Want to know where the best place in Australia to get your caffeine fix is? Desperate for some coffee goodness. I always say that coffee is next to godliness. Well thankfully for you we live our motto- Eat Well. Travel Often. Drink Coffee and our happy to share some coffee secrets. Just to be super clear it’s Melbourne. Melbourne is by far the best place in all 7.69mil square kilometers of Australia. For coffee and general amazing lifestyle.
It’s not just me who thinks this too. I’ll admit I am bias having been born and raised in this magical city. In 2014 Melbourne was voted the best city for coffee in a survey by booking.com. CNN listed Melbourne as number 2 city in the world, trumped only by London. Note that Australian’s opened the first espresso coffee focused shops. Just sayin…
More often than not you’ll see in travel magazines great stories about new, hipster happening cafes in the city. We even have an entire conference dedicated to coffee- Melbourne International Coffee Expo.
“Melbourne has this really unique culture that’s a combination of many different cultures. Melbournians travel, and they see what’s happening around the world, and bring it back with them. And what they bring back is their interpretation of what’s happening. You have the interpretation of flavours for the Australian palate”– Carl Sarla, Chair for the World Barista Championship.
What makes Melbourne cafes and coffee so special?
Firstly it’s the baristas. No longer is this the working space of poor university students trying to strive towards financial freedom. The person behind the machine genuinely (and generally) cares about making good coffee. Baristas are taking exceptional pride in their work and turning it into a form of art. As well as their bodies. Don’t be shocked to see tattoos, big beards, bigger earrings and fantastic attitudes behind the machine.
Secondly there is no specific template that each and every Melbourne cafes adhere to. No one magical coffee to rule them all. Though the likes of Patricia are popping up around town. The best cafes are embedded deep in their surrounding neighborhoods and city blocks. Taking in from their cultural surroundings inspiration for design, food desires and the kind of people who hang out there. You’ll find vastly different café and coffee style on the main streets such as Collins St versus their smaller counterpart Little Collins St.
How did then coffee become such a significant part of Melbournian culture and lifestyle? It is said that the Greeks and Italians were responsible for introducing coffee to the city. Thanks guys!
Coffee houses or palaces sprung up around Melbourne in the early 1830s as a product of the Temperance movement. The first was built in 1837 and were often much grander than other hotels and restaurants at the time. It’s seems that the Temperance ladies felt that coffee was a much more sophisticated option of beverage than the devil juice. These high and mighty coffee palaces were never successful financially (not unlike many Melbourne cafes today) and by the 1890s Depression, many of them closed or were forced to apply for liquor licenses in order to stay afloat.
For the common working folk of Melbourne, where entry to a palace may not have been granted, there were ample street stalls around town selling hot coffee. Or something that smelt like coffee and sugared water.
By the 1930’s Melbourne had started to truly embraced the cafe latte life. With over half of the 450 registered cafes being classified as coffee and tea houses.
People often say, “It’s not like the coffee in Italy,” and of course that’s true. Italian taste has stayed pretty static and respectful to it’s history. Italian roasters still add robusta to their espresso blends, and it’s inner-tube sweetness gives Italian espresso its distinctive quality. Melbourne prefers 100 per cent arabica, and that’s reflected in the flavours here.
Since than, well really history has spoken for itself. In a typical Australian fashion we fell in love, claimed it as our own and put our own twist on it all. The imported beverage has been adapted and changed it into something that’s not Italian, but very, very Melbourne.
Now that everyone has agreed that Melbourne has some of the best coffee in the world, and perhaps the greatest density of cafes how do you find good coffee? It can be really difficult to know where to go as a newcomer to the city. You can easily spend days walking around the city streets and laneways trying out a new café everyday. If you’re like me and love to deep dive into a topic that you love and enjoy a brisk walk let me introduce you to Context Travel-Flat Whites & Short Blacks, Melbourne’s Coffee Culture.
Think small groups- No more than 6 participants.
Super smart well educated people lead the way. No scripts, no ideal catch phrases trying to pity you into tips.
Thematic, in depth experience.
And most importantly a LOT of coffee tasting as you get around town.
Over the morning our small group was escorted, caffeinated and educated by the lovely and knowledgeable Jillian Adams. Starting at the Windsor Hotel we learn about the politics floating around coffee. We amble our way over to Pellegrini’s, following along the lane ways to China Town, taking a break at Brother Baba Budan and ending the day at Switchboard. There’s ample time given to sit, relax and enjoy each cafe’s special blend of coffee. Jill takes us through an amusing history lesson at each venue, filling our heads with facts and faces with coffee.
What coffee should you order when in Melbourne?
While lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites remain popular and rightfully so, piccolo lattes are certainly on trend (made with less milk so the espresso tastes stronger) and occasionally some wanker will call them a Melbourne Magic or a magic. If you’re unsure don’t be scared to ask. Check with the barista or server what beans are on offer and if they suit milk or not. It’s become quite trendy to only serve coffee white or black. No one will judge you poorly if you need a little sweeten up and add a sugar.
Top 5 Cafes to visit in Melbourne CBD
Brother Baba Budan & Traveller-
So these two amazingly small spaces are both run by one of my favourite coffee houses- Seven Seeds. Consistently producing great coffee and offering even better pastries. The take home beans (photo below from a recent visit with Context Travel) are fresh and easy to work with.
Brother Baba Budan – 359 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Traveller- 2/14 Crossley Street, Melbourne
Shortstop Donuts– 12 Sutherland St Melbourne VIC 3000
Ok it’s a little cliché you may think. Coffee and donuts. How American! Well yup that is true. But trust me when I say you’ll really appreciate and adore these donuts and the simple beauty of the coffee that Anthony and the team produce here. If you need inspirational check out the Shortstop Instagram account.
Cup of Truth-12 Campbell Arcade Melbourne
The name says it all. The team here are mind blowlingly fast with getting you your coffee. Always a must for me when I catch an early morning train into Flinders Street station. If you can find the Cup of Truth than you are worthy of the delicious coffee within.
Patricia- Cnr Little Bourke & Little William St Melbourne
This place is a hot spot favourite with the corporate and legal crowd. There’s no seating and it’s get in get out fast paced kinda place. There’s no time cause time is money and the clientele here charge by the 6 minute block. It’s black or white on offer. Go with the flow and enjoy the simple pleasure.
Market Lane- Queen Vic Market Melbourne
With two locations it’s easy to order yourself some happiness in a cup. Either within the deli of the market or just outside on the side street Therry St. Just a note of warning- the baristas here are super serious about their coffee. Very dedicated to ensuring that you get an amazing cup of happiness. But they aren’t fast about it. Perfection takes time and they are aiming for the perfect cup.
This list is just touching the tip of the ice-coffee iceberg that is the coffee scene in Melbourne. We really are a little coffee loving nation. Got a favourite café in Melbourne? Let me know in the comments below.
*Edited to amended some slightly decaf facts!