Appetite scores a table at some of the city’s favourite cafes tucked away in laneways or inner-city suburbs for a heart-starter cuppa and fabulous nosh.
Melbourne’s café scene buzzes with baristas brewing cup after cup of espresso for connoisseurs or just typical folk searching for great coffee. Thanks to its significant Italian community, these cafes have been offering some of the finest ‘black gold’ this side of the hemisphere. The alluring aroma of roasted beans wafts through this city’s charming laneways in the morning and continues through to the late afternoon. On weekends, espresso café bars rustle up scrumptious brunches complemented by aromatic brews. This appears to be a Melburnian culture; an ongoing trend – whatever you want to call it, it’s undeniable that locals are immensely passionate about their coffee. It is a city-wide obsession.
Then & Now
Maria Paoli, managing director of Evolving Success and founder of the ‘The Historical Coffee Trek’ tells us how it all started: “Coffee emerged in Melbourne as early as 1850 when it was sold at coffee stalls along Bourke Street. In 1883 we saw 23 coffee palaces throughout our city – they were a result of the Temperance Movement, a movement that discouraged the drinking of alcohol.” The espresso culture subsequently exploded with the influx of post war immigrants mainly from Italy and Greece in 1954. In that year, Pellegrini’s was one of the first espresso bars to open along Bourke Street. It was also one of four cafes to feature a Gaggia espresso machine – brought in from Italy by the Bancroft family who secured an import license for Australia. “This machine was not the first espresso machine in Melbourne but one of the first to extract coffee with water not steam,” says Paoli.
The cafe owned by the Pellegrini brothers was sold in 1974 to Sisto Malaspina and Nino Pangrazzio who continue to actively run the business. “Their dedication to maintaining Italian tradition in cuisine and hospitality has been a testament to their success. There is no other historical espresso bar like it in the Southern Hemisphere and one that still retains its original menu,” says Paoli, an accredited national barista. She also notes that apart from Pellegrini’s, there are other earlier cafes in Melbourne such as Cafe Florentino (opened in 1928), Quists Cafe (established in 1938 as Melbourne’s first coffee roaster), and Cafe Society (opened in the 1930s).
Fast forward to 2011, 85 per cent of coffees consumed in Melbourne are café latte or cappuccino. “Although espresso brew is very popular, coffee is now served as siphon or clover as well,” notes Paoli. Many boutique coffee roasters have sprung up in the city over the past few years too, and the most popular include: St Ali, 7 Seeds, Proud Mary, 3 Bags Full. “The public love them and the quality of the brew,” she adds. These people have been dubbed the ‘third wave makers’ – singled out for their serious dedication to create the highest quality and purest coffee, sourced mainly from single estates. The second-wave coffee was made by companies such as Lavazza and Vittoria. They mass produced good quality espresso coffees made from Arabica beans. And the first wave coffee was mostly from post-WWII producers of low quality robusta coffee.
Appetite visited these cafes:
Babka 358 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Tel: 03-9416-0091
Café Vue 430 Little Collins Street, Tel: 03-9691-3899 or Café Vue at Heide, 7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen,
Cumulus Inc 45 Flinders Lane, Tel: 03-9650-1445
Pellegrini’s 66 Bourke Street, Tel: 03-9662-1885
Mr Tulk State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street (enter from La Trobe Street), Tel: 03-8660-5700
Sensory Lab David Jones 297 Little Collins Street, Tel: 03-9643-2222
Small Block 130 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, Tel: 03-9381-2244
Sonido! 69 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Tel: 03-9495-6636
This article was published in the Appetite April 2011 issue. To see the complete review of all the cafes, pick up a copy now. If you don't want to miss an issue,subscribe to the magazine.