Breaking Records, Pushing Limits

Words Finnian Burman

Did you know that in a small cafe in the heart of Hobart, the Guinness World Record for most coffees made in an hour has been set not once, not twice, but three times? Sitting on the corner of Macquarie and Elizabeth Streets, Atlas Espresso has a huge heart and matching personality. You may have walked by their witty chalkboard, or seen people crowding the busy shopfront. You may have even grabbed a drink there without realising they were internationally famous! I recently caught up with Sue Stagg, 48, the owner and operator of both Atlas Espresso and The Stagg coffee shops in Hobart’s CBD. I wanted to chat with her about her life, her inspirations, and why she first decided to take this challenge on.

What does ‘limitless’ mean to you?
I’m a big believer of anything being possible. Regardless of age, gender and circumstance, you can achieve anything. Everything is within your control. Often, our biggest limitations are ourselves. It doesn’t have to be that way, though; anything can be possible.

Do you believe that Hobart has limitations?
That’s an interesting one. I grew up here, and currently live in Taroona, but I did spend a lot of time living in England. When I was younger, I felt that Tassie had limited opportunities. I felt that I had to leave to achieve anything. I think Hobart definitely has its limitations due to its population size and isolation, but again, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve things. You may just need to take different paths.

As a young person, I definitely see that people around me still think that to be successful, you have to leave here. Moving away will fix all your problems! That’s the mentality.
It always has been! But moving won’t help you, unless you are trying to enter some highly specialised field. Like, I left Australia to pursue finance in London.

Finance?! And now you’re back here and own two cafes. How’d that happen?
My background at university was all computer science and finance. I was hired by a bank in Sydney straight out of uni, then moved to London as my career grew. My husband Jon and I had our first child in London, and my priorities changed. I felt I had gone as far as I could in finance, so I moved back home to raise my family. We bought a cafe as we sought new work opportunities. It’s certainly not as easy as sitting at a desk all day, but I loved it. The regulars, they really make cafe work great.

So, how’d this record come about?
One of our staff members came up with the idea. We had no idea how it worked, but we wanted to give it a go. Three of us down at Atlas set up the machines one day and smashed out 424 coffees in an hour, took some photos, and sent it all off to Guinness. They got back to us and told us we didn’t follow any procedure, nor any specific record that existed. They told us we could set an individual record with one person making as many coffees as they could in an hour, so we tried again. A huge part of it for us as well is raising money for Movember, which is a charity we believe very strongly in. We gave the hundreds of coffees that were made away, or you could donate towards Movember. The record attempts were something that could raise a lot of money, a lot of awareness for the charity, and it’s a lot of fun as well. I think we’ve raised around $15,000 for Movember all up.

That’s awesome. What is the current record? And the ones you’ve broken in the past?
The original record that I set was 275; I beat 230, which had been a long-standing Guinness record. After that, I realised just how achievable it was, and I knew we could push ourselves and do it again. Each year we got better, we learned new and faster techniques, and we improved. The current record is held by Samii Gardiner, one of the staff members at Atlas Espresso. At 24 years old, she smashed it with 353. Last year, I tried to beat her… my aim was 400, but towards the end, I had a grinder malfunction. I missed beating her record by one coffee.

That’s a total bummer!
No! It gives me the inspiration to do it again! This year, I’m aiming for 400 again. We are also hoping to have someone from Guinness headquarters visit and oversee the process. They’ve never come before, but they called me and said they would like to come along next time we attempt it.

Good luck with it! I can’t wait. Any final thoughts?
I personally believe that anyone can set a record. You don’t need any specific skills or experience, you just need to think “I can do that!” and give it a go. You may realise you’re really good at something you had no idea you could do. Flip through the records and see if there’s something that interests you, you never know what kind of record you could break.

You can follow the team’s record attempts by following them on Facebook – just search ‘Atlas Espresso’ or ‘The Stagg’. Both cafes are located on Elizabeth Street, at 18 and 138 respectively.

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