In celebration of Mother’s Day on the 12th May, we caught up with Marian and Jack Nelson, the mother and son duo behind Cocoa & Rose, a charming and intimate café in the heart of Perth, with both French and Filipino influences. Marian and Jack took over the café in 2014 and have been working together running it ever since. We discussed how the mother/son duo came about, what the best things about working together are and more.
How did the decision to go into business as a mother/son duo come about?
Marian: I believe it was the occurrence of events in our lives during that time that prompted the decision to go into business as a mother/son duo. I was in the middle of divorce and all I wanted was to pick up the pieces and start something that would keep me occupied and challenged, thus to keep my mind off the difficult situation I was in. My son at that time was in his gap year trying to figure out what he wanted, needing a job to be able to become independent. And then there happened to be a friend’s daughter selling her business (Cocoa & Rose). That’s when a new chapter in our lives begin.
What’s the best part about working together?
Marian: As a mum, there’s always the feeling of pride when I work with my son. We may not always have the same idea on some things, but that gives us a chance to challenge one another. We know we both want the best for Cocoa & Rose. As with making coffee, the best thing about this mother-son barista relationship once we both became more experienced in the field is that we were able to exchange ideas about our individual preferences when making coffee and figure out which ones work more effectively. We discuss a lot about customer’s preferences, speed, importance (or not) of latte art, and most importantly how we can make our coffee taste consistent regardless of who is making the shot.
Jack: Getting to laugh and joke around about stuff. It’s always great when we’re not taking everything too seriously.
What has this partnership taught you about one another/how has it affected your relationship?
Marian: This partnership taught me how important it is to have someone I can trust and to have someone I can get new ideas from. I believe this partnership has made our mother-son relationship stronger because we know how much hard work we put into the business.
Jack: It’s taught me not to mix work and family – just kidding!
What draws people to your café(s)?
Marian: Good coffee, delicious food and happy team members that always smile.
Jack: Apart from the yummy coffee and food, I’d have to say our staff. We’ve got really great staff here who are always super friendly and great with our customers.
You are both musicians and the café hosts jam sessions for classical and jazz musicians. Can you tell us about the importance of music in your cafes?
Marian: We have a piano in the shop and sometimes we have guests play it. Some guests or passersby would actually come in just to play. It’s great! We love music and guests enjoy the music too. Actually, you will find some reviews in google and Trip Advisor mentioning the piano playing. Music is very important in our cafe, it creates a positive aura and people are happy.
Jack: My mum has always encouraged me to pursue music from a young age and it has always played a major role in my life. I could go on about how it’s relaxing and adds to the atmosphere of the café, but really it’s important to our café because it’s important to both us.
Cocoa & Rose features elements of both Filipino and French culture—how did this combination come about?
Marian: I am originally from the Philippines. I have a favourite Filipino dish (adobo) that my dad always cooked when I was young and I included that in our menu. This adobo dish has been accepted quite well in Perth. As with the French culture, I actually speak the language. I learnt it as part of my music course at uni and I performed a full repertoire of French music in my vocal recital for the Master of Music degree at the University of Western Australia. Jack went to a French nursery school when we were living in Dubai, UAE, and he had French subjects in high school which he was so good at (during that time) and even received a merit certificate for it. So, as you see, the music, Filipino and French culture represent us and this sets Cocoa & Rose apart from other cafés in town.
Any advice for someone taking over or opening a café?
Marian: From a managerial perspective, I would say choose the right team members who will support your company’s vision and who will treat your customers pleasantly all the time.
What surprised you most during barista training?
Jack: What surprised me most is how precise and scientific coffee is. It was pretty crazy to learn about all the different factors that have an affect on how the final product tastes.
What does the future have in store for Cocoa & Rose?
Marian: Cocoa & Rose would like to try a mobile coffee van to serve corporate and community events.