From rowing his way to a silver world title to creating one of Brisbane’s most respected roasters, Alex Ridgeway is certainly making ripples in the coffee industry – and his Neighbourhood is where it’s at.
It’s the 1970’s and staring at the view from the back door of Brisbane’s first French fine dining restaurant, Rags, is where Alex Ridgway found himself daily as a child. Peering across the kitchen to the coffee plungers ready to serve today’s roast, was his earliest memory of coffee.
Alex’s parents owned the restaurant in Brisbane city along with a farm out in the country – and it was that pairing that gave him insight into this industry that money couldn’t buy.
However, coffee wasn’t where he always thought he’d end up. His love of sports took over and he was soon rowing for Australia, receiving a Silver World title. His love of food brought him back into the industry and he worked at a small handful of award-winning restaurants across the city.
Alex’s desire to create something soon took over and he threw every last cent at a small coffee shop underneath an office tower, which quickly grew. Within the year, Alex had purchased his first coffee roasting machine and started roasting on the bottom floor of his house. This is where he was able to develop his style of roasting.
After five years, Alex and his wife, Stephanie, sold the coffee shop and purchased an old general store in Bardon which was beloved by the neighbourhood. The previous owners had left the original store fit-out with advertisements plastered on the walls from the 50s which still adorns the store today. It was always the pair’s intention to restore the building and highlight the years of stories and memories hidden amongst the walls.
This is where Neighbourhood was born.
The name was developed from Alex’s deep appreciation of the wider community. Each cup of coffee that is served, comes from a farmer who has spent a year growing the beans, he spends exactly 17 minutes roasting it, the barista spends 5 minutes making it and then you get to drink it. The idea that the neighbourhood that we are a part of is much bigger than that of which we are surrounded by in proximity. The café quickly became a local favourite.
Alex soon heard about a development that was happening in Albion and knew immediately it was something that he wanted to be a part of. He found himself shortly after moving into the old Mercedes-Benz workshop to set up as the roastery along with a café.
The story behind each of the coffee beans Alex purchases to roast is important to him. Using detailed precision, Neighbourhood is known to be a light roaster, with taste notes such as rich chocolate, praline, and raisins for the award-winning Golden Ticket blend, which tastes incredible for espresso and stove top. Their blends are crafted for distinct tastes, getting people a little bit out of their comfort zone and giving them the opportunity to try things they have never tried before. Not only do they roast their own beans, but they also produce a selection of nitro coffee and wholesale to a range of cafes as well as a range of Nitro teas, with some fun funky blends like pumpkin, banana, coriander and oolong. Totally weird sounding but rumoured to be amazing with gin.
Alex is passionate about history and the story that every product and space tells. Everything that he puts his hands to, he can tell you where it came from and what purpose it serves.
Not only does Neighbourhood offer incredibly delicious and locally sourced product but they also grow 100% of their herbs in a garden in the back of the Bardon cafe along with a range of other produce items. Each of the Neighbourhood stores actively cares about the way they impact the environment and though it is not wildly advertised, it is just a major aspect that they care about. And they are doing an incredible job of it.