Category Archives: Roasting

Urban Social Cafe – North Balwyn, VIC

6/321 Balwyn Road, North Balwyn, VIC, 3104

John “Hannibal” Smith was noted as often saying in the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together,” however it is often just as good when the plan goes totally and utterly pear shaped!” as I discovered in relation to Urban Social.  I had attended the Manningham Prayer Breakfast at the Manningham Club in Bulleen and being a complete nube when it comes to Melbourne – when leaving I did the Adelaidean thing and avoided the line up of traffic, that was obviously not going where I wanted to go and went around them, only to discover that they were lining up to get on the Eastern Freeway, which is where I needed to be.  Next thing I knew I was over the Eastern and into a leaving green hilly suburb that was completely unfamiliar. So I turned down the nearest street, grabbed my phone to find my bearings.  Once satisfied that I hadn’t fallen through the looking glass and could quite easily make it back to the office by another route, I grabbed Beanhunter to find the best coffee along my way – and that is how I found Urban Social in the back streets of leafy North Balwyn, but 10 minutes from my desk.

This is a very trendy place to hang out – perhaps skewed toward the upwardly mobile soccer Mums – with good parking and plenty of space between tables for pushers – its comfortable, clean, stylish – and I am sure, a mecca for the two wheeled lycra set on the weekends.  I liked this place!

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Coffee Hit – Doncaster, VIC

G217, Westfield Doncaster, 619 Doncaster Road, Doncaster 3108

As my first review in my new home town, I thought it best to start close to my new ‘patch’ and work outwards as time and opportunity allow. So that then raised the question about where do I go first?  So I did what any reasonable coffee snob would do and consulted the oracle that is “The Beanhunter” and searched for coffee near Doncaster.  After crunching the numbers, twiddling the dials and channelling the algorithms, it told me that Coffee Hit was the best place nearest me (location and highest average score of 7.4 in the area). So, on my first day on-site (two days before I actually started) I arrived an hour early and wandered down (about 2 minutes walk) to Shopping Town to secure a coffee hit.

Coffee Hit is located on the ground floor of the Westfield in a Kiosk type arrangement in the centre of a produce themed area (Fruit, Vegetables, Butcher, Fish Monger etc). When I arrived the place was comfortably busy for early on a Monday morning – with a few ‘coffee’ meetings taking place in the vicinity.  Coffee Hit also roast their own beans, having a ‘little red’ roaster (see left – the red thing) on hand, and sell beans to the public (and online).

So to the all important first coffee review in Melbourne….

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Buying Coffee Beans Online…

[aka Whose Beans are your Beans]

I will lay my cards on the table – I am a ‘johnny come lately’ to the speciality coffee industry – only really becoming a coffee snob in the last 5 years – and it took until a call came from the coast, that I began to investigate purchasing coffee beans online.  I had purchased the occasional bag of beans from a café that served a really nice coffee – and I had purchased a few months supply of Rio Coffee whenever I was in the neighbourhood – but it was not until I discovered Coffeecraft on South Road (thanks to the major delays caused by the Tram overpass), sampled their wares instore, had an afternoons barista training on my own machine and then discovered their policy of free postage and next day delivery that I began to purchase beans online.

My first few purchases were great – and I ordered for safety, going with what I knew and liked – and then I purchased a coffee from The Greenroom on High Street – and asked the lady about the lovely coffee and in an almost evangelical fervour, she told me about the Coffeeworks in Queensland who supplied their Black Mountain blend – and then I began to get adventurous – bought that one, and many others from their range.  I have since ordered coffee a number of times from a number of places – with a few hits and misses – and have ordered beans from cafes with a known quality product – i.e. The Coffee Barun (loved the Ethiopian Sidamo Guji – not so much the Latte Blend – but struggled with the customer service).

Recently, one of my parishioners – in celebration of the birth of my second Son – gave him a onesey and me a bag of Mahalia Blend No.1 which has been divine to drink, but I have been reluctant to buy from them due to the high postage costs – and I have also noticed that Rio Coffee have opened their online shop.

In preparation for this quick reflection and post, I did a perfunctory Google Search on “buying coffee beans online” which returned 4.74 Million results in 0.23 seconds, with only one in the top ten I had heard of before.  The Australian results included:

  1. The Coffee Company
  2. Coffee Hit (I have heard of this one – they were rude to me when I asked about Fairtrade Coffee)
  3. Where Is My Coffee? – which is the self proclaimed “Australia’s Premier Coffee Portal.”
  4. Gigante Coffee
  5. The Coffee Bean Roasting House
  6. Coffee Beans Shop
  7. Coffee Lovers
  8. Bay Beans Caffeinated Aromatherapy (love the name)

My next purchase is going a sample pack from my home region – Barossa Coffee Roasters.

So…where and how do you get your beans?

Roasting your own beans?

James Vyver from ABC 666 in Canberra (never knew it was that obvious…) has written a short little article, based upon an interview for their drive program with Louise Maher and posted it on the local ABC website titled “Feast: the dark art (but of course – ABC 666) of coffee roasting” – while you will find more indepth and better information with a quick Google search – it is an informative little article with a 35 second clip showing Martin Smith’s (Wagonga Coffee) Roaster in action.  In the article, which is basically an quasi-interview come infomercial for Martin, James writes:

It’s one of the most traded and most consumed products in the world, but exactly how does coffee go from plant to cup?

Getting the bean from its raw state into your latte requires a skilful and precise process. There are many chapters in each stage of the coffee production story and indeed many endings – the adjustable variables along the production line can give a multitude of flavour profiles to the finished product.

“Hazelnuts, walnuts, carbonised, raisins, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom…these are the descriptors of the aroma you can get off of coffee” Martin Smith described, owner of Wagonga Coffee which is a local roaster.  It all starts with the coffee plant, where the ripe beans or fruit have a different appearance to what you might imagine.”There’s two main varieties; cafe Arabica and cafe Canephora…when they’re growing the fruit goes from green to yellow to a bright red and that’s when they’re picked”

To read more, click HERE

editorial note:

On the right is the cafe Arabica bean – from which we get most of our good quality coffee – and on the left is the cafe Canephora, or as it is commonly know Robusta – which is where lots of the mass produced coffee comes from because it is easier and cheaper to grow with a high yield.  Robusta, while coming from the home of coffee Ethiopia, is now grown in huge quantities in south east asia,  gave rise to the post world war 2 boom in instant coffee….

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