Gather round, friends. It's time for a Black Sheep Christmas story about how Mark and Katie created everyone’s yuletide favourite, Woolly Wonderland.
It all started back in December 2013 as an idea for a stocking filler or Secret Santa gift. Customers could stop by the stall Black Sheep held at the Jan Powers Farmers Markets in the middle of Brisbane city every Wednesday, and pick up a bag.
Mark and Katie wanted the blend to be reminiscent of a Christmas pudding (for Katie, that meant “juicy raisins bubbling in a pot at my Nanna’s house”) and the label would be printed on calico, for that extra pudding feeling.
“Then I thought about what else reminded me of Christmas and that was candy canes,” recalls Katie. “But I couldn't use the lolly versions. It had to be unique Black Sheep. And then I realised I could make them out of wool.”
So late into the night, she sat winding wool around a wire frame shaped like a candy cane, eight months pregnant with her and Mark’s first child.
Katie was exhausted but determined to finish the last of the bags so they’d be ready for market the next morning at 4am. Like Santa’s workshop but in Camp Hill, each label was hand sewn and printed on calico. Each bag hand filled and dated. “There was a piece of me in every bag,” says Katie.
It was worth the hard work because the blend proved so popular; it wasn’t long before Katie couldn’t keep up with the candy canes. Those who managed to snag some in the early days are lucky; they’re considered collector items now. “To this day our customers report to me with where they have hung their candy canes this year,” she smiles.
And so it was time to rethink the packaging design. “In November 2015, we sought the help of Adam from Buzz Studios to create a new festive label that appealed to our humour but didn't break my back,” says Katie, adding she and Mark love a good pair of woolly socks.
Here in Queensland, Christmas isn’t exactly the time to sport a pair of woolly socks on your feet but there’s no denying we love a good, hot cup of coffee. One that will “warm you like a pair of woolly socks.”
And the new packaging flew off the shelves just as fast. “Woolly Wonderland is still a favourite with our regulars,” says Katie. “Requests start flooding in from the beginning of November. We roast the Woolly Wonderland twice a week to keep up with demand.”
Since opening their Woolloongabba Roastery in November 2014, Black Sheep’s days at the city market are over but you can still pick up a pack of pudding inspired coffee from:
The Roastery (Monday to Friday 6.30am to 2.30pm, weekends 7am to 1pm)
The Rocklea Markets (Saturday and Sunday 6am to 12pm)
Or online (deliveries Australia wide until the 16th of December)
And that’s the story of how Mark and Katie and their Woolly Wonderland blend warmed the hearts of their customers (that’s you!) at Christmas.
150g for $10
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