For this Coffee Chat, we caught up with one of our longest-running roaster partners, the awesome team from White Horse Coffee.
They’ve been on a journey that’s seen them evolve from humble beginnings in Sydney’s south to becoming a beloved specialty coffee brand. We got the scoop on 15 years in the coffee game, pioneering Christmas blends, how to be inspired in life and in business, and more. Let’s dive in.
White Horse co-founders Dom and Matt have created a successful specialty coffee brand built on consistent quality and innovation.
As well as being Head of Coffee, Dom has been a judge at countless competitions including Coffee in Good Spirits, and also works closely with ASCA. He’s also a super active member of Sydney’s coffee community, often spending evenings and weekends exploring different aspects of coffee culture.
While their brand has grown, it still sits firmly on its original foundations of a family-first culture. “I’d like to think that when people have contact with our business, it’s always a positive experience,” Dom said.
“Work comes and goes, but your reputation is forever,” he added.
White Horse Coffee has come a long way in the 15 years “since we started a little espresso bar in Sutherland,” Matt explained.
That little espresso bar has turned into multiple locations and a busy wholesale program, not to mention being one of the first roasters in Australia to offer a blend specifically made for the holiday season.
Dom explained that a sense of community was the driving force behind creating a Christmas blend, “We wanted to give back to all of our loyal home coffee users,” he said .
It’s also about showcasing the best of the best, as he continued, “It’s the best coffee that we release in a year. I'm excited for this year's Christmas Blend.”
Dom cast his mind back to the feeling of excitement when he first discovered MILKLAB, “back in the dark ages of barista-ing.”
“Back then your choices were skim, regular or soy.”
“We just started buying MILKLAB Almond and loved it, and so did our customers. And our respect for the brand grew from there,” he said.
White Horse’s journey with MILKLAB products began with our Almond Milk — it’s been a staple at all White Horse Coffee locations for many years now, but it wasn’t too long before MILKLAB Oat joined the party.
Dom explained that the team found MILKLAB Oat shared the same quality and consistency, and it was simply “so good that we transitioned all of our business purchases to MILKLAB Oat.”
There’s more to the story when it comes to White Horse and MILKLAB Oat — Dom and Matt played a significant role in helping us reformulate MILKLAB Oat, providing their insights and feedback as roasters and coffee experts to help us tweak and improve our formulation.
This involved plenty of sensory sessions with animated discussion, after which “good decisions were made,” Dom explained.
Matt recalled “countless meetings” which involved testing many different formulations and seeing how things reacted with different coffee roasts and blends. There were no shortcuts, he added, “I remember one day we ended up tasting like 150 different beverages.”
You could say that perfection takes practice!
Discussing White Horse’s long-term partnership with MILKLAB, Dom said, “At our company, our number one core value is that better people make better baristas. And I have found that the values of the MILKLAB brand and the people involved are very closely aligned to ours.”
Being trusted business partners, our brands share ideas for trade shows, product testing and much more, but it’s also about showing up consistently and with commitment, as Matt said. “MILKLAB want to be the number one alternate milk brand in Australia, if not the world, and they’re putting their balls on the line to make it happen.”
“One of our core values is that you're only as good as your last cup. So you can make 1000 good cups of coffee, but people only remember the last cup you made. And it’s the same with products: you're only as good as your last product, and MILKLAB are always doing better. I think that's what differentiates MILKLAB from the competitors out there,” Matt said.
He concluded, “MILKLAB listen to, and work with baristas daily. Working with the people selling thousands and thousands of litres of milk a week, and by taking that feedback on board MILKLAB will only become better and better. Better people, better cups of coffee!”
Our brand colLABorations have spanned many industry events. As part of MICE 2023, White Horse ran the MILKLAB Summer Sensations activation, and developed a series of chilled summer drinks featuring MILKLAB, as Matt explained.
“It was all cold beverages this time. We made a delicious frappe and a white chocolate matcha. This showcased the versatility of MILKLAB and the flavour combinations you can achieve.”
Cold beverages allowed the different characteristics of MILKLAB barista milks to shine, he added, “That gave baristas a really good indication that MILKLAB is not just a product designed for baristas in a cafe — it can be so much more than just an ‘Almond latte, takeaway, please!’”
When you’re seeking inspo for fresh ideas, it can help to look outside your niche, Dom explained.
“I take a lot of inspiration from online content creators, particularly Anders Erickson. He’s a bar guy …alcohol, spirits, that kind of thing.”
“I like to look at what the bar world is doing, and trying to bring that into the cafe world I think is really cool,” he added.
(Go check out Anders on Insta!)
Dom talked us through the brand’s stunning Soul of the South blend, which they will be running through Christmas 2023.
Soul of the South isn’t your typical blend, as Dom explained, “I don't think many people in specialty coffee are playing in that area, in that it's quite a brave blend that is very earthy, salty, intense and chocolatey.”
The blend was conceptualised to evoke the sensations of “walking through the bush, experiencing the Petrichor coming off the rocks … the soil and the mud and the dirt, and the trees and the berries, the eucalypts. We're blessed to have all that here in the Sutherland Shire, having the Royal National Park everywhere,” he continued.
So it’s a coffee with a clear sense of place.
“I think it's really special to this area and also quite a brave move for us to do something very different. Most people just roast a blend that's chocolate and fruit — which is kind of like our White Knight blend — or they go for super light-roasted stuff … Colombian or Ethiopian blends. Soul of the South is a heavy blend of Honduran and Indonesian coffees, and it's very earthy and funky,” he said.
“It actually goes really well with alternative milk such as MILKLAB Oat due to its low acidity,” he concluded.
Dom and the team are working closely with green bean supplier Condesa Co.Lab to not only bring the world’s best coffee to Australia, but also run an exciting event in Sydney as part of the Lost Origin Project.
Matt recalled putting in a sizable order for a particularly special Panamanian coffee, “I rang Dom up and said, ‘we've just bought tens of thousands of dollars of coffee.’ And he just says, ‘you're a banana, why are you spending that kind of money?!’”
But this was no ordinary coffee, in fact it’s some of the world’s greatest. So the order was approved, and both agreed that “we’re in the coffee game, we’re here for those memorable moments.”
“You’re only as good as your last cup … might as well make it a good one!”
MILKLAB is proud to partner with Euphoria Social for a second year in a row to celebrate diversity and champion ALL baristas in our community.