Blog Archives

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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Espresso Royale – Magill, SA

357 Magill Road, St Morris, ‎ SA,  5068

I have been wanting to visit Espresso Royale (don’t you just love the way they spell Espresso…??) since my very first ristretto at The Pantry – I know! – Not what you thought I’d write – but [wait for it] Espresso Royale is the home of speciality coffee roaster Trevor De Groot – whose company, along with Bernadette Stack, supplies the beans to The Pantry on Egmont – hence the connection.  On Tuesday, with my hospital visit over and my horrible experience of another coffee still littering my pallette – I thought “before my wife calls to come collect her – I’ll just duck out to St Morris for a quality coffee” 10 mins later – I was kind of there.

The first problem I had was finding the place – as there is literally nothing from the road that says “Espresso Royale” – there is the greenish blue a-frame sign which you see in the picture, but it gives little away.  The second problem which I had to solve before the first was parking our ‘recently returned from the crash repairers’ car – NEVER LEAVE YOUR CAR ON MAGILL ROAD – unless you are pro amateur car remodelling at 50km/hr. Car parked in a side street, and using my iPhone’s GPS – I eventually discovered that the place with the red verandah and greenish-blue sign was in fact the legendary place itself.

The inside is tiny, yet comfortable – succeeding to be funky and eclectic, yet still 1960s kitchenish (I wonder how many words I have invented in the life of this blog?) – in a way that the original Bar 9 completely missed.  You can purchase recently roasted De Groot coffee on the shelf – if you like what you tasted – and have brought cash – no plastic here my friend – except for the table tops – see below!

Now to the coffee itself….

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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….

Other blogs that smell like Coffee….

Last weekend I spent about 4 hours, and two cups of Coffee Barun latte blend [ordered whole beans – and prepared them myself] to upgrade all my tags and categories to try and align myself with other similar blogs.  The only problem was, that when I had finished – I could find hardly any similar blogs, despite the tags.  But today, with another latte in hand I discovered the following articles on other blogs – check them out, if you dare:

  • Odds and Em’s has a subsection of the blog devotted to coffee, and her (assuming it is a she, and she is called Emma, or Emily) more recent articles include:
  • Sharking for Chips and Drinks which is a cafe/restuarant review blog focussed upon Melbourne, also reviews and photographs some excellent coffee:
    • Liar Liar90 Kinkora Rd,Hawthorn VIC 3122
  • Arnoneumann – Thought Leadership has an interesting article about the 800 distinctive tastes and aromas that coffee gives off, in comparison to the workaday 200 or so from the wine industry – hinting at a future for coffee culture.
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