Tell me something, how far would you travel for good coffee, given you could probably find it just around the corner? Another question – why would you travel for coffee if it is readily available so close to where you are situated? These are all interesting questions, the answers to which make for even more interesting observations about Melbourne, its people, and they way they drink their coffee.
Today I drove to Brunswick for coffee. I drove across the river and all the way to the far ‘north side’ just for a cup of coffee. Call me mad, crazy, obsessed or plain stupid. Whichever way you look at it one thing is known – I am not alone in my madness! All around me there are people who would travel for coffee. Not just any coffee, boutique-roasted coffee, reputable-café-designed-by-fancy-architect coffee; snobby coffee. And here in Melbourne we are not ashamed to admit that we might have a slight caffeine-substance-abuse problem. But it’s one we’re proud of and one that takes a little effort on the part of the supplier to be considered a worthy member of.
So what makes a café one worth crossing the divining river of Melbourne to try? Is it only the coffee? Does nothing else matter? We think not, in fact we know so. The cafes that are worth the drive are far more than simple cafes with a trendy coffee label that says its fairly traded on the package. In order to be considered worthy as a café that makes the Melbourne list there are a few requirements that must be met.
Firstly, the proprietors need to be well aware of something called Melbourne style. Without this knowledge they are fighting an uphill battle that will only get steeper as they try to proceed. It is well worth educating oneself in what is called Melbourne style before one even attempts to open up a coffee establishment in the region, simply because the description can cover so much ground and is interpreted slightly differently on both sides of the river. Melbourne style is eclectic, unpredictable, specifically unspecific and irresistible all at once.
Secondly, the proprietors need to consider the location of their café. Melbournians not only like to travel for coffee, they prefer it to be hard to get to. If you’re thinking inner-city converted horse stable at the back of a car park well you have proven yourself as a truly worthy café owner in Melbourne. If you’re thinking ‘what a ridiculous idea’ try Brisbane or Darwin as your perfect city to open up the café you’ve been dreaming about.
Lastly, but not least, the proprietors need to consider the customers as individual, independent and unique consumers. The word bespoke has perhaps been overused in recent times. Nonetheless the massage this overstatement gives out cannot be ignored: I’m an individual is heard loud and clear throughout the consumer hub of Melbourne and cafes are not any different. If a patron feels that their personal, important and specific needs are being met you will have their business for life – or for as long as they find the next place to cal their home away from home. Make them feel comfortable, cool and noticed and you will win their latte-loving hearts.
So today I drove to Brunswick for coffee. And what did I find there? Why, offcourse, all of the above and more. I found Melbourne chic oozing from the walls; I saw individuals I would love to get to know better from afar, I smelt coffee grinds that could not have been classified as anything other than fresh. I drank coffee. I ate food. I hung out. The weather was mild, the sky was bluish and the atmosphere was very very Melbourne. It was worth it.