Coffee was not part of Anton Cavalli’s original career plan, but then again not much of Anton’s life story was anticipated. Having gone through multiple brain operations, a successful transition and a cancer diagnosis, it’s safe to say he has conquered more than most of us would face in our lifetimes.
Anton turned to coffee to earn a living and support his family. This month, he celebrates the launch of his coffee business, Cosa Nostra Coffee. Driven by determination, passion and great gratitude, this is Anton’s story.
“I was born female into a predominantly Italian family and very religious. I identified as male from a young age, but was made to repress these feelings,” Anton says.
Life was difficult with this alone – but at the age of 14, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. “After 13 brain operations, I had to do rehabilitation to learn how to walk and coordinate my limbs again.”
It was music that not only helped his recovery, but it also introduced him to someone that would change his life.
“I took up drums. Music is a fantastic healer, and I became addicted to this.
“When I was around 25 years old, I met an amazing singer by the name of Abby Skye. It was at the Festival of Sails in Geelong. We became good friends and she invited me to Queensland to songwrite with her.”
After having spent most of his life as a sick patient with an overprotective family “wrapping me in cotton wool, so to speak”, Anton was excited but terrified at the thought of moving to another state.
“A good friend of mine and the man I bought my first car from happened to be a movie producer with credits in Mad Max (now that’s a whole other story!). He paid for my flight to Queensland and set things up, so I’d have the confidence to go.”
Anton went and fell in love with not only the Sunshine State weather, but his newly discovered independence as well.
“I decided to stay in Queensland, and that was over 10 years ago now.”
Due to Anton’s acquired brain injury, he survived on a disability pension. “It was limiting, but afforded me a lot of time which I mostly spent resting, networking and learning about the local music scene, mostly from behind a laptop screen.”
Anton went on to build an entertainment business, PowerMouth Entertainment. He also launched Mouthzoff Mag, a digital music magazine, and interviewed a lot of famous people.
But amidst his passion for music, Anton felt the weight of transgender issues continuing to wear him down until he found himself mentally at breaking point.
“I sat on the end of my bed crying and told my cat I was not putting myself through this anymore.”
The story of Anton’s transition is another chapter in his life story, but the transition was successful. “It cost me dearly, financially, most of my family and friends…a huge loss. But I gained so much more.”
After spending almost a year going through the Centrelink system without success, Anton got a part-job as a barista at a local cafe. It was around this time that he met Phillip Di Bella at a local business event.
“I heard Phillip give a motivational business speech that really rang true for me. I chatted to him afterwards, and he invited me to keep in touch.”
This brings us to the next stage of Anton’s life, where he met his fiancee.
“My little cat got sick and needed repeated visits at the local vet. That’s where I met Bec, the beautiful veterinary nurse that I am now engaged to. Our love story is full of more uncanny and fantastic happenings.”
Then came a shock diagnosis that turned Anton and Bec’s world upside down.
“I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic cancer throughout my bones. After a few days of getting over the shock, I decided to begin fighting. With Bec by my side, showing me so much love, I am slowly but surely conquering this too.”
Anton decided to reach out to Phillip to get his thoughts on running a little coffee cart.
“I told Phillip I am determined to earn a living and support my new bride-to-be. She has three kids on the spectrum, to make life more interesting. I told Phil I was thinking about teaching my 17-year-old stepson to operate the business with me too. I was so excited about this plan, but Phillip in his wisdom thought of the realities, my limitations and the bigger picture.”
Phillip suggested that Anton look into ecommerce and dropshipping.
“The next time we spoke, I asked him, how do I begin? Where do I start? Phillip introduced me to his fantastic, new state-of-the-art facility, The Coffee Commune. His general manager and leading industry guru, Christian Bianco, took me under his wing. From there, I was supported and empowered all the way. I worked hard and fast, piecing my new coffee business and brand together.”
And according to Phillip, Anton has grasped the opportunity.
“I reached out to him and suggested that he start his own coffee brand so that he can work on something and also build his own company. He is kicking butt in terms of promoting and marketing his business, Cosa Nostra Coffee.”
How you can support Anton
The launch party of Cosa Nostra Coffee is happening on Saturday 17 April at 10am at the Suttons Beach Pavilion in Redcliffe.
“All are welcome to the launch party. It’s also where I proposed to Bec last October. The owner Olie has become a good friend of mine, and has agreed to serve Cosa Nostra’s debut blend ‘Smooth Operator’.”
There will be sample packs of Anton’s coffee available for purchase on the day, as well as 500g and 1KG bags of his three debut blends, organic beans and a speciality Decaf he has aptly named “In Denial”.
“I realise I am greener to the industry than most of the beans they’re importing in!” says Anton.
“But if there is one thing I hope others can learn from this, it’s to never underestimate your ability. With the opportunity, support, knowledge from seasoned industry professionals and endless resources I’ve received from The Coffee Commune, I am giving 100% to this next life adventure.”
There is much to tell in Anton’s story, and we look forward to reading his book one day.
If you would like to know more about how The Coffee Commune can help you accelerate your potential, get in touch with us.
Want to create your own signature roast? We’re giving one cafe owner the chance to design an exclusive coffee blend for use in their cafes.
“How can they charge that much for bacon and eggs?”
“It’s absurd that we just paid that price. That cafe must be making a fortune.”
If those thoughts have ever crossed your mind when going out for breakfast or paying for your morning brew, take a few minutes out of your day to read these reasons why. (Spoiler alert: it’s more than just the coffee itself.)
The Coffee Commune is a world class facility designed to bring the coffee community together.
Founded by industry expert and coffee entrepreneur Phillip Di Bella and headquartered in Brisbane, it is a place where cafe and hospitality professionals, coffee enthusiasts, roasters, cafe owners and suppliers can learn from each other and accelerate their business potential.
Not sure if being a member is for you? Here are seven great reasons why.
Just like a chef who thinks about what ingredients work well together, a coffee roaster will carefully consider the ingredients that make up the perfect cup. While some beans are full-flavoured in their own right, they can also be used as ingredients in a blend – brought to life by the vision of the roaster.
“Strawberries, for example, can be amazing on their own,” says Raihaan Esat, General Manager of International Coffee Traders. “But they can also be used with other ingredients to make a dessert. This is why we blend coffee, to bring flavours together that create an experience.”
A coffee blend is made up of several different beans from various farms or countries, while single origin coffee means it comes from a single country, farmer or producer. Coffee blending is about finding a unique taste or developing a characteristic that you won’t find in any single origin green bean.
It’s important to note that blending coffee does not mean it is of any lesser quality. That specialty coffee brew at your local suburban coffee shop? It’s likely to be made up of a blend of several different coffees from various farms or countries. This is a unique skill of a true coffee roasting professional.
Blending in to stand out
If you are in the business of brewing or serving coffee, everything you do – from the way you train your staff to the type of beans that you use – all adds up to your customer’s experience. Blending coffee gives you the opportunity to create a signature roast profile that differentiates your brand from the others – a coffee that customers can only get from you.
“It’s all about taste – and everyone’s taste is subjective,” says Raihaan. “By blending, your business can deliver exactly what appeals most to your customers.”
For a roaster, the goal is to create a cup of coffee that arouses an emotional reaction.
“If you taste a coffee and immediately think of a dessert your grandmother used to make, that’s a strong emotional reaction. It transcends what’s in the cup,” says Raihaan.
He says the best place to start is by answering the question, ‘What do your customers want?’
“Think about the reactions you want people to have when they drink your coffee. Most people categorise their coffee into one of three segments – good, bad or memorable. A memorable coffee experience is much more than just a tasty coffee.”
Raihaan also says to consider what resources you have available to help execute your vision.
“Do you have someone in-house who can focus on the taste and help create the best coffee for your brand? Can you partner with a roasting facility that won’t compete in its own right with your brand?”
Finally, Raihaan says to make sure the recipe you choose is profitable and sustainable for your business.
“Think about whether the blend will boost your sales. This comes back to finding out what your customers actually want. Is it something that your customer base will love or are you just creating a coffee that you like?”
As our founder and industry expert Phillip Di Bella says, “It’s all about producing coffee worth coming back for.”
How to get started
If you are looking to create a signature blend of coffee for your business, the first step is to find an independant roasting facility that can assist you.
Christian Bianco, General Manager of Coffee Alliance, has helped many brands and cafe owners create their own branded coffee blend.
“We take a holistic and collaborative approach with cafe owners to assist them in identifying the opportunities in their business.”
In addition to Raihaan’s questions, Christian says the best way to find out what your market wants and the direction in which to take your coffee is to consider the following aspects of your business trade:
- What do your current sales look like for take-away versus dine-in?
- Are customers buying multiple coffees on each visit?
- Do you sell take-home bags of coffee?
“We’ll sit down with you and take a look at the current opportunities that exist and those that are yet to be explored in your business. This process ensures we are not only helping you to create a great unique coffee, but also one that will help boost sales across your business,” says Christian.
Once you have a vision and an understanding of where you want to take your coffee, the next step is to sample and taste a variety of coffees to better understand different origins and flavour profiles (how you want your coffee to taste).
“We begin by providing small coffee samples for you to taste. This can be done on site at your cafe or at our facility at The Coffee Commune in Bowen Hills.”
When tasting coffee, think about the different flavours of the coffee and record your observations about the taste.
“Different coffees have different characteristics – strength, acidity, body, sweetness, aftertaste, bitterness, fruitiness, chocolatey-ness. Start with single origin blends to better understand the different flavours and then try to find a blend that adds to it,” says Christian.
This can usually be achieved with 2-5 coffee blends, but Raihaan says it’s not a hard and fast rule.
“Creating a blend is about flavour clarity and defining the blend’s character. Really, the roaster needs to understand the raw materials they are working with and layer the flavours together to achieve the intended outcome,” says Raihaan.
This comes back to that chef mentality – a plate of food can be absolutely delicious with just a few ingredients, or can be more complex with lots of elements.
Once you have established the desired flavour profile, the next step is choosing the right roast profile (how the coffee is roasted in order to achieve the desired flavours).
“Roasting enhances the flavour of the green beans. They start to lose their original flavour and absorb more flavours from the roasting process. The darker the roast, the bolder and heavier the coffee. Light roasts will be more acidic. It’s about finding the right balance of flavours,” says Raihaan.
If you have limited knowledge in these areas, you can lean on the expertise of professionals like Raihaan and Christian.
“If you are roasting at our premises, we can help out as little or as much as you would like. We have a lot of knowledge in house and we’re here for you,” says Raihaan.
Coffee cupping room at The Coffee Commune, Brisbane
Once the coffee is ready to go into production, The Coffee Commune will allow you to do a trial run first with your regular customers.
“We’ll produce a very small initial outlay first, roasting your coffee in small batches for a 1 or 2-day customer trial in your cafe. We want to ensure the coffee is exactly where you want it to be, so the transition is nice and smooth,” Christian says.
When you create your own signature blend at The Coffee Commune, rest assured that recipe belongs to you – and only you.
“We’ll keep the roasting profile in our system so that when you are ready to order again, we can produce the same, consistent flavour all year around.”
And if you want to scale up production?
“Our facility is set up to manage anything from 1 kilo right through to 1000s of kilos,” says Raihaan. “It’s a neutral territory, so there is no competition. We have a huge receiving bay and a massive array of equipment, so we can cater to small and large volumes of coffee production.”
Ready to take the plunge and create your own roast for your business or home? The experienced team at The Coffee Commune, together with Coffee Alliance and International Coffee Traders, can guide you through the process to deliver a consistent, unique coffee for you and your brand. Get in touch to start creating your very own coffee blend today.
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