Trying to find a good coffee in Melbourne is like starting a small conflict in the Middle East; it never bloody ends. Considering all of the hype and general wank levels that abound with what should be a quite simple exercise, you would think that getting a good coffee in Melbourne would be a simple affair. I had a simple affair once; it lasted a single night.
I’m sure that anyone reading this now who lives in Melbourne is immediately thinking to themselves, ‘What is he talking about? I know a really great place to get coffee where they extract the coffee essence directly from the foreskin of the original grower from some third-world shithole in Africa, and then their baristas infuse this with the sweat of their art-history professor’s armpit.’
Just shut up, you imbeciles. The coffee you think is great is just dishwater. There is no good coffee in Melbourne, or the whole of Australia for that matter. None, nada, niente.
Until last year when a small coffee house opened not a five minute walk from my own abode. Run by a nice chap who hails from Modena, he employs only Italians in a small space that would struggle to fill a chess match. He imports the coffee from Italy, scowls at anyone who has the stupidity to try and order anything with the words ‘soy’ ‘skinny’ or ‘decaf’ in the sentence, and I’ve watched him attempt to make a single coffee four times, discarding the produced beverage on the first three occasions until finally pronouncing himself satisfied with the result on the fourth try.
Needless to say it’s not a good idea to be in a rush when you go to this place. And this is the problem because while I’ve had a great run of excellent coffee, it seems that things have run their course. The coffee is still good, the same guy is running it, they have good Italian pastries and all that. No, the problem is that the rest of Melbourne has discovered it as well.
Sunday morning I went down at a reasonable hour to find the place absolutely packed. People spilled out onto the sidewalk. I shouldered my way through the crush, raised my hand at Claudio, and then I saw a line of little yellow dockets on the long bar. There must have been over two dozen coffee orders there. Claudio was behind the stylish retro coffee machine. He was making a coffee his way. He raised the warmed milk jug just a little and slowly allowed the milk to make contact with the inky brown coffee below it. Then he carefully inspected his creation, and only when he was satisfied did he finally hand it over to one of the waiting staff who whisked it out to a customer who had by this stage actually died of coffee starvation out on the street.
I calculated that I would probably have to wait two hours for my daily caffeine fix. It was a sad moment. The dream was over. I grabbed the good wife and we got the train into the city to the only other spot where a good coffee is possible. We managed to grab a table, the haughty Frenchman brought out our order and we sipped with great satisfaction. At least this place remains. I won’t tell you where it is, however. You could torture me and I wouldn’t tell you. I’d give up the wife first.