‘Coffee Wars’

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So the battle for the foremost cup of coffee in the St Kilda area goes on!

 For all those many caffeine addicts in our region, the monthly St Kilda Bites food feature will be presenting regular Coffee Reviews of various Restaurants, Cafes, Coffee Lounges, Bakeries and other outlets that have a reputation for producing and serving excellent coffee in the greater St Kilda area. This annual competition we call: ‘Coffee Wars’.

Our discerning coffee critic, Miss Nibbles (one of St Kilda Bites’ skilled food writers & critic), will be continually searching for and uncovering new coffee houses in the greater St Kilda area and revealing her findings in each monthly issue of the St Kilda Bites food feature. This quest to discover that quintessential cup of Espresso Coffee promises to be a fascinating journey of coffee appreciation. Her assessment will be based on flavor, body, texture, strength and presentation and each place’s example will be rated out of ’5 Beans’.

Since last month’s coffee wars, we at St Kilda Bites have gone into a little reassessment and training, strategising our new approach on which to base our analysis. We have found the true test of really great coffee lies in the foundation of the coffee beans themselves, then the various processes undergone before the cup of that magic liquid arrives on our table. The background, subsequent quality of the beans, suppliers and brewing are what separate the masters from the novices.

Where possible we have chosen to sample short macchiatos. Lattes are a crowd-pleaser, however it is easy to disguise amateurs (and similarly talents), in two-thirds of steamed milk. Although there may be an absence of long and milky coffees, you can bet that if their short and dark creations are good then everything else on the caffeinated menu will be up to scratch.

The Coffee Wars battle will continue for 12 months with an end of the year grand final of the 12 best coffee makers at a venue to be selected!

If you would like St Kilda Bites to critique your favorite coffee spot, please phone Food Writer Regan on: 0427382772 or Email: fooddude@stkildanews.com.

 

95 Espresso

4/5 beans

95 Acland Street, St Kilda

95347141

 

For real coffee nerds, this place is like an Apple Store.
Gizmos and retro gadgets make this place a must for anyone wanting to try something out of the ordinary. The use of an almost antique 1959 Gaggia America lever and La Marzocco Linea espresso machine combines the old and new waves of coffee expertise.

For the team at 95 Espresso, lead by co-owner Oscar Crosara, brewing coffee requires the technical skill and scientific precision of a lab experiment.

This could have something to do with the house blend coming from the St Ali-owned Sensory Lab on little Collins.

A range of processes and skills are displayed here; from the frothy milk-top coffees arriving decorated with a perfect chocolate-outline of a bear, to the availability of (somewhat discerning) cold-drip coffee, things are certainly not done in half measures here.

Even the beans have some serious industry-cred, with the blend given a ‘Cup of Excellence’ grade (if coffee had the Oscars that would be it).

The espresso here is nothing short of excellent. Brewed to optimum temperature (anything above 90-94 degrees damages the quality of the beans) it has a rainbow of flavours.

Chocolate, caramel and well-done toast immediately hits the palate and is ushered out by the lightness of rich stone fruits such as plum.

The cold-drip coffee is rather fascinating; it is a process that takes about 24 hours to be siphoned and the end result is a liquid that both confuses and delights.

Drunken cold, the brain immediately doesn’t know what to make of it. But once you begin to unravel the layers of tastes, what you’ll have is a light, refreshing mix of fruity and flowery flavours with heavier base tones of cocoa and caramel underpinning the mix.

Bottled and available to take home, this strange brew is likely to walk out the doors come summer.

 

 

Fitzrovia

3.5/5 beans

155 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

9537 0001

 

Having only set up shop a year ago opposite the rolling lushness of Albert Park, chef Paul Jewson and partner Marco Pugnaloni have gained a local following for friendly service, fine food and even finer coffee.

Using the ‘Cult of Done’ espresso blend from Melbourne stalwart suppliers St Ali, combined with top-notch hardware from Synesso and expert brewing by baristas, the coffee at Fitzrovia is consistently good.

It is evident in every cup brewed and every regular that relies on Fitzrovia for that caffeine hit.

The ‘Cult of Done’ blend is the house-choice blend. It is high quality, with only two origins blended: 60% Costa Rica El Quizarra and 40% Guatemala San Antonio beans.

The result is full bodied, robust and caramel liquid gold. Slight aftertastes of sweet and tangy citrus fruits make this blend an all-rounder and a great house blend.

Patrons can also opt for the slightly more exclusive rotating single-origin blend. On this occasion a short macchiato is made with Costa Rica single origin beans.

It is a rich mixture and is quite sweet with chocolaty and caramel tones.

It is a perfect balance between strong and savory, free from the harsh bitterness you sometimes get with strong and short coffees.

A perfect afternoon pick-me-up, as the taste of coffee begins to fade, a faint sweetness of orange rests on the palate.

It is reassuring to know this coffee was made in the late afternoon when the house barista had departed for the day. The team at Fitzrovia know their beans and churn out consistently good brews.

 

 

Harper’s Kitchen

3.5/5

78 Inkerman St, St Kilda

9537 0450

 

Good things come in small packages and Harper’s Kitchen is no exception.
Tucked away at the quiet end of Inkerman Street, owner Hana Provan’s little cafe has been gaining a reputation for quality coffee, served with a smile.

Using Coffee Supreme Boxer Blend beans, comprising of five blends, ensures this little eatery has a strong base of loyal customers who arrive in the morning and at lunchtime for their caffeine fix.

Barista Yousef Vosough serves up a rich and smooth macchiato with fast precision. Yousef only started working at Harper’s Kitchen at the start of October, and if the coffee he produces is anything to go by he will be a mainstay at the café.

The short macchiato is strong in taste, yet smooth and light in consistency.

The Boxer Blend is a wonderful grind for black coffees, with its dominant chocolate and nutty tones making the mixture less harsh on the palate than some espresso blends.

The gentle sweetness that lingers after the coffee is drained does well to settle the palate. Added sugar is unnecessary for this blend.

Harper’s Kitchen also features a Supreme single origin blend every so often for those wanting to experience absolute coffee purity.

Along with excellent coffee, Harper’s Kitchen are also renowned for their green offerings of delicious and healthy salads, including a warm breakfast salad that is a must for anyone wishing to push their boundaries beyond eggs on toast.

 

 

Kotch Lane

4/5 beans

49 Blessington Street, St Kilda

9593 6445

 

Kotch Lane is a tiny sanctuary on Blessington Street. It has a floor space about the size of a lounge room, which is fitting as it has the same comfy and relaxed attitude as a living room.

With only a handful of benches, couches and tables inside and out, this Blessington favourite often fills up in seconds in the mornings and on weekends.

The silver lining to this lack of floor space is that it is almost impossible to be forgotten, with staff tending to customers like they are guests in their own home.

The team here chose Melbourne-based Rosso coffee to pour into the cups of the adoring masses. It comprises of a range of A-grade origin beans that are both certified organic and fair-trade.

Kotch has quite a following, and it’s easy to see why.

Short and dark coffees, such as espresso, are like velvet; smooth, robust and multilayered in tastes.

The toasty and strong cocoa flavours immediately grace taste buds, immediately followed by the tang of light citrus, namely orange.

It is a strong coffee, and a definite kick-starter for the brain.

Milk coffees are also well suited to this blend, with the particularly nutty tastes combining well with milk. Lattes are well-textured and consistent.

Kotch Lane has quite a reputation, and with coffee confirmed as more than decent, this place is a definite must-see for brunchers.

The menu, written on blackboards and viewable from every possible seat in the house, inspires instant mouth-watering.

The almond granola with coconut, apple and rhubarb in particular looks like something that would go down well with a couple of lattes…

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