November Grab Bab: Midali Espresso, Cafenatics Opening, BBB Insider
Cafe Reviews And This Blog
My avid readers will note that this blog is all about coffee, but seldom contains cafe reviews. There are two main reasons for this. First, I have a greater interest in exploring coffee than in exploring cafes - to some extent, I view the latter as a way to do the former. In this regard, I think that it's a bit of a misnomer that in Australia cafe reviews invariably use the word coffee to describe their subject matter: eg. one, two, three cf. overseas. Before Steve Agi and co hasten to break my legs, I should point out that this has nothing to do with the usefulness or lack thereof of those sites; just pointing out that cafe and coffee are not synonymous. Second, I prefer to leave it to others, given that any sort of online review seems to have a relatively strong impact on cafe owners, regardless of what they may say.
Breaking With Tradition
On Friday I decided to take a trip to Carlisle St to replenish my dwindling stock of filter papers at Coffee Company. Carlisle St has long been regarded as one of Melbourne's coffee hot spots, so I decided to celebrate completing my final exam by gorging myself on espresso from four of the spots that are commonly mentioned as having a decent reputation. In some respects, it was a nice wake-up call. Enthusiastic coffee dudes world over state as a matter of pride that they make better coffee at home than they can get at most cafes. My experience has usually been that the bulk of cafes that I go to produce coffee on par with, or better than, what I produce at home. Of course, I'm pretty selective in the cafes that I go to. I don't want to single out any cafes in particular, but I have to say that I wasn't overwhelmed with the quality of what I was served.
I do think that it's legit to point out cafes that are doing a good job, so check out Midali Espresso. I had an espresso that was reasonably short, had a lot of body and was very sweet. Sweetness is always the hardest thing to get into the cup, so big props to them. I have no doubt that this will be a fantastic base for their milk drinks, as a few cognoscenti have confirmed. My pick of Carlisle Street.
A big thankyou to Cafenatics for hosting a barista jam by way of launching their fifth store, at QV. Cafenatics head honcho Joseph brings a great laid-back sense of humor to the Melbourne coffee scene and it was nice of Cafenatics to host an event where the usual suspects got a chance to chill out and enjoy some coffee together. There were cameras-a-plenty, so I didn't bother to take photos of the latte art smackdown - I'm sure that Simon or Amy will oblige in good time. Save to say that Toshi's triple rosetta beat my pacman eating little white dot to take the trophy.
A few photos:
Joseph pours, surrounded by smackdown participants.
We decide that it's better to have a FB80 on the bench than a cash register.
Simon asks Joseph if he can borrow his vase for a barista competition.
I finish up the day up one Reg Barber tamper - thanks!
Just a quick note, for readers who would otherwise be disappointed in this post. Saturday saw an extraordinary cupping lineup at BBB, with Rwanda CoE #13 (think the number is right) stealing the show, for me. Many of the new Rwandan coffee farms have been set up with the Bourbon varietal, which is particularly well suited to espresso. CoE #13 did not disappoint in this regard; it was heavy in body and very sweet. With the $AUD tanking against the $USD, which I understand to be the default currency of the global coffee market, I expect that this one will not come cheap. But boy do I expect that it will be worth it!
I get the impression that coffee that makes phenomenal espresso doesn't cup up as extraordinary; it's necessary to do some work to figure out how the flavours in cupping will translate to the espresso cup. Hence, the Esmeralda and the washed and natural Sidamos were probably more exciting on the cupping table. I'm pleased to say that BBB's Esmeralda seems to be closer to the 2007 Paradise roast that I had than the 2008 Terroir roast, although the mandarin flavour of yore emerged closer to orange. The sample roast might have been a tad dark, illustrating the importance of sample roasting and cupping to any commercial roastery; no doubt MD will be on top of this tricky bean for production roasts. The Sidamos were an interesting lot; from memory both were from Dale, the difference being that one was natural and one was washed. I liked the washed Dale, which, I seem to remember, was pretty sweet and tasted of peach. Dale + Esmeralda for drip, anyone? The natural Dale superimposed your standard natural blueberry on top of it, with a touch of quinine. I imagine that people will be interested to try the natural and washed head to head.
Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about BBB's offerings and I continue to be astounded that (a) they offer their cuppings for free and (b) relatively few people turn up.