20 October 2017

16 Great Speciality Coffee Spots in Melbourne

One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Melbourne was to explore the city’s extensive and diverse speciality coffee scene. Italian-style espresso coffee and espresso-bar culture first reached the city in the 1950s, although took another couple of decades to take off. Now, almost every block in the CBD has at least one speciality coffee shop and there are numerous roasters and micro-roasters based in the city.

I decided to make Melbourne the first stop of my trip because I knew that I would be needing a lot of coffee to fend off the jet lag (it worked!), although in hindsight, finishing my trip in Melbourne would have meant that I could have bought many more packages of coffee beans to bring home with me.

Of course, even four days of hard (coffee) drinking meant I could barely scratch the surface of Melbourne’s myriad speciality coffee shops, roasteries and cafés, but I managed to visit 18 coffee spots. Two of these were underwhelming and I haven’t included them in this post, but I have listed the other 16 below and in my new Melbourne speciality coffee map. Please scroll to the end to find out my favourite piccolo, favourite filter coffee, favourite brunch dish and favourite sweet treat of my visit!

Seven Seeds
Located on quiet Berkeley Street, near Melbourne University, this relaxed, spacious warehouse-style café serves great espresso-based and hand-brewed filter coffee, as well as an extensive brunch menu. I had to return for a second visit to try the eggs and waffle Benedict, which was delicious. Both of my coffees — an Ethiopian Kokola pourover and a piccolo with the Seven Seeds seasonal blend — were excellent. You can also buy retail bags of Seven Seeds coffee.

Seven Seeds is located at 114 Berkeley Street, Carlton. (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Brother Baba Budan
Seven Seeds’ CBD espresso bar is a small space, with little in the way of seating (there are, however, many seats attached to the ceiling!). The friendly staff kept on top of the constant stream of morning customers — many regulars — and my Seasonal Blend piccolo was very good. Unlike at the Carlton Seven Seeds, there isn’t a kitchen here, but they serve a few morning pastries. I had a gorgeous almond croissant, which, to my surprise, was filled with custard. Still, I’d just been for a run so I had earned it!

Brother Baba Budan is located at 359 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Duke’s Coffee Roasters
My Melbourne by Foot guide suggested that Duke’s on Flinders Lane would be a good place to try the magic coffee (so-called because the double ristretto with steamed milk, served in a special 260 ml tulip cup, is supposed to be a magic ratio of coffee and milk). It was really busy when I dropped by, most customers opting to take away (almost all of them bringing their own reusable coffee cups), although there are a few seats. My magic was very well conjured and tasted great, although the drink is a little too milky for me to consume on a regular basis. They sell bags of house-roasted beans too, which have gorgeous packaging.

Duke's Coffee Roasters is located at 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Everyday Midtown 
I arrived at peak coffee-break time at this minimalist espresso bar on Little Collins Street. As such it took a while for my Ethiopian Abiyot Boru pourover to arrive but I wasn’t in a rush and it was worth the wait with its delicate, black-tea notes coming through nicely. The sweet treats here are great too: I had a chocolate and lavender cookie; other flavours, in a rainbow of pastel shades, are also available. The metallic-accented bags of retail beans are attractive too.

Everyday Midtown is located at 213 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (and other locations). Website. TwitterInstagram.

Patricia Coffee Brewers
It’s standing-room-only — elbow-room-only, in fact — at petite Patricia Coffee Brewers on Little William Street. They stick pages from the day’s newspapers to the wall because there’s no room to hold them up. I ordered a piccolo, made with Patricia’s Ethiopian Guji/Colombian blend (they were also serving a Small Batch single-origin but I’ve tried Small Batch coffee before), which was excellent. The honey and pistachio bun was amazing too, and the staff were incredibly friendly.

Patricia Coffee Brewers is located on the corner of Little Bourke and Little William Street, Melbourne. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Sensory Lab
Back when the London speciality coffee scene was in its infancy, an early adopter — and the first in my then-neighbourhood of Marylebone — was Sensory Lab on Wigmore Street. That café has morphed into Workshop, now, and moved around the corner, but I had to make a pilgrimage to the Melbourne original. There are several CBD branches and I went to the one on Little Collins Street, inside David Jones, mainly because it was open after 4 pm — a rarity for Melbourne. I sampled a piccolo, with the Steadfast blend, which was lovely, and had a gorgeous chocolate, pretzel and peanut butter slice. The café is sleek and minimalist and they sell their own beans and assorted coffee kit. 

Sensory Lab is located at 297 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Vacation Coffee
One of the prettiest espresso bars I visited, Vacation is an Instagrammer’s dream with its millennial pink and navy blue accents. The coffee is great too: I had a piccolo with their Fourshore blend. Their coffee-bean packaging is adorable too.

Vacation Coffee is located at 1 Exhibition Street, Melbourne. Website. Instagram.

White Mojo
I selected White Mojo as the destination for my last brunch in Melbourne. The brunch menu sounded great but I wanted somewhere with good coffee too, and the piccolo I tried was very well prepared. They also had a vegan ‘black latte’ on the menu with soy and honey, but I wanted something with more (any) caffeine. The large, airy café is beautifully designed, and I had a delicious brunch dish: double cheese chilli scrambled eggs with bacon on a black brioche bun.

White Mojo is located at 115 Hardware Street, Melbourne. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Proud Mary and Aunty Peg’s
Proud Mary was one of the cafés I was most looking forward to visiting. Collingwood is a bit of a walk from the CBD but you can always hop on a tram. The spacious and attractive café on Oxford Street serves both espresso-based drinks from the beautiful, blue espresso machine, and provers from the brew bar. There were three Pacamara coffees on the brew bar while I was there, including the Panamanian Maragogipe, which was described as ‘jazzy’ and ‘intensely fruity’ so of course I went for it. It was delicious with amazing mango notes; not a coffee for every day, perhaps, but it was great to try. I made sure I’d finished my coffee before sampling the intense flavours of the salmon ceviche dish I had for lunch. The brunch menu is creative, diverse and has dishes for al appetites.

A couple of blocks east on Wellington Street is the Proud Mary roastery and brew bar known as Aunty Peg’s. I didn’t have time to stop for another pourover but I did buy some beans to brew in my Aeropress as I continued my trip — I asked for something a little less intense than the Pacamara and followed the barista’s suggestion of a Honduran variety. 

Proud Mary is located at 172 Oxford Street, Collingwood, and Aunty Peg's at 200 Wellington Street, Collingwood. Websites here and here. Twitter. Instagram.

North Melbourne
Code Black
The closest speciality coffee spot to my hotel on my list that was open before 9 am on a Sunday morning, Code Black's Brunswick café and roastery serves great coffee and brunch. I was in need of a strong black coffee and as there weren't any pourovers on the menu, I had an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe batch-brew filter coffee, which tasted great and soon eased away the pains of 20 hours' of flights. I only planned to have a pastry for breakfast but was wooed by the mother of all avocado toasts on the brunch menu, which was delicious and looked beautiful. You can take a seat in the spacious, warehouse-style café or, on sunny days, on one of the tables on the pavement.

Code Black is located at 15–17 Weston Street, Brunswick. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Market Lane Coffee
There are a few branches of Market Lane Coffee in Melbourne but I went to the concession inside the gourmet food hall section of Queen Victoria Market. The coffee bar was doing a roaring trade on Sunday morning, and there were four single-origin coffees available as pourovers at the brew bar, as well as espresso-based drinks. I went for a Kenyan Kiambui pourover coffee and enjoyed watching the skilful baristas at work as I waited at the brew bar. This location is take-away only, but there's another, bigger branch a few minutes' walk away on Therry Street if you'd prefer to sit in.

Market Lane Coffee is located at Queen Victoria Market (shop 73-76, Dairy Produce Hall), Melbourne (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

South Melbourne 
Clement Coffee
Named for a Pope and not the weather, Clement Coffee is a small, colourful espresso bar located on the eastern side of South Melbourne Market. They roast their own coffee and I had a nice piccolo (albeit sans latte art) with their Beaufort espresso — a smooth, chocolatey blend of Colombian and Brazilian coffees. There are a few tables on the pavement for drinking in or you can take your coffee for a walk inside the market proper.

Clement Coffee is located at Stall 89, South Melbourne Market, 116 Cecil Street, South Melbourne. Website. TwitterInstagram.

The Kettle Black
On the day I arrived in Melbourne, I had my first brunch just before 9 am at Code Black, but by 1 pm, I knew it was time for a second brunch. Luckily, I had just left the Shrine of Resemblance and on checking my custom Google Map, discovered that The Kettle Black was nearby. The beautiful, airy restaurant occupies a stark white Victorian townhouse, and although brunch is the main reason for going, the coffee, which they roast themselves, is great too. Had I not already had two pourovers that day, I would have been tempted to try their Ethiopian Adado filter coffee, but instead settled on a piccolo. It wasn't the prettiest of the trip, but it was very well balanced and was the perfect complement to my miso-cured-salmon brunch.

The Kettle Black is located at 50 Albert Road, South Melbourne. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Padre Coffee
The first time I swept by Padre Coffee's South Melbourne Market coffee bar it was really busy and I'd already had a lot of coffee that day. As with other businesses inside the market, Padre is only open on certain days so you'll need to check before visiting. I went back on Wednesday morning and despite the early hour, it was already bustling. I managed to nab a seat a the communal table that sits outside the small shop (whose tiled counter and grey-accented décor gave it an attractive minimalist aesthetic). My piccolo was very well prepared too, albeit on the longer side. Even some visiting Italians, who were sitting next to me, were impressed by their first Melbourne speciality coffee experience. "Forte ma mi piace" (strong but I like it), they said of the flat whites they were drinking.

Padre Coffee is located at Stall 33, South Melbourne Market, Coventry Street, South Melbourne (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Slater Street Bench
JC from the London branch of The Penny Drop recommended that I visit Slater Street Bench, a minimalist coffee bar on St Kilda Road, and it turned out to be at the perfect stop-off point as I walked back from the beach to the city centre. I was relieved that they still had sandwiches left (it was late afternoon and I hadn't had lunch), and enjoyed my chicken and pesto baguette. As for the coffee, my piccolo — made with the Seasonal Blend, which combines two Guatemalan varieties — was very good. The coffee had a sweet, nutty taste. The staff were all super-welcoming and if you aren't seeking air conditioning after an afternoon on the beach, you might like to sit at one of the tables on the sunny, tree-lined pavement. Instead, I sat at one of the benches that run along the side of the coffee shop, opposite the sleek central coffee bar.

Slater Street Bench is located at Shop 8, 431 St Kilda Road, South Melbourne (and other locations). Website. TwitterInstagram.

St Ali
As with Sensory Lab, St Ali was another coffee pilgrimage for me. The sadly now-defunct Workshop café on Clerkenwell Road was originally called St Ali and, like the Melbourne original, specialised in speciality coffee and brunch. The warehouse-style café is large and spacious with plenty of seating. The tiled coffee bar is particularly cool.

I was a little disappointed that no pourover coffees were available but there were two batch-brew filter coffees: a Sitio Colina from Brazil and an Ethiopian Wonberta. I went for the latter and it was really good, with lovely blueberry notes. I also really liked the ceramic cups. If you have had less coffee than I had that day, you may also like to try the 'barista breakfast' ($10), which includes espresso, cappuccino and filter coffee, or the 'coffee adventure' ($21), which includes 'six coffees highlighting the best of what we have to offer'. Another time, perhaps. If you’re there on a Tuesday, you can take a latte art class with latte art champion Shin Fukayama, but alas, he was competing at the Coffee Masters in New York the week I was there.

St Ali is located at 12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Favourites of the trip. 
Favourite white coffee: the piccolo at Patricia. 
Favourite black coffee: the amazingly fruity Pacamara Maragogipe at Proud Mary. 
Favourite sweet treat: salted honey and pistachio pastry at Patricia. 
Favourite brunch dish: the egg and waffle Benedict at Seven Seeds.

A note on pricing. Generally, espresso-based drinks are priced as either ‘white’ or ‘black’, which means piccolo drinkers like me get a bit of a rough deal. I’d say the average piccolo cost $4–4.50, while most pourovers were $5–6 ($8 being the most I paid, but it was also the best of the trip). Piccolos tended to be served on the shorter side, which suited me fine, although a couple veered towards flat white territory.

A note on Small Batch Coffee. Although their roastery is located in Carlton, just north of the CBD, they don’t have a café or brew bar — yet, the person I spoke to when I walked by on the off-chance that I could come in and have a coffee.

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