Coffee Pilgrimage in Melbourne

April 1, 2013 frvtravel

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Deemed one of the best cities for coffee in the world, Melbourne promises heaven, and Ve Handojo finds his fix everywhere from from simple holes-in-the-wall to bustling specialty coffee houses.

Text & Photos by Ve Handojo

How is it possible to sell five-Aussie-dollar cups of coffee every day in the suburbs and still have a long queue? Mind you, some of them can even be as much as ten dollars a cup, served in a café where sometimes there is hardly a seat. A week in Melbourne taught me how specialty coffee has found a home in this relaxing city in the far southern hemisphere.

On a Friday afternoon, Proud Mary in Oxford St was filled with a good mix of young executives, quirky freelancers, chatting students and quiet readers. I considered myself lucky to get a lone seat in the brew bar with a nice angle to observe Proud Mary’s custom made six-groups La Marzocco espresso engine, and an array of manual brewing equipment right in front of me. Champion barista Remy Shpayzer served a hot glass of his winning Victoria Brew, enjoyed best when the glass is just warm enough to hold. The medium-bodied, creamy flavoured drink was suitable for my late lunch plate of zucchini – drenched with olive oil, spiced up, and mixed with chicken and feta cheese.

A must-grab for home brewing are Proud Mary’s house blends playfully named “Ghost Rider” (makes excellent espresso), “Angel Wings”, and “Honey Suckle”.

Founded in 2003, St Ali in South Melbourne sources and roasts only the very best green beans, and the doors have opened even wider since St Ali in Carlton North started operating in December 2012. I went there on a Sunday afternoon to join the local crowds in this residential neighborhood and the street side parking was full with cars and bikes. Families were gathered on the small lawn under the scorching sun, and inside the tables were full. The noise and fragrance of beans signaled a true Melbournian lifestyle. The winning food offer from St Ali North is Bone & Brew – roasted bone marrow, morcilla, egg yolk emulsion, fennel, capers, and toasted brioche paired with selected black filter coffee. I bathed each bite of bone marrow on the brioche with a gulp of sweet Costa Rican in my mouth, and – lo, and behold – heaven was reinvented.

Down in Carlton is the spacious, brick-walled Seven Seeds, which hosts free public tasting sessions every Wednesday at 9am and Saturday at 10. Named as the place for best coffee and breakfast by Wallpaper magazine in 2010, Seven Seeds offers Kenya Kiangai AA, Costa Rica Brumas Del Zurquí, Colombia Roman Trujillo, and geisha beans from Panama among many, and my eggs benedict were the best I’ve ever had.

frv_melbourne_marketlaneMarket Lane Coffee set in the corner of Prahran Market.

inside the tables were full and The noise and fragrance of beans signaled a true native Melbournian lifestyle.

What about getting three little jugs of specialty coffee for the price of AU$12? Occupying a cool space in the corner of Prahran Market, South Yarra, Market Lane Coffee offers what coffee pilgrims will find impossible to resist – the Coffee Tasting Flight. Three different, carefully selected and meticulously brewed cups of filtered coffee. Mine were Bolivia’s Juan Ticona, Brazil’s Chacoeira da Grama, and Guatelama’s Santa Isabel (Cup of Excellence Lot 3). It’s a winning deal for small groups of coffee devotees and I was lucky enough(and crazy) to have them all by myself. The variety of gentle explosions of flavours and characters is something to celebrate.

As a hole-in-the-wall café in South Melbourne Market, Clement Coffee is a great find for non-locals. They serve two blends that change every day. Barista Kris Wood serves your daily fix in a very relaxing setting that looks out over the daily life of Melbourne’s busy market. Nothing beats the heat as sweet as a cup of citrus-flavoured El Savador coffee with a tang of cherry in the back.

You may not ever hear about ORA Cafe because this little place is a very well kept secret. A drive to Pakington Street in Kew will lead you to this treasured neighbourhood coffee shop. Choose Split from the menu, where the espresso shots are separated to make a cup of espresso and a cup of piccolo latte. In between these two there is a cup of iced cascara tea. Their portion of pineapple brioche comes with pashmak and pineapple panna cotta. Delicious.

Auction Rooms is in the same area as Seven Seeds and is worth trying for lunch and coffee. I brought home a pack of freshly roasted Ethiopian Sidamo Guji beans by Axil Roasters and it pleased everybody that I shared with.

Throw a stick in a random direction in Melbourne and it will land in a cup of specialty coffee. In this laid back city with its unpredictable weather, coffee is never out of season. In Melbourne, you eat just because you want to drink more coffee.

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