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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

Spreading Branches

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Pat and Tamara enjoy a coffee in the roastery part of the cafe – Photo Vivienne Pearson

The Branches has been growing in the two+ years since ‘Mullumbimby’s biggest little coffee roaster’ opened.

Located in the Mullum Industrial Estate (the one off Mullumbimby Road on the way towards the coast), owners Pat Solwyn and Tamara Head say that locals are still discovering them.

Even regular customers, including those who work is based – or takes them to – the enclave of industry, are finding new discoveries as the business keeps growing.

Though coffee remains a mainstay, food and non-coffee drinks are now major parts of the offering. The food is as varied as you could hope for from a one-page menu. Alongside the ‘crowd pleasers’ of eggs and a haloumi brekkie roll is a flavour-full kimchi pancake (served with fried egg and a bean shoot, coriander salad and sesame seeds), a 12-hour slow-cooked beef brisket (served with caramelised onions, pickles, aioli and dressed greens) and a harvest bowl (including baked falafel, kale and quinoa tabbouleh, roasted pumpkin hummus, sprouted mung beans, sauerkraut and avocado).

All dishes have options of being transformed into gluten- and bread-free dishes by substituting any bread element with quinoa and kale tabbouleh. I tried the roasted mushrooms (inspired by my hot chocolate with a difference – read on) and thoroughly enjoyed the mix of kale, dill, capers, lemon-infused labneh and salsa verde.

On the drinks menu, alongside the caffeinated options – made from coffee roasted onsite – are drinks incorporating tonic herbs. I took a deep breath before trying the medicinal mushroom hot chocolate but needn’t have – the mushroom flavour was there but subtle, complementary to the chocolate and definitely not lingering. ‘It’s similar to how chocolate and beetroot pair well,’ says Tamara. ‘It adds a subtle earthiness.’ Smoothies have the option of an additional ‘shot’ of this mushroom mix or a ‘jing blend’ powder blended from Chinese herbs by local Coorabell business SuperFeast.

Tamara and Pat find that their healthy and herb-fuelled fare is not out of keeping with their tradie customer base, recently enlarged owing to the building of Stage 2 of the Byron Food Hub directly opposite. ‘There’s a truckie who comes in every day for his mushroom hot chocolate,’ says Tamara. ‘And lots of tradies love the Nourish Bowls – they are northern rivers tradies after all,’ adds Pat.

Coffee remains a dominant force, not least because a giant roaster takes up one-quarter of the space. Pat is the roaster who, around twice a week, becomes part of the entertainment on offer as he fires up the roaster during cafe hours.

‘The coffee has been well received in the local community,’ says Pat of the small-batch, direct-trade, organic coffee that he roasts for both cafe and home customers. Chai, teas and cold-drip coffee are also on the menu.

The Branches space is so much more inviting and comfortable than its industrial setting suggests. Tamara, Pat, and staff focus on being welcoming and accepting of all. ‘It’s always an interaction, not just a transaction,’ says Tamara. ‘We want to feed people good food and make them happy.’

The Branches Coffee Roasters and Café,
7/9–11 Towers Drive,
Mullumbimby Industrial Estate
– Follow the signs and look for the umbrellas. Mon–Fri 6.30am–3pm.
Ph: 6684 61617,
thebranches.com.au, Insta: @thebranches


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