Coffee in Melbourne + a little bit of everything else / by Jessica Lee

In the early 2000s, Starbucks opened up 84 stores in Australia, only to have to close down 61 of them by mid 2008. Why?

Because there was already a thriving coffee scene in Australia.

Before coming here, I had heard and read that Aussies are pretty picky with their coffee and as a result, most of the coffee here is really good.

I haven't had a single bad coffee in Australia so far, but I wanted to check out more of the cafes in Melbourne before leaving and seeing how the scene compared to Toronto.

I was pretty happy with the result.

We went to Seven Seeds cafe which is in a warehouse-like room. I liked the vibe there. It was busy and there were lots of people chatting.

(The photo at the very top of this post is a mocha from Seven Seeds)

Something else that was really hip and urban about this joint was its bike racks! In the corner at the entrance, you can just leave your bike there.

Here is an obligatory photo of baked goods you can get there.

They also make meals there as well.

I took a picture of this guy eating and reading because I thought he was really hip. (Not creepy at all)

Next, we headed to the Victoria Market because it was close by and I was told that this was one of the attractions of Melbourne.

It was okay. Reminded me of the St. Lawrence Market back home. It's basically little shops that sell cheeses and meat and fresh fruit.

They also sell soap, which smelled excellent-all nice and fruity. I couldn't afford to buy them all so I took a photo.

After that, we headed to our next coffee shop stop to do a cupping.

This is De Clieu, in the Fitzroy suburb.

I liked how the atmosphere was nice and casual. Everyone was really laid back. There was even a nice breeze blowing through the window while I read my book.

We sat there and waited until the cupping, which is like a wine-tasting except with coffee.

Previous to the cupping, the barista who described it to me said at the end of it all, I would be able to distinguish between different coffees- possibly become a bit of a coffee snob.

I was excited by the prospect of this! Imagine going to a coffee shop, sipping an espresso the barista has handed to you and casually saying "Ah, this tastes just like coffee from Burundi!" and being right about it! Of course, you would come across as a real snob or a refined connoisseur , depending on how you said it.

I was extremely enthusiastic about the taste testing. Over the summer, I spent two days covering a coffee-making competition, which you can read about here. It was amazing hearing the baristas describing the different flavours and tasting notes while they brewed and added subtle flavourings. It made a difference where the coffee was roasted and what region it was from.

At the cupping, we were given six coffees to try. Here is a score sheet on how we're supposed to rate them:

I'm not sure if you can see the words really well, but we had to rate each coffee on sweetness, acidity, mouthfeel and the aroma the coffees gave off when they were dry.

We first did a sniff test when the coffee was dry and we were told to circle what smells we could identify. Some examples of smells would be flowery, fruity, herbal, citrus, caramel, nutty, chocolate or spicy.

Then, hot water was poured into the samples and we were encouraged to try each brew.

We were given spoons and told to slurp the communal pots and spit out the brew into a cup after tasting. This prevents you from getting caffeine poisoning from having too much coffee.

I had a slurp of the first one, I thought it was great. Then after that, everything tasted the same to me.

According to the barista, the more caffeine you have in your system, the more bitter and acidic the next coffee will taste and so on. This is probably why everything started tasting the same for me.

Everything was just sour and bitter and acidic all at once!

I was pretty frustrated because I had hopes of becoming a coffee snob and now I will probably never be one.

It's okay though. I learned a lot about coffee. 

I loved hearing the barista describe the different cups. He used phrases such as this one has a "honey sweetness" or that one is "grainy", this one is "a little aged or woody", that one has a "clean transparent body". I throughly enjoyed it though I didn't know what he meant.

One day I will though.

This is a chart of all the flavours you can get from coffee.

I will have to try a flat white in Aussie before I leave. It is basically just espresso and steamed milk. It was invented in Australia, so it has to be good.