Many would argue that Australia is now the hotbed for quality coffee, globally. We clearly love our coffee, and, for all intents and purposes, it seems like Melbournians are actually obsessed.
Just ask a local where their favourite café is, or where the tastiest Ristretto can be found, and you’ll get a myriad of options to spend the morning with a great coffee and a paper.
Interestingly, it was the Italian cultural influence from the mid-20th century that started to build a coffee culture utilising quirky cafés across the city. And, quite possibly, we get better coffee here now than you would in Rome. There’s a high level of knowledge on not only what styles of coffee to order, but the origins of the beans, the roasting and what that means to the flavour.
Words by Ashley Pini
ALIMENTARI SMITH STREET EATERY AND FOODSTORE
Alimentari is much more than your average delicatessen. Stepping into their store in Collingwood, this first-timer felt he’d hit the modern Italian fare jackpot. The extensive space is ingeniously divided into a French rotisserie, larder, fresh pasta bar, deli and casual dining space. But down to business; I had to try one of their famous speciality coffees. The team introduced a microlot program three years ago as head barista, Shane, wanted to educate customers on the origins of their coffee and showcase locally produced quality goods. To accompany this, the eatery offers up a seasonal menu finely curated by head chef and part owner, Paul Jones. In a rush? Snap up one of their ready-to-go, take home meals such as their paninis, salads or hot dishes.
304 Smith Street, Collingwood, VIC 3066
THE BRANDY KEW
This is a café for both young and old. Arriving mid-morning, I came in just in time for the school crowd rush. Situated in the heart of Melbourne’s school district, this cute coffee joint is the favourite of busy parents, children and trendy teenagers alike. Seated around me were parents hurriedly downing the bottomless filter coffee while rushing their kids to finish their juice, next to others who had successfully completed the school run and were rewarding themselves accordingly. Keeping with the family/friendly vibe, business partners Eamon Sheahen and Lindsey Innes have decorated their space with softer elements like pastel colours, light wood and even a lush feature wall of greenery. The Veneziano supplied coffee is simply excellent – aromatic and strong to get you through the school or work day. A fresh and light menu of brekky favourites and slight twists on old classics accompanies this, like their standout chilli scramble with ham hock, chilli, cherry tomatoes, shallots and parmesan.
68 Edgevale Road, Kew, VIC 3101
In ye’olde England, the common was a place for the community to gather, socialise and hear the news. Since taking over Melbourne Bourke Street’s ‘The Common’ at the start of 2016, Anthony Minasi has been focused on fostering this community feel between staff and customers alike. His takeover has seen the café go from strength-to-strength, as his choice to swap his coffee supplier to the aforementioned Veneziano Coffee Roasters resulted in a whopping 16 per cent increase in sales. The Common have adopted the current trend of seasonal bean rotation, offering a lighter style of espresso, which changes three or four times throughout the year dependent on season and crop but overall maintains a similar taste profile. Walking in and seeing the impressive bench set up that allows for four baristas to be working at once certainly sent my coffee craving sky high. This efficiency perfectly satisfies the corporate crowd that this café predominately services and the impatient explorer, like myself!
570 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Seeking solace from the Melbourne winter chill, I stepped into The Alleyway. Sitting myself in front of the fireplace, I spent a moment taking in the inviting atmosphere packed out with regulars. The café is run by father/son duo, Said and Raheeb, who are dedicated to creating a hip, young vibe, while fostering real connections with their regulars. As I sat there sipping my brew, I watched the father (Said) greet his customers by name and ensure they were properly looked after. Said has been working in the industry for over 35 years now and has owned between ten to 15 cafés in Australia since emigrating here. The idea for this café, however, came from his son Raheeb or “Heeb’s” (as he prefers to go by) journeys through America after finishing his studies. The result is a café that harmonises a chic Melbourne fit-out with vintage American design elements, like neon signs. Their menu is also American-inspired, including tasty buffalo wings and a delicious mac and cheese. They offer both espresso and filter coffee, making for a range of brews that are hard to beat.
138 Burgundy Street, Heidelberg, VIC 3084