Melbourne is a mecca to the coffee lover. Curious explorers wander through the city’s laneways, stopping at cafes to take a seat on a stool or milk crate under colourful graffiti works by talented street artists. Melbourne is said to have more cafes per person than any other city on the planet. Being one of the first places to embrace specialty coffee, locals are accustomed to cafes involved in all steps of the supply chain and want their coffee beans to be fair trade and freshly roasted.
Espresso is the coffee of choice in this artistic city, with ‘flat whites’ being most popular. You will find filter and cold drips too, especially in the hot summers, and milk types catering to all tastes and dietary needs — from full or light cream cows’ milk, to soy, almond, and the increasingly popular oat milk.
Food and Coffee Pioneers
Part of the fun of ST. ALi is finding it. Unless it is brightly decorated with colorful balloons, paint or posters — as it sometimes is — the plain white, oblong shaped cafe, with no signs, blends in with the other unassuming, low-height buildings of the neighborhood. Its modest exterior beguiles an avant garde soul.
The warehouse style space used to be a St John’s Ambulance hub. Giant red semi-circles from the site’s former medical life can be spotted on the floor beneath the mismatched furniture and industrial decor. The body of the building has been left untouched, while the decor and artwork are changed seasonally with the coffee and menu. The entire space often transforms from coffee and food hub to party house with live music. “We pushed the envelope with coffee and we pushed the envelope with food,” owner Salvatore Malatesta said.
ST. ALi has been operating 15 years and claims to be one of the first Melbourne cafes serving specialty coffee and restaurant quality food. Since it opened its doors, ST. ALi has attracted a cult following. Word is even Quentin Tarantino has visited (who hopefully ordered the Royale with Cheese burger). The recommended signature drink is the Dali Drip, a chilled filtered coffee served in ‘a tall fancy glass’ with ice, maple syrup, native wattleseed and whipped cream.
12-18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne
Established Roasters Caring for Growers
Turning its back on mass produced, untraceable coffee, Seven Seeds is all about direct sourcing from Africa and the Americas. Transparency is their game. They not only tell customers where and how their coffee is purchased. They also share how much producers are paid. Their main cafe, located near Melbourne University, brims with life. The converted warehouse is a large space, sitting close to 100 people. Its deep blue facade makes it easy to spot.
And its all day menu serving breakfast, brunch, and lunchtime favorites means there’s always something for everyone to eat. Melbourne feels like its thriving specialty coffee culture has been buzzing along for hundreds of years. But there were those at the start who shaped it, like Seven Seeds in Carlton. It was first set up in 2007 to roast beans for another cafe in the city, Brother Baba Budan, owned by the same people, before becoming one of the early cafe-roasters.
The people behind Seven Seeds, Bridget Amor and Mark Dundon, are established roasters in Melbourne who you can trust to serve great food and make a delicious espresso, filter or batch brew coffee.
114 Berkeley St, Carlton
Mon-Sat 7:00-17:00, Sun 8:00-17:00
Brunch and Beans Specialists
Industry Beans’ flagship location is in the trendy Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy where bohemians and young professionals live side-by-side. This cafe-roastery is all about beans and brunch in the ivy-walled courtyard of a warehouse conversion. You can’t get more Melbourne than this. And frankly, sitting outside in the mottled sun is delightful.
Industry Beans opened in 2013. Like many of their peers, they are experts in ‘sourcing, roasting and brewing coffee’. Their point of difference is their Instagrammable brunches, that would be too pretty to eat if they weren’t so delicious. The menus are seasonal and Autumn includes a coffee rubbed wagu burger and a salad of massaged kale, grains, pomegranate, heirloom tomato, compressed pear, and snow pea tendrils.
Even their ‘smashed avocado on toast’ — a staple in Australian cafes — steps it up by adding chevre, charred lemon, beetroot dust, and green tea sea salt. As for the coffee, every two weeks Industry Beans in Fitzroy introduces a new single origin for filter and espressos. They do cold brews on tap, and a delicious summer treat called the Coffee Bubble Cup. It combines coffee soaked tapioca with cold drip coffee and a house-made concoction of condensed and soy milk that they called ‘consoy’.
3/62 Rose Street, Fitzroy
Mon-Fri 7:00-16:00, Sat-Sun 8.00-16:00
Market Lane, Coventry Street
Calming Community Hub
Petite, stylish, and completely void of clutter, Market Lane’s Coventry Street cafe in South Melbourne may just be the sweetest of its six locations. Seating includes a built-in step beneath a large window and a single bench that is made with the same reclaimed rare French elm used for the cafe’s cabinetry. These timber finishes combined with ocean-like blue-green tiles have a calming effect. It is the perfect space to take a moment and watch the bustling South Melbourne Market across the road.
This little cafe has no kitchen, preferring to put its energy and space into coffee. It serves filter and espresso, and freshly baked pastries. Market Lane’s Coventry Street cafe, along with its other locations, uses small batch beans from their Brunswick East roastery, which is located about eight kilometers away.
Market Lane, Coventry Street is like a local community member in itself. Owner Fleur Studd said she loves “building friendships with the local vendors, residents and passionate shoppers that make the South Melbourne Market area the bustling and vibrant food and beverage destination it has been for over 150 years”. She even worked with local interior architects Hearth Studio and wood artisans Artventa to create the physical space.
305 Coventry St, South Melbourne
Mon-Thurs 7:00-15:00, Fri-Sat 7:00-16:00, Sun 8:00-16:00
Public Cupping: Fri 10:30