British military man gives the personal touch to the Brisbane coffee scene


Benjamin Glover is a patient man. He knows that the best things are worth the wait.

Ben is a UK national who spent his teenage years living in Australia, returning to England at age 18 to serve for several decades in the British military. But he always longed to return to the land of sun and sand - so, twelve years ago, he did exactly that.

After dabbling in recruitment and web design, Ben decided he wanted to move into the world of coffee; and not just any coffee, either. Slow roasted, authentic, boutique coffee. Using antique roasters and machines imported from Paris, he is patiently building his reputation as one of Brisbane's best baristas, one cup at a time.

The Coffee Laboratory is based in the Brisbane suburb of Kelvin Grove, and has been there for around eight years. Ben took over the cafe in November of 2015, inheriting not only a local area of coffee-mad students (Kelvin Grove campus of Queensland University of Technology is just up the road) but some incredible vintage coffee machines from the previous owner. Staying in theme, Ben has continued to collect vintage coffee roasting equipment - slow, yes, but as Ben knows, a flavour that is worth the wait.

"I think we've lost some of the personality behind coffee," says Ben.

"When the big players got on board and began to mass produce everything, it sort of took the personal side of coffee away a bit. I run this place to try and get some of that back, to try and be a bit different. I talk to all my customers about the coffee we roast here, the flavours, everything. People like that!"

Whilst his vintage French roasters will never turn out the same massive quantities of the commercial brands, Ben is adamant that he will always remain faithful to the process, not the money.

"I have competition across the road," says Ben, "and they go through different brands of coffee all the time, the big brands. And they fail time and time again, and everyone comes back to me - because they like my coffee!"

Having travelled the world as a keen coffee aficionado, Ben comments that Australians are strides ahead when it comes to producing delicious and unique coffee blends.

"There's a lot of Australian baristas heading out and opening cafes in places like New York, and all over the world, because we do have a fantastic coffee culture here," says Ben.

"And I do believe that Queensland's coffee culture has improved drastically."

So much so, in fact, that he is switching up his Kelvin Grove institution to focus on his speciality coffee blends. The Coffee Laboratory only serve single-bean blends, and only roast on premise using the vintage French roaster. So, where did that equipment come from? And how did a first-time cafe owner afford it?

"Originally I came in with some capital and thought, 'Right, I'll buy everything!' So I bought my machine, bought my grinders, bought everything else," says Ben.

"And then suddenly I found that I'd spent a big chunk of my capital. And I thought, 'well, that was a bit stupid.' So I looked around and a friend suggested to meet with Silver Chef, who bought the equipment off me, and I then rented it back from them."

Then being able to reinvest the capital back into his business, Ben narrowly escaped going under in his first year of business - a mistake that many first time owners make.

"For someone who is starting up, rather than investing heavily and buying all of the equipment, and suddenly finding it's not quite right and ending up in hot water, you've got the option to give it back at the end of the short term agreement or buy it outright, too."

After finding such great success with Silver Chef early on, Ben went on to rent a whole arsenal of equipment, including everything from cake displays, grills, heated cabinets, even tables and chairs!

"I found it to be such a good process. Once you're pre-approved, you're advised how much you can borrow for the equipment, table top, fitout, etc. and suddenly you've got that to play with!" says Ben.

With his collection of vintage coffee memorabilia growing as quickly as his loyal customer base, Ben is looking to the future, where he hopes to grow his roastery into a larger-scale business. With many of his customers actually grinding and preparing their coffee at home these days, he says that his small-quantity, boutique blends are hugely popular.

"People love to know about the flavours, the origin, everything," says Ben, "and I love telling them about it."

So, if you've got time and a hankering for delicious, authentically roasted coffee, head down to The Coffee Laboratory. It might have a scientific name, but this place is all about the people behind your cup of meticulously prepared coffee. And it's definitely worth the wait!

Subscribe to SilverChef Resources
Enter your details below to stay up to date with the latest from SilverChef Tools to Win

Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions