10 August 2018
THE MANY FACES OF MELBOURNE'S COFFEE SHOPS

THE MANY FACES OF MELBOURNE'S COFFEE SHOPS

ST. ALi

Melbourne has no shortage of big-name coffee shops that the coffee community loves to talk about, but one name that never fails to come up time and time again is ST. ALi. The shop, practically a household name in Melbourne, has a long if not polarizing past. You see, when Melbourne just started catching onto the specialty coffee wave back in 2005, ST. ALi was at its forefront, pushing the boundaries of coffee for all it could be – and earned the title of pretentious and chichi in the process. In hindsight, no one at the time invested the same amount of time and effort into sourcing, processing, and training as ST. ALi, but the folks at the shop were adamant that they were on to something.

They were right. Now 13 years on, the hard work has paid off and ST. ALi’s attention to detail has earned them a rightful spot spot on Melbourne’s figurative coffee hall of fame. They’ve even extended their reaches to Jakarta where they occupy a spot in the heart of the city amongst shopping malls and skyscrappers.

In its native Melbourne, ST. ALi’s surroundings are much different. Here, the shop calls a comely warehouse in South Melbourne home. Decor is organic, atmosphere warm, and their coffee just as you’d expect it – sourced from all over the world and roasted to perfection. Food is quintessentially Melburnian – think elevated classics such as baked apple porridge, truffled eggs, and spicy fish burritos. Their menu, like their coffee, is seasonal.

If you’re new to Aussie coffee culture, ST. ALi is one of the best places to get acquainted.

Proud Mary

Much like how numerous stamps in a passport reflect a well-traveled individual, a bag of Proud Mary coffee beans reflects a coffee-enthusiast in the know. That signature brown coffee bag with big blue lettering has become a mainstay in cafes throughout Southeast Asia and proudly – pun intended – lets people know that the establishment features coffee from one of the best.

Located in the heart of Collingwood, a neighborhood associated with the artsy and eclectic (read: hipster) Proud Mary is housed amongst what seems to be an old industrial complex complete with a towering smokestack – as seen in its coffees’ packaging.

Melburnians have long held the belief that Proud Mary is one of the best coffee shops in town, and while factors such as decor and service can attribute to that title, their coffee is undeniably the number one reason. Besides its shop on Oxford Street, Proud Mary also has a sister establishment a two minute walk away called Aunty Peg, an inclusive space where patrons can talk about and brew coffee one-on-one with one of the shop’s knowledgeable baristas. There, they sell every brewing tool would possibly need (and then some), roast coffee, and hold weekly communal cupping sessions – a gateway to Proud Mary, if you will.

Expect some of the friendliest service in town, good ole Australian cafe classics, an abundance of coffee to pick from, and one of the longest Synesso espresso machines you’ll ever find (six groupheads!).

Market Lane Coffee

Finding good coffee in Melbourne is not hard, great coffee shops lurk literally around every corner. One group that makes the hunt for great coffee that much easier however is Market Lane Coffee, a specialty coffee chain that has six outlets scattered throughout the city.

As alluded to in their name, Market Lane outlets can usually be found around markets, or at places where pedestrians can easily swing by for a spontaneous cup of coffee or a conversation with a familiar barista. The Market Lane outlet that I particularly loved was the one at the Queen Victoria market. This outlet is always full of people queuing up with their shopping – or bratwurst hot dog – in hand. Due to its location, this one always has a curious crowd of locals and tourists congregating around it, eagle-eyed as they watch the barista at the manual brew counter slowly pour hot water over coffee grounds.

The coffee served at Market Lane Coffee is sourced from all over the world and rotated seasonally. For myself, I took home a pouch of Brazilian Fazenda Paixao – great for filtered coffee.

One of Market Lane’s most recognizable souvenirs are its takeaway cups that reaffirm that this coffee chain loves to make coffee for the city that loves to drink it.

Brother Baba Budan

Named after the 17th-century Sufi accredited with smuggling seven coffee seeds out of Yemen into India, Brother Baba Budan, or BBB for short, is a cozy little nook located a couple minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

The shop accommodates a crowd of no more than 15 sitting guests at any given time, and given its location and size most people opt for a quick takeaway instead of a half-hour coffee break. With that being said, some people do try and get comfortable around the shop’s one communal table. It’s always crowded, so if you do feel the need to grab a chair, you might just have to pick one off the ceiling.

BBB is part of the same group as Seven Seeds, one of Melbourne’s most respected roasters. The shop serves the blend used in Seven Seed’s Carlton cafe and also offers a coffee-of-the-day.

Named after the 17th-century Sufi accredited with smuggling seven coffee seeds out of Yemen into India, Brother Baba Budan, or BBB for short, is a cozy little nook located a couple minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

The shop accommodates a crowd of no more than 15 sitting guests at any given time, and given its location and size most people opt for a quick takeaway instead of a half-hour coffee break. With that being said, some people do try and get comfortable around the shop’s one communal table. It’s always crowded, so if you do feel the need to grab a chair, you might just have to pick one off the ceiling.

BBB is part of the same group as Seven Seeds, one of Melbourne’s most respected roasters. The shop serves the blend used in Seven Seed’s Carlton cafe and also offers a coffee-of-the-day.

Mr Hendricks

It’s true that you’ll find most of Melbourne’s most recognizable coffee shops in and around the city center, but that’s not to say the suburbs don’t have its own haunts. Along the 109 tram route to Box Hill, down Whitehorse Road is the leafy suburb of Balwyn, a neighborhood known for being the place for affluent retirees. Quiet and peaceful, Balwyn is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the CBD and miles away from the heavily-Instagramed coffee shops of Flinders Street.

While it lacks powerhouse coffee shop brands, the area is full of homegrown businesses that have inevitably wormed their way into the hearts of those in the community. Mr Hendricks is one such example. A favorite amongst residents, the shop has made a name for itself with its comforting French-inspired food and hot coffee from Padre Coffee.

The look of the cafe is simple and unpretentious with a clean white-tiled dining room in the front and a lovely outdoor seating area in the back. The clientele at Mr Hendricks ranges anywhere from giggly school girls, busy sports moms, babies in highchairs, and the old couple in the corner with the daily paper.

Kitty Burns

It takes a lot to stand out in Melbourne’s sea of coffee shops. With so many great options, making a lasting impression often means doing more than serving great coffee.

Full of natural light and swathed in pastel blues, it’s no wonder Kitty Burns is a hot spot for tourists and locals alike. The cafe’s most recognizable features are undoubtedly its pointed tables that resemble tiny houses that add an air of whimsicality to the playful space.

Even though it’s surroundings can be attributed to bringing the crowds in, that’s not to say its fares don’t stand up to its settings – just ask its army of loyal customers. The cafe serves a multitude of equally creative dishes with plenty of healthy options, such as raw cakes and freshly pressed juices, and is well-equipped to cater to most dietary needs.

 


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