Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Where to get your caffeine fix. Melbourne Edition

Melbourne, Australia is a city known for its multiculturalism, its graffiti and its coffee.

Now when I say it is known for its coffee I do not mean to say that every single shop selling coffee is a contender for world’s best coffee. I have met countless people who come to Melbourne expecting amazing coffee, go into the first café they come across on Swanston Street (the main drag of the CBD), order a cup and are disenchanted with Melbourne coffee forever. To them I would say it isn’t the coffee buddy, it is you. What they are doing is the equivalent of hearing New York has the best bagels in the world and then being disappointed after buying a bagel at Dunkin Donuts.

What I mean that anywhere you are in Melbourne no more than 5 minutes away is a really nice cup of coffee waiting for you in a local café. You just need to know where to go.

I have a coffee crazed Swedish partner which means I make it my job to know where there is good coffee, just in case we are out for a walk and he starts showing signs of caffeine withdrawals. These can range from seeming slightly deflated to downright cranky. He doesn’t always need coffee at these moments, sometimes he is just hungry (mostly for chicken) or it is too crowded, but the safest bet is probably coffee.

As his personal café database I have developed a pretty keen eye for good coffee.

Brunetti's also does a mean Affogato

There are of course the culture specific coffee like Brunetti’s Italian cappuccinos, perfect with some biscotti napoletani (check them out on weekday afternoons when they do a 6.50 pastry and coffee deal) or Bahla's Lebanese coffee to be enjoyed with a giant box of their famous baklava.
Though amazing these are more special occasion places than your standard everyday café.

For your day-to-day coffee needs look out for specific brands. If they advertise 5 Senses, Seven Seeds, De Bella, Padre, St Ali or Market Lane you are on the right track. These are all Melbourne roasts that are generally well loved. There are many more so don't hesitate to ask around for people's favourites!

Real coffee connoisseurs may want to look out for cafés that signpost daily coffee specials with roasts of different origins and added flavours.

There is also the ongoing battle between filter drip and full bean ground coffee. Any place that acknowledges this schism will probably also serve up a robust cup of joe.

However useful these strategies may be, none of them form the basis of my café-picking policy. In Melbourne the best advice I can give for locating places with good coffee is find the most hipster looking place with the most hipster looking people, and you’ve probably found yourself a winner.

Seriously though, how much time would this take to do...

Now I am in no way a hipster, I love many aspects of mainstream culture, and not just ironically, but I do appreciate some of the things Melbourne hipsters get right.
1.       Their immaculately manicured beards, like seriously they are discomfortingly tidy
2.       Their love for foreign films, just because it isn’t in English featuring some major star like Johnny Depp, doesn’t mean it isn’t an amazing movie
3.       And finally their snootiness about coffee

I say snootiness with the greatest respect by the way

In a city where your standard cup of coffee is about 3,5-4 dollars (with another half a dollar added on if you are a lactard like me and need soy) you really shouldn’t be settling for bad coffee.

As I mentioned my partner is a coffee snob. He even uses a shorter more English sounding version of his extremely Swedish name when ordering coffee to make the process less of a hassle (a practice which I myself have begun to adopt). I joke that it is his hipster alter-ego ordering a flat white.

While many mock the hipsters (sometimes in self-defense due to the slight snooty scoffing that can sometimes occur when frequenting hipster cafés as a not so hip person) is true Melbourne hipsters often run and visit great coffee shops.

Brother Baba Budan
See what I mean about the random decor?

Now some of you who are not so familiar with the Melbourne hipster scene may be wondering how on earth you are to distinguish a hipster coffee joint from a regular one. Well a few things to look out for are, random object replacing standard furniture (things like crates or barrels), very distinct decoration like bikes mounted on the walls or large wall paintings, mason jars or other odd vessels for drinks and food, fancy looking sandwiches or pastries in the windows, organic juices on the menu, big sharing tables, bicycle parking in front, coffee distillers that look like out-of-place chemistry sets and slightly abnormal placeholders. In terms of guests/servers look for people wearing skinny jeans, thick rimmed glasses, mis-matched colours/patterns or possibly all of the above.

Chances are a place with most of these characteristics will have great coffee and you’ll never have to drink at Starbucks or Gloria Jean again.

If you are still unsure just check out this really cool map featuring a couple of the most hipster coffee places around.

Happy hunting!