Coffee and crypto: We are all obsessed with them. And now, there is a venue that gives us both at the same time.
Crypto Coffee is a café that is living up to the crypto dream… where customers can walk in, buy a coffee with crypto, and walk out again, without having to involve the banks in the process.
It is a very disruptive idea. But humans can’t help being disruptive, because banks can suck. After the banks in Australia spent years debanking crypto businesses, crypto businesses can now debusiness the banks.
You’d think this cutting-edge café would be in the heart of the financial district in Sydney or Melbourne. But it’s in trendy Newfarm, an inner suburb of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. Locals call the city ‘Brivegas.’ Brisbane has 2.3 million people, and it still has that country town vibe, rather than that of a cutting-edge fintech hub. But now, Brisbane has a crypto café that is an Australian first. Brisvegas, we have arrived.
Coffee and crypto: How it works
Here’s how it works if you don’t already have a wallet. You walk into the café. On the table is a QR code that links you to Swyftx, a cryptocurrency platform. You download the app and can sign up in about three minutes, using some sort of official government-approved ID. Once it is up and running, the Swyftx platform gifts all new users that sign up with the Crypto Coffee QR code AUD$20 worth of Bitcoin (at the time of writing, BTC 0.00033). Free is everyone’s favourite price, so uptake is good.
After you have the Bitcoin in your brand-new wallet, staff will show you how to transfer money to the café to pay for your coffee. If the owner of the café, Justin, is there, he will help you do it, explain what he is doing, and answer any other questions you have.
How it started
Owner of Crypto Coffee, Justin, says that even though his career has always been in hospitality he has been fascinated by cryptocurrencies for years, and first started noticing it in 2013. “I liked that it could be a way to make payments for things digitally online. It took me a while to see where it was going and to start to understand the blockchain technology. Now, I love it. I just wanted to bring more awareness of it in its everyday use to people. Buy stuff with it. Transact with it.”
Justin’s notion was to have a café that had live price charts of cryptos showing in the café, while serving coffee and cafe food and accepting payment for that in crypto. He says it all came together after he built the Café and then Brisbane-based cryptocurrency platform Swyftx approached him with a proposal for a partnership. “Their developers make the software that supply charts for the café. They are shown on large screens at the front. It is the first café which has this kind of crypto-chart set-up in Australia. It is hard to believe the amount of people who stop and take photos and selfies in front of the live price charts. Most of the photos get shared around social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram which has been great for business and crypto awareness.”
The screens are commercial displays, and Swyftx have developer links that run from their office in Milton, Brisbane, Says Justin, “No one else has these charts. Swyftx have developed this for us. I plan to open more Crypto Coffee locations just to spread the awareness of crypto. There will be one opening soon in Southbank Brisbane, it’s a month or two away from opening. I definitely like hospitality, coffee, good food. But for me it’s more about spreading awareness of crypto and everyday use of crypto. It would be great to see more people start to transact with it and use it as a part of everyday life. Forget the banks, you don’t need them anymore. Crypto is all you need, and so my staff look after the coffee and the customers, and I help people with the crypto stuff.”
Getting the word out
So how did Justin get started swapping crypto for coffee? “We put up a sign on the front glass, with our name ‘Crypto Coffee’ on it. This was 6 weeks before we opened.” Justin set up an Instagram account with a few photos too. “I started getting a lot of messages through our Instagram which we only just signed up for. There was a lot more interest than I thought there would be.”
Word spread really quickly via LinkedIn, and it reached Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane. “They offer a blockchain course. They started to spread the information. I got proposals from other crypto exchanges, Binance, Coinspot and Crypto.com but I went with Swyftx because they were hands-on. The other proposals were good too, but Swyftx wanted to be more involved. They are based in Brisbane, and they are Australian. They wanted to work with us to run crypto and blockchain events and host local crypto meetups.”
The Australia problem
Australians can find it difficult to cash out of cryptocurrency platforms. Many Aussies using the American Coinbase exchange have been complaining lately about limitations on Australians. While Coinbase is easy to put money into from Australia, getting your money out is not. While there is a workaround, it requires extra steps and a local exchange. In an article on this topic, Cam Wilson writes about his frustrating experience.
Swyftx is different. The platform lets Australians exchange in and out of crypto markets using the Australian dollar seamlessly. However, Swyftx have hit the headlines recently for the wrong reasons. The platform accidentally deposited $2.3 million worth of Bitcoin into three customers’ accounts in an administrative error. They asked the lucky recipients to give the money back… and, negotiations are continuing. (Swyftx declined to participate in this article.) But for now, Justin is good with the partnership. And the free Bitcoin incentive is marketing gold.
Since opening, eight to ten people were paying with crypto per day. Says Justin, “They were using Metamask and Exodus wallets, and some people attempted to pay from exchanges. But if they don’t have a wallet yet, I’m happy to help anyone. If I am not here, then I have staff who are trained to help. But we can’t give any financial advice. And I am looking for more staff too! If anyone is interested, they can hit us up!”
Coffee Sales and keeping the crypto
Interestingly, Justin doesn’t swap the crypto he gets into fiat. He is a fan of the HoDL. “When Customers pay, it goes to one of the Crypto Coffee wallets or to the Swyftx account as crypto. We keep it as crypto. This is the first café to accept crypto as crypto. Crypto Coffee doesn’t make the transaction by changing the crypto into fiat or use any third party to accept it on their behalf. Other places that accept crypto and Bitcoin mostly are using a third-party app. And then in the end café gets paid in fiat. There is no point in that – no one wants fiat anymore.”
Justin agrees that tax is a new frontier. “Everybody involved in acquiring or disposing of cryptocurrency needs to keep records in relation to their cryptocurrency transactions. A capital gains tax (CGT) event occurs when you dispose of your cryptocurrency. At the moment, we declare it as ‘other income’ on our Business Activity Statement.”
It seems that the crypto word is spreading. “Now, we have suppliers who are interested in getting paid in crypto. And we can use crypto to pay for a lot more things in the business now. For example, we went scouting for new Crypto Coffee venues in Sydney last week, so we paid for the hotels and flights with the crypto.”
So, what demographic does this appeal to?
Justin says the majority of people who are using crypto to pay are late 20s to 50. “I’m not finding early 20s doing this, but that might be because they don’t have a disposable income. The 28 to 50 bracket is definitely the bracket.”
In conclusion, if you are looking for a practical real-world application of crypto, then this is it. The free starting Bitcoin is a great way to onboard people totally innocent to cryptocurrencies. While Bitcoin can be a bit volatile, you could also be up enough the next day to get a “free” coffee. Or you may lose your starting fund and have to go home and have instant coffee. Either way, the future of coffee seems fun.
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