Inner East Review
Tuesday, 5 December 2023

The Abbotsford coffee business bringing beans from the source

Updated June 15 2022 - 1:40pm, first published June 14 2022 - 5:00am
Daniel Seyoum ... his father is happy and proud of what has become of the coffee. Photo Moran Hancock
Daniel Seyoum ... his father is happy and proud of what has become of the coffee. Photo Moran Hancock

Ageyo Coffee founder Daniel Seyoum had been hitting his stride as head sommelier at the European Cafe on Spring St when he and his wife, Solania, decided to pack up and head back to their homeland.

"We weren't moving to Addis Ababa, where you have a lot of things similar to here in terms of your home setup," the Ethiopian-Australian says.

"We were moving to the middle of nowhere, surrounded by forest, where you fetch your own water."

Seyoum had spent the first 10 years of his life there, on the family coffee farm.

But in 1995 he moved halfway around the world with his mother after his Melbourne-based brother lost his wife in an accident and was left alone with a six-month-old daughter and two-year-old son.

After a difficult first few years, Seyoum settled in to life in Melbourne and began to enjoy himself so much that when it was time to start university he thought it best to move interstate.

The social life turned out to be even better on the Gold Coast, where Bond University ran late night buses to take students clubbing in Surfer's Paradise.

While his commerce studies suffered, Seyoum struck up friendships with students "from one end of the world to the other", and it was at Bond, over long conversations with his room mate, that the idea to import his parents' coffee crystalised.

Back in Ageyo with his young family several years later, and seeing with different eyes the farm he had grown up on, he was blown away by his father's 100 per cent manual, organic operation.

He and Soliana and their young son Ezra stayed three years on the farm, working and learning as much as they could and getting to know local growers.

The first batch of coffee, produced by Seyoum's parents and four neighbouring farmers, arrived in Melbourne in January 2020, and with the onset of COVID-19, the couple decided to save money by roasting it themselves.

Registering their business in the name of his family village, and with packaging designed by Soliana, they started selling it - single origin 'Limu Kossa' from Ageyo, and 'Koombi', which is blended with directly-sourced Central American beans.

"The coffee is good," Seyoum agrees, humbly.

"I don't take a lot of credit for it but it's been really well received. We had great support through social media which helped us get to where we are now and open this business."

Seyoum had returned to hospitality and when COVID shut down the Hardware Lane venue Neapoli, which he was managing, chef and long-term colleague Sam Kenway suggested starting a cafe together serving Ageyo Coffee.

At the end of 2020 they opened Little Ezida in Victoria St, Abbotsford.

Seyoum says his father is happy and proud of what has become of the coffee it has been his passion and life's work to produce.

But a deep current of sadness in the family's lives is the 18-month-old war in Tigray province, which has seen ethnic Tigrayans all over the country persecuted and hundreds of thousands of people killed.

Seyoum's father has been forced to leave his farm and is living in exile in Melbourne, unsure when he might be able to return.

Seyoum hopes it will become safe enough for both of them to go back to Ageyo, where he would like to recruit more suppliers.

Meanwhile, Little Ezida is expanding, he and Soliana have had two more children and they are glad to have a home here in Melbourne.

"We're safe here," he says. "So we're fortunate to be here."

Ageyo Coffee will be at the Victoria St Alive! market this Sunday.


Jenny Denton


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