sold my house and travelled the world. When I returned to Australia, I realised the corporate life wasn’t for me, and decided to buy an existing coffee business in Wollongong. Fate stepped in due to a diagnosis of breast cancer (what a way to say goodbye to my 30s), and with 12 months of treatment, put those plans to an end pretty quickly. While undergoing treatment, the concept of creating a cafe that was uniquely me kept building. Then we discovered the corner store and Brown Sugar Espresso was born. It’s evolved since opening nine months ago, but I’ve stayed true to the initial concept – quality coffee, quality customer service, and creating a personal connection with everyone who visits. Being an espresso bar, our set-up differs to the classic cafe. My aim was to create a community space – hence the communal table – where people can connect. What I’m discovering more and more is that the world is missing a sense of community, and it is these connections that people are craving. I’m proud that my BSE family and I are creating our own little community on a daily basis. We have a commitment to living the notion of ‘good creates good’, so we donate our tips to groups, including BeyondBlue, Wollongong Animal Rescue, Legacy Australia as well as a school I volunteered at in Honduras.

What brand of coffee do you serve?
We proudly serve the Black Betty blend from Peaberrys Coffee Roasters in Newcastle. I was attracted to Peaberrys’ philosophy, plus the flavour kept pulling me back. Something about it just gives me a contented sigh of happiness when drinking it. Our house blend is a mix of Colombian, Guatemalan and Ethiopian beans, which lends itself to more caramel undertones. There is no bitter aftertaste, which means people are using less sugar – a definite positive!  

What’s the secret to a perfect brew?
For me, it’s about quality products, a well roasted bean, combined with South Coast Dairy milk, served by a barista that pours love into the coffee. One of my biggest passions is customer service and staff being authentic in their engagement with customers – a trend that is missing in a lot of places (yes, I’m a little old-school in my way of thinking about the coffee experience!)

Tell us about the home-baked treats you serve?
I wanted to create a different concept with our food. While going through treatment, I had plenty of time on social media and kept coming across amazing bakers in the Illawarra, which made me consider the idea of showcasing home-bakers on different days. As a result, our offerings are ever-changing. I’m super proud of the connections we have made with our bakers. We also offer savoury options, but I don’t work to a menu. We create food based on fresh, seasonal produce and what the customer feels like eating! Think of it like you’ve just stepped into my kitchen.

If you buy coffee from another spot in the Illawarra, where do you go?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I love discovering new places on my day off. Shout outs for food, coffee and customer service go to Lower East, Two Sisters Garage and The Happy Barista. Oh, and the boys at Son of a Gun are always fun.

What I’m discovering more and more is that the world is missing a sense of community, and it is these connections that people are craving