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Coffee Culture Trek: Melbourne’s Best Cafes

  • Posted by Maria Paoli
  • October 12, 2012 11:41 PM AEDT
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The Coffee Culture Trek tour is ideal for anyone looking to discover the best espresso haunts in Melbourne’s inner city village. While the Coffee Culture Trek operates on a regular basis, the proceeds raised from last Friday’s adventure, were graciously donated by Maria to CafeSmart, in order to help the homeless. Participating cafés donate a portion of sales to the Streetsmart foundation for the homeless.

 

It was humbling. Passionate coffee expert, Maria Paoli, had just taken a sip from the petite espresso in front of her. She nodded approvingly, and deduced the blend’s origin, roasting profile, lines of acidity and a front-of-palate bitterness. She asked how the experience was for me. “Not bad,” is all my rather unrefined palate could come up with.

 

We were sitting at the bustling 65 Degrees Café on Exhibition Street. It was the first stop on Coffee Culture Trek – a two-hour, sensory journey with Maria into the heart and soul of Melbourne’s buzzing cafe culture and history.

 

Maria is an accredited national barista, barista competition judge, coffee reviewer, ambassador for Melbourne’s long-standing café culture and founder of the Coffee Culture Trek. From the second we met, her fanatical passion for great coffee was infectious.

 

65 Degrees Café is multi-award winning, and the latest brainchild for Gridlock Coffee and its trio of master roasters – Con, Jim and Peter Haralambopoulos. Working our way through the popular, bustling venue, we squeezed onto a table next to the fire engine-red Turkish Has Gavanti roaster. Said device was manned by Gridlock Coffee head roaster and former world champion, Con Haralambopoulos. To the delight of the tour group, we were lucky enough to receive a round of fresh espressos. My emerging palate didn’t detect the level of complexity Maria’s did, so I’ll just add that Gridlock Coffee rocks.

Suitably buzzed, we set off through the grid of busy streets and narrow laneways in pursuit of the next artisan coffee house. All the while, Maria shared insightful stories about Melbourne’s coffee revolution, including the first, second and third wave coffee trends to descend on the city.

 

“These waves, or trends, are about the various espresso brews and blends that have developed through cultural diversity, and over generations,” explained Maria.

 

“The first and second wave coffee trends encapsulate the brewing methods and espresso blends that were influenced by Italians and Greeks after World War II, right through to the production of traditional espresso blends such as Mocopan, Vittoria Coffee and Coffex Coffee,” she said. “The first and second waves really laid the foundation for the third wave, which is what we are experiencing now.”

Third wave coffee is really a celebration of the bean, from origin to cup. Third wave coffee producers are dedicated to preserving the inherent flavours of the coffee, by producing it in the purest way. This process starts with sourcing the finest beans – usually organic, fair trade and of single origin. It ends with the creation of sophisticated house blends, micro roasting, and adoption of a brewing technique to complement the blend.

 

Our second stop on the tour, Brother Baba Budan, was a demonstration of third wave coffee specialists at their finest. Affectionately known as BBB, Brother Baba Budan is nuzzled between the laneways on Little Bourke Street. Maria was quick to order one of her favourites – a single origin, Seven Seeds blend from Panama named Esmeralda Leon Geisha.

 

The barista prepared our brew using the popular aeropress method. It involved placing freshly ground coffee in the bottom of a large cylinder. Once the coffee had steeped for about 10 seconds, it was plunged through a paper micro filter. The result was a rather clean finish, and much smoother than the espresso. My palate was already maturing.

 

We passed a few boutique hole-in-the-wall cafes on the side of the street, before we found ourselves at Sensory Lab, located at the base of David Jones’ flagship store. Right away, we were immersed in a science-like lesson in coffee syphoning. The barista used a syphon to brew our coffee, where two spherical, glass chambers use vapour pressure and vacuum to produce the coffee. The ensuing taste was soft, crisp and balanced.

 

The Coffee Culture Trek tour is ideal for anyone looking to discover the best espresso haunts in Melbourne’s inner city village. While the Coffee Culture Trek operates on a regular basis, the proceeds raised from last Friday’s adventure, were graciously donated by Maria to CafeSmart, in order to help the homeless. Participating cafés donate a portion of sales to the Streetsmart foundation for the homeless.

 

This article was written by Ellie Cummings and was originally published on http://www.brewspace.com.au on 20th August 2012

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