The Silly Goat is a cafe that is at the heart of the Broken Hill community, while in Outback town in 2017 radionotes spoke to their award winning barista and Manager Emily Keenan.
An unscripted chat, recorded out front of the shop ahead of them moving into their new location in the historic mining town…
To listen, click the green ‘play’ triangle… [note: may take few seconds to load]
(Transcript of The Silly Goat chat below, check to delivery in audio)
IMAGE CREDIT: radionotes while exploring Broken Hill vast country side
It was quite a dark day in the town, as lot was weighing on mind. Committed to record chats in the Town that day, headed out and one of the major lights of the day was getting a deeply curated coffee with all natural materials… in to me. While at the cafe asked for a chat and today’s episode is the result. It also was before the form of our show was locked in, hope it is enjoyable all the same. The beverage certainly was.
SHOW NOTES: The Silly Goat episode
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Feature Guest: The Silly Goat, Manager Emily Keenan
Espresso. Espresso is hard. It shows all the faults.
In The Box:
- Rose Tinted – Temples of Youth (Spotify)
- Hillbilly Pickin’ Ramblin’ Girl – Catherine Britt (Official Music Video – from 2007)
- Going Away – Van Rullen (AppleMusic)
Next Episode: Claire Anne Taylor
Coming Up Soon: Peter Drew (Poster Boy) who posts Aussie across Australia
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More details on playpodcast here, thanks to Matt from them.
[Radio Production – notes:The Silly Goat chat takes the whole episode. Also – if have not sent details about Little Wise’s Want It All album out THIS Friday let me know ASAP]
Theme/Music: Martin Kennedy and All India Radio
Web-design/tech: Steve Davis
Voice: Tammy Weller
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For direct quotes check to audio, first version of transcript by Brittany C at REV
John Murch: Emily Keenan. Welcome to radionotes.
Emily Keenan: Thanks, John.
John Murch: Where did you first decide that coffee was going to be your knowledge base?
Emily Keenan: This is going back to when I left school and I didn’t have any aspirations to leave Broken Hill, or go to university. I didn’t have any interests in any other studies. I just thought I might get some experience in hospitality and I wanted to gain some skills. I started working at a little cafe, and I just picked up making coffee and then it just became something that I became a little bit obsessive about and wanted to know more and sort of go further into just becoming better at it. And I looked into some further education in Sydney and when and did quite a big amount of training and that time I got lots of experience working in some cafes in Sydney as well. And then from there it’s just sort of grown and grown and grown and grown.
John Murch: The important thing about the timing, I think here is, this is way before the whole barista craze of the world took over.
Emily Keenan: When I was doing my study in Sydney, I could tell you that most baristas looked like science geeks, no offense baristas. But it was definitely something that sort of more introverted type of characters were doing and they were quite obsessive about it. They were really looking into the science of making coffee, not so much the flare of making coffee, not trying to show off. They just really love the science of it and nobody else in my life had a passion for making coffee at that time. So it was really something that was unknown in this town.
John Murch: You used the word obsession.
Emily Keenan: Obsession with tasting, obsession with flavour, with aroma, obsession with perfecting milk, perfecting latte art. You know, obsession with making it better and better every time. Making it better than the last one because it’s so variable. That was the challenge.
John Murch: How does the euphoria see these days when you make a coffee?
Emily Keenan: Mostly I find making coffee a lot of fun and the busier we are and the more pressure that we get from our customers, the higher the expectation the more of the buzz I get off of it. I’ve been doing it for long enough now that I’m not scared of the challenge of the pressure.
John Murch: What has been your hardest coffee to make?
Emily Keenan: Espresso. Espresso is hard. It shows all the faults. It really shows how good the barista is, and it’s not so much about the quality of the beans, the quality of the equipment. It’s more so about whether or not the barista knows what they’re doing.
John Murch: Does the customers’ engagement affect the quality of coffee they may get?
Emily Keenan: No, not at all. No. It doesn’t like every barista definitely has a screwed up face to a certain coffee order. Mostly we have a respect for the coffee in its absolute purest form, and the more that people add to that and try and strip away the pure flavor of the coffee by adding sugar and adding milk in, we feel slightly offended I guess. But at the same time, part of the hospitality industry is being so open minded and accepting of whatever people and how they want to enjoy it.
Emily Keenan: It doesn’t change the way that we serve it to them. It may change the type of customer service they receive, but like here at the Silly Goat in particular, we liking to try and educate people.
John Murch: How you go about that. I guess from your philosophy of education?
Emily Keenan: We won’t serve anything that tarnishes our reputation. There’s like a minimum standard, you know. We won’t owe the heat our milk to the point where … it doesn’t matter who you are. Once you heat milk to a certain point it’s going to taste horrible and then the blame gets put on the barista saying that they can’t make a good enough coffee. But you know it really does come down to that. We do draw a line with that.
John Murch: I can only imagine it’s frustrating being told how to make something that is one word really, coffee.
Emily Keenan: What we’re trying to do now with having such a big customer following, we’re trying to educate people to do less milk based coffee and try drinking black coffee and it’s mostly for the appreciation. We get some really high quality specialty coffee in, that’s come from amazing parts of the world. And just like drinking, you know, beautiful wines, it’s an opportunity to taste something a farmer has put in a lot of pride, and a lot of people have putting in a lot of work in order to get something that’s beautiful to the cup.
Emily Keenan: And drinking black coffee really shows through with that, and we’re trying to educate people in not only espresso coffee but trying new forms of drinking black coffee. Getting in this beautiful single origin that rotates weekly. A lot of our black coffee customers are so excited every week knowing that they’re going to have that new taste experience. Yeah, and then people are really buzzing on cold brew coffee as well, which we take a lot of effort and a lot of time to cold brew. Some beautiful single origins as well.
John Murch: Travel has played a big part in your life before coming back to Broken Hill.
Emily Keenan: When I was younger, I was a little bit of a free spirit in that I like to just spur of the moment, make a choice to change and go and do something. And I generally did it and I didn’t have a lot of responsibility and I wasn’t sort of a teenager that was looking for responsibility. So I had that freedom too, to do that. So I did leave Broken Hill to go and live in other cities. And from there my … all I think actually, you know like growing up my mom and my dad really told us, us kids our whole lives to go and travel and see the world and that it’ll change our lives. And so I always had that in the back of my mind that I wanted to do that.
Emily Keenan: Scary thing, though, to leave a small town, you’re really in your comfort zone and go and live in a city where you’re quite anonymous and you know, making new friends and things like that. So I think that in itself, once I did leave and learned how to to deal with those things, I just really got excited about the potential for like where I could go and what I could do and just hospitality would take me there and be able to support me along the way.
John Murch: And so you’re on this path of travel.
Emily Keenan: I had so many different jobs while I was living in Sydney and Brisbane. There was up and downs when my passion for hospitality sort of feigned, and then I got the passion back again when I’d get another new job that was really inspiring and lots and lots of experience. When I did come back to Broken Hill gave me a whole new way of looking at what coffee was going to be in this town and hospitality in this town. What I wanted to bring to this town that I knew wasn’t here from my experience of like working in the industry.
John Murch: Was there a level of trust that you needed from the people of the town, not just the family to take up this venture?
Emily Keenan: In a way you always rely on on that. On the trust of people … small town and everybody knowing everybody, it’s not really hard for your reputation to either do well or not pretty quickly.
John Murch: You’re saying you’ve just come from these bigger cities where you’re somewhat anonymous. So you didn’t have that pressure, did you?
Emily Keenan: No, I didn’t. I did have enough talent as a barista to like do me well in the jobs that I was working as a barista in.
John Murch: Sure.
Emily Keenan: Like I very quickly got a lot of praise from people that worked for and the customers that I had. Coming back here, everybody knew who I was again, familiar faces everywhere. It didn’t take long before word spread that I was running the cafe and everybody knew that I made good coffee when I was younger and they sort of … they did trust that as well. And the other thing was that our energy in the store, having a family owned business makes it so much easier to really enjoy yourself, because you’re working with people that you trust and you’re all working towards something together that you’re building together. So it’s a lot of fun. And you can have a really good energy within your team that’s working for you and with you.
John Murch: What’s your sense of history about this town and what, I guess, from a youthful perspective, what are you doing to keep some of that history alive in this town?
Emily Keenan: Well, everybody knows that Broken Hill is a mining town. That’s really deep seated in the culture in this town and in our history, and locals always talk about is that that’s what keeps the town alive. That’s what keeps the population here. And a lot of people take a lot of pride in that because it’s families generations after generations, after generations of the families that are working in the mines and have something to do with it. And it’s a really family orientated town. So people take a lot of pride in, you know, when their partners and their husbands and fathers, brothers are all working on the mines. And I think we take a lot of pride in the hard work and the history of our generations before us.
Emily Keenan: And with our new renovation, we’re trying to really target tourism. Unfortunately, being a small town, there tends to be a lack of things for tourists to do outside of going and learning about our history, and we’re just trying to create a space where tourists can come and not only like, share a good dining experience with us, but also see that there are people in this town that take so much pride in our history. So we’ve really played on that with the way that we’ve designed our new cafe.
John Murch: What is the plans for this little cafe?
Emily Keenan: Lots of plans. It’s been a very long time coming. It’s been about … it’s about the third year now that we’ve been-
John Murch: Does it get emotional?
Emily Keenan: No, I’m laughing actually, because the process of us planning to go into this new shop, it started as a small idea and a way for us to own an investment property that was our business. Renovating from scratch, trying to create something that was new and contemporary so that we enjoyed our space because it was our space as a family. And from there it’s been this roller coaster ride of learning how to set up a new business, renovate a building, the ups and downs that come with that. Because so many times Gideon and I have said that Leone , You should write a book on the what not to do’s.
John Murch: Is that your mother?
Emily Keenan: Yeah. Yes. So that’s my mom. She’s incredible. She pretty much at the moment is working full time hours, working with her hands in the new cafe building. So tiling and plastering, painting, cleaning up all of the, like the dirt and the mess and the rubble that comes with renovations and yeah, she’s quite an inspiring woman. Just having a bit of a laugh there because the three years that we’ve just gone through to get to this point, which were nearly at opening point about … we’re not … just under six months from opening. It’s just been one problem after the other and us just holding onto that vision that eventually we will be there. But it sort of gets to this point where it feels like a dream.
John Murch: By having family around, faith is a little bit easier when those things aren’t going right, I guess.
Emily Keenan: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of people say don’t go into business with family, but really at the end of the day, when you go into business with family, whatever problem it is, is everybody’s problem, and we deal with it together and we take it on together. And yes, it does cause a lot of chaos in the family dynamic. Like we don’t always get along. But it really teaches you how to get … like how to get along with your family, you know. When something’s got to be done, and the thing is that it’s just such an incredible vision when you know that it’s forever. You’re always doing it forever together and there is that much trust there because you would never let each other down. And that only happens with family. You can’t have that with just a normal business partner who can just change their mind at any moment and want to sort of leave the venture.
John Murch: And closer those family ties are, and that’s a brother, mother in this case, the closer those ties are that the stronger it’s going to be.
Emily Keenan: Yeah. Like we’ve discovered some fantastic ways to utilize each of our own skills. My sister does all of our raw, healthy sweets and treats and has gotten a name for herself now with these healthy treats. And you know, people come from everywhere and say that they’ve never tried anything like it. And so I think that’s a reputation in her, in its own. But without having been a family business, she wouldn’t have had the freedom to be able to come in here at any time that she liked and experiment using the products that we’ve got and have the ability to have the space to, to start experimenting with those things. And it’s been all through trial and error that she’s come to like, create these incredible recipes that people are asking for. And so that’s just one example and over time, each of … Gideon and I have both come to realize that we’re better suited to certain areas and we let each other do it and-
John Murch: There’s give and take?
Emily Keenan: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.
John Murch: Let’s get back to the coffee. People sometimes think without a coffee in the morning, they aren’t going to get that focus they need. True or false?
Emily Keenan: Oh people can think whatever they think. I’ve worked in the industry for 13 years and I used to need to have my double shot Piccolo every single morning. I’d probably have six or seven of them on a busy rush morning. Then nowadays I only drink black coffee because that’s how I enjoy the drink coffee. I drink coffee for the enjoyment of it. I don’t like the caffeine effect. I don’t like relying on it to keep me awake. I like to get up in the morning and just feel alive and feel awake because I choose to be.
John Murch: Yeah can you talk us through that? Because for a lot of people, it’s the stimuli, not necessarily the taste. And your clearly saying, and rightly so, it’s about enjoyment, the taste. At what point did you know that it might be unhealthy to have it just for the buzz?
Emily Keenan: It’s all about listening to your body, really. Everybody is different and we know that, you know, some people can have caffeine at nine o’clock in the morning and it keeps them awake in the middle of the night that following night. You know, one coffee and that really has an effect on them. Other people can drink it all day, one after the other, after the other and it has absolutely no effect on them at all. So everybody is different. For me there are times when I feel like I’m lacking a little bit of focus, and yes, if I have two long blacks, you know in the first couple of hours in the morning, it really does pick up my heart rate and it allows me to move a bit quicker and I’m a little bit sharper. With that said, I don’t rely on that. I don’t look for that. I don’t look for that buzz. I to be clear and focused because I choose to be.
John Murch: Currently conversation with Emily Keenan of the Sill Goat in Broken Hill, Australia brought me up to the controversial question. I thought I’d never have to ask a barista, but heck, we’re getting along okay, let’s ruin it. Are babycinos worth their while?
Emily Keenan: Oh, we’re going to start charging $5 for them. No, I’m just joking. So babycinos for … in the middle of a barista rush, it really, it’s no big deal either. When it comes down to it, you know, we have to make ridiculous amounts of 16 ounce, large takeaway cups and they take so much more time and so much more effort, and a lot more focus and you’ve got to use more milk and more coffee and it’s really, really not cost effective for businesses to serve 16 ounce coffee cups. So, when it comes to a babycino, it’s not really that big deal. So a babycino is just the foam in a tiny little cup with a bit of chocolate sprinkled on the top. So, so that little bubs can look just like mom when they go to the cafe together. It doesn’t go against anything that we believe in. It’s not somebody who’s asking you to make a quarter strength, large, takeaway, skinny male cappuccino, extremely, extremely hot with extra, extra flat, no froth, five sugars. Like we find that as an insult to the quality of the coffee bean that we use. But we’re still going to … we’ll do it.
John Murch: So, for the babycino point of view, you see somewhat of a cultural thing where it’s a togetherness thing. It actually has a positive.
Emily Keenan: Absolutely. You know, my nephew comes in and he’s four and he’s been coming in ever since he was born and he could walk. He’s been running around our cafe and nothing brings me more pleasure than what something fun and yummy that I can create for him in the cafe. I love making him hot chocolates or we love drawing pictures on the top of his little hot chocolate now, and putting marshmallows in the top of it. And anything that gives him a buzz, really makes me just feel such joy. And that’s what .. We love kids, like, they’re such a beautiful energy to have around. And of course all kids are not always well behaved and it does create chaos in our cafe and it’s loud and … but you know, like it’s just this part of life. And you know, this is what moms and dads deal with every single day in their household. And the last thing that we want is for them to have to come and get angry at the child when the child just wants to, you know, do what they do, but it’s in the cafe. We don’t have an etiquette about that.
John Murch: And we mentioned about the culture as well. So when they do start having their first coffees later on, that idea that coffee can bring culture and togetherness.
Emily Keenan: I think it’s everything that we are about. It’s the absolute fundamental reason why we have chosen to stay in this industry and do what we’re doing, because we recognize how much as a close knit community, we need to bring people together so that we can soldier on in making sure that this community lasts and that this town lasts. And that’s it’s a beautiful place for, not only for people to stay, young people to not want to leave because it’s not a beautiful place to be, but also that when people do come here and they move here for work or for a change of scenery, that it is somewhere that they just feel like they feel like home. And the only way that something feels like home is when it feels like family and when it feels familiar and welcoming and it’s what every single hospitality business should strive to do.
Emily Keenan: They should be bringing people together because the only thing that we are doing is making people pay for their food, and they don’t have to do that. They can do that at home. So why do they go out to do it? For us it is all about the energy. It’s all about bringing people together and sharing space and getting out of this sort of feeling like we don’t talk enough. You know, we want to bring people back together. The whole theme of the shop represents the Bush. So the textures are the Outback, the textures are industrial mining town. They’re old, they’re rusty. But with that we bring contemporary. So everything still feels 2017, open, it’s bright, it’s light, it’ll definitely be noisy, but only full of happy people and the sounds of people sharing the space, and talking, and relating, and children, and families and lots of share tables. You know, bringing the outdoors in, really trying to open everything up.
John Murch: Emily, do you reckon you have achieved through this barista journey, what you want to achieve when you didn’t know what you wanted to do back then?
Emily Keenan: The first thing I said once I decided I was going to do my first ever barista certificate with the Danes Coffee Institute in Sydney, I really didn’t realize what I was in for. I said, I’m going to be Australian Barista Champion. So I’d seen the competitions on YouTube, and I said I’m going to be the Australian Barista Champion and went and did the first theory lesson, the certificate I’d chosen to do, actually got trained. At the time he wasn’t, but he later became Australia’s Barista Champion and one of the World Latte Art Champions. The amount of knowledge that came flooding out of this man’s mouth really overwhelmed me and I realized then how difficult it would be to become that good.
John Murch: Was there smoke coming off the page as you wrote down everything this person was saying? You want to know everything at that point, didn’t you?
Emily Keenan: At that point I realized I needed to know more, and I took on an internship with that company. So that was me … I think I went back eight times in total and did more learning, more practical. I did some cupping, which is tasting, and then I did a like a very exhausting 40 hour, over a few different days, but 40 hours in total of practical training with Scottie and that was just-
John Murch: Who’s Scotty?
Emily Keenan: Scottie Callaghan, who, he has his own brand now called Tiempro, But he was working for the Bella Roma Coffee company, which is now seven miles. And he was the face of that company and also he was a World Latte Art Champ, Australia barista champion. So he’s gone on to do some pretty incredible stuff. There’s so much more to know and I don’t know enough and the learning is never ending.
John Murch: How do you keep on learning in a town like Broken Hill?
Emily Keenan: To be completely honest with you, I’m so grateful that I have a fantastic friendship with another one of my trainers who was right alongside Scottie back in the day when I did my first certificate. And his name is Maddie Brown and he works for Seven Miles as well and now we use Seven Miles Coffee Roasters coffee here. I have kept in contact with him over the last 12 years and he’s constantly fed me information and-
John Murch: 12 years.
Emily Keenan: Yeah.
John Murch: Sorry, over a decade of education with what sounds like one of Australia’s best.
Emily Keenan: Yeah, he really is. So, every time he visits us every six months, sometimes he does that before that and he loves coming out here.
John Murch: He visits here?
Emily Keenan: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
John Murch: Twice a year?
Emily Keenan: Absolutely. He does all of our machine maintenance. He does all of our water filtration tests. He does constant training, constantly.
John Murch: I can only imagine how intense those one two days a year must be for this education.
Emily Keenan: Sometimes it’s really just a lot of catching up over a bottle of red wine at Mario’s palace hotel over a good steak and chips. Which is quite an experience for him because he’s a city guy and coming out here is kind of a different experience for him. When I’m not here, not in Broken Hill, I go and I just drink coffee. I drink coffee, I eat food. I experience the vibe and the energy that’s in these cafes and I learn and I … You know, it influences me and inspires me. So that’s the way that I keep up to date with my education is that I just go and be customer.
John Murch: Very hands on. What is the deal with the latte art?
Emily Keenan: When you have something placed in front of you that looks beautiful, it changes your mood and it does have an effect on your whole experience. And coffee is all about the whole experience, you know? It can’t just be about blind tasting, you know, you don’t have your eyes closed when you taste things. You see it, and you smell it, and then you experience it. And the latte art really does show a level of experience for the barista. So it does show, you know, how much pride they take in their work, and it shows that they believe that they are an artist. It’s really difficult to produce identical coffees, and you know. So when somebody strives to do that, it means that they really take a lot of pride in their work. You know we’re not all the same and every baristas hand is different, but we take a lot of pride in making sure that there’s latte art on every single one of our coffees because we believe that that’s the way that it’s supposed to be served.
John Murch: How much can we read into latte art?
Emily Keenan: I think you should be looking at the consistency of the mik, the temperature of the milk and if you’ve got some latte art on the top, they’ve taken the time to do it. You can definitely tell the difference between good latte art and bad though, and that is all your own personal experience. But you know, go out there and drink coffee, go to somewhere different, don’t keep going the same place and you want to become a good judge, then try everything, try everywhere, you know. You’re always going to get a bad one but at least you know not to go back there and you know, move on and and support these people that are opening their own business and taking so much pride in exactly all the things that I’ve spoken about here today.
John Murch: And the risks are pretty big as well. You’re going through this at the moment, isn’t it? Opening a cafe.
Emily Keenan: Yeah.
John Murch: Like you already have a cafe, but opening up a new cafe and I guess remembering what some of those risks may be.
Emily Keenan: Yeah. I don’t envy people, you know, striving to open a business in the city. Here we have the luxury of small town, not a lot of options. You know, the people that do things better than others or go on a standout and it’s going to spread by word of mouth. Small community it’s easy. It’s easy to get the reputation, you know, it happens immediately. Really don’t envy people that are really trying to make it in the industry, in the cities.
John Murch: As a coffee geek, Emily Keenan, how many more years or decades do you have of this?
Emily Keenan: Oh, I could make coffee until I have to retire because I physically couldn’t do it anymore. I love making coffee. I find no hard work about it, but running a business, on the other hand, being the first person that opens the door and being the last person to leave really does take it’s toll on your, your energy. And it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of times you don’t have the option to say, no, you don’t have the option to call in sick. You don’t have the option to take holidays. But I think this business, for us, we were looking long term, whether or not we’re all physically working in the cafe that may change depending on our lifestyle and our circumstances, you know. But the family, we will definitely be running this business for decades to come. Absolutely.
John Murch: Emily Keenan, thanks very much for joining during radionotes, absolute pleasure.
Emily Keenan: Pleasure, John. Thank you.