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February 11, 2016

Introducing Seafaring Fool

The pull of coffee was so strong it brought Alistair Corston back from a life at sea.

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  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Pictures: Julian Cebo

There’s a lot of guff talked about how “everything has a story”. But to be fair, some stories are much better than others. In a world where tales can pretty much start and end at “I got a bank loan and opened this shop”, Alistair Croston’s story ranks pretty high.


Find Seafaring Fool at 121 Grenfell Street, Adelaide. Alistair is open 7.30am-3pm on weekdays, and on most Saturdays too.

The owner and operator of coffee spot Seafaring Fool on Grenfell Street bought his coffee machine with the money he made selling his ’69 Valiant. He’d had the Valiant for 10 years, and was originally able to afford it because he was given a pretty large tip. By a billionaire. On a super yacht. Off the coast of Europe.

It’s a good story, but it raises obvious issues. Surely, someone making large tips and living on yachts near Europe would like to stay doing that. For Alistair – a Master Four (that’s a reasonably well qualified sea-faring type) – 14 years at sea was enough.

“It doesn’t really work out well with family and stuff – all your friends’ kids grow up and my nephew was growing up as well,” he says. “The last swing I did was 42 16-hour days in a row. So you come back and you have heaps of money, but you’ve got the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.”

So, he’s returned to solid land and to an old passion of his – making coffee. The art of being a barista is something Alistair originally learnt at Big Table in the Central Market as a teen, but he’s been refreshing his skills at Kurralta Park’s Froth and Fodder over the last year or so.

He decided to open his own venture when friend Will Rawson – one of the owners of JR’s Surf and Ski – started talking about wanting to incorporate a café into the space.

“There’s surf shops all around the world these days with cafés. Drifter in Bali has one, Quicksilver on the Gold Coast has one,” says Alistair.

“We’re here to start a coffee shop hole in the wall but also start some caffeine-induced shopping. It works hand in hand really.”

A love of surfing makes Al a natural fit for the location, and it also led him to working with roaster De Groot Coffee Co, who supply the shop’s rotating selection of single origin beans.

“Every time I get any time off I go surfing, and I go down south and see Trevor (of De Groot Coffee Co) and we either talk about coffee or surfing,” says Alistair.

“This bean is really sweet and full bodied. I’ll be changing as the seasons change, but this one is a Panama bean. When we first opened here we tested five different beans amongst all the staff here – we just got buzzed out on coffee and everyone told me what they thought, and this one went down really well.”

After almost three months of trade, the coffee is proving popular outside the bounds of JR’s as well, with a good crowd of regular office workers stopping past for a brew. Alistair has plans to continue evolving his offering too, including by adding in some seating, but one thing that will always remain the same is his commitment to two principles – friendly service and minimising environmental impact through measures like offering discount to those using Keep Cups.

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