Inside Melbourne's coffee culture (and where to sip the best of it)

When you think of coffee culture, you might imagine Parisian cafes, Italian bistros, or even traditional Turkish coffee houses. But what about Australia? The Land Down Under is a top-notch coffee destination, but it’s Melbourne’s coffee culture that really takes the crown. Famed for having some of the best coffee on earth, Melbourne’s roasters and baristas are some of the most accomplished and innovative in the world. So how did it all begin?  

latte art Melbourne's coffee culture

The history of Melbourne’s coffee culture

Melbourne’s love affair with coffee can be traced back to the arrival of Italian and Greek immigrants after World War II. As a generation of migrants brought their beloved European-style espresso machines to Melbourne, the espresso boom of the 1950s soon became a way of life. Since the ‘Third Wave’ of the coffee scene in the 2000s, the way Melbourne does coffee has evolved into a unique art form.

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Melbournians have come to expect the highest quality in their cup, and it’s become a daily routine for many Australians to head to their favourite coffee shop in the morning and fuel up with a perfectly poured cup of Joe. But it doesn’t just stop at your average flat white or long back.

Melbourne’s coffee culture is all about paying homage to the classic bean while innovating new coffee styles from pour over and siphon to cold-drip coffee. From veteran roasters to pioneering upstarts, Melbourne’s iconic coffee culture is paving the way for the rest of the world. 

hand pouring milk into coffee Melbourne's coffee culture

Want to find out what all the fuss is about? We take a look at some of the very best places in Melbourne to get immersed in the coffee scene, and best of all, enjoy a delicious cup of everyone’s favourite bean juice. 

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Seven Seeds
114 Berkeley Street, Carlton

 

Visionary owners Mark Dundon and Bridget Amor are famed for ushering in Melbourne’s ‘Third Wave’ of coffee culture in the 2000s – and they’re still leading the way.

Located near the University of Melbourne in leafy Carlton, this quirky, industrial-chic cafe takes its name from the seven seeds of fertile coffee that Sufi Baba Budan smuggled out of Yemen into India in the 17th century, bringing coffee to the West.

 
 
 
 
 
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It’s a fitting name, as they serve up some of the best coffee in the city, sourcing seasonal coffee from around the world with a focus on micro-lot, single-origin and estate coffees.

Be sure to try the Seven Seeds Espresso Blend, with a hint of fruit, or the Golden Gate Blend, a caramel delight. There’s also home-brewed lemonade and iced tea, plus a small menu with treats like an espresso-infused French toast. 

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ST. ALi
12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne

 
 
 
 
 
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The original owner of ST. ALi was Mark Dundon, the godfather of Melbourne’s coffee culture, and the cafe helped popularise locally roasted beans in Melbourne.

It was bought by Salvatore Malatesta in 2008, and more than a decade later, this Melbourne institution is still a smash hit. It’s one of the city’s main experimental coffee brewers, green bean traders, micro-roasters and country of origin specialists.

 
 
 
 
 
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It’s also one of the best places to try a cold-drip coffee paired with a delicious breakfast or lunch, or embark on a ‘Coffee Adventure’, with six different coffees to try. Located in a graffitied laneway in South Melbourne, you’ll often find world champion barista Matt Perger running the show, so you know you’re in for a real treat.

ST. ALi also runs the mad-scientist Sensory Lab at the David Jones department store, where you can take barista classes, have your personal coffee profile created, or just grab a delicious coffee.

Axil Coffee Roasters
322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn

 
 
 
 
 
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Owned by three-time Australian barista champion Dave Makin, Axil Coffee Roasters is  a mandatory stop on your tour of Melbourne’s coffee culture.

It’s Hawthorn headquarters has been converted from a former bowling alley, featuring milk-urn light fittings and pretty succulents growing on the walls, and the coffee is just as good as the atmosphere.

 
 
 
 
 
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Most of the beans are sourced directly from growers and the house blend changes seasonally to complement the delicious food menu – so make you come here on an empty stomach!

Industry Beans
3/62 Rose Street, Fitzroy

 
 
 
 
 
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Housed in an award-winning warehouse conversion among Fitzroy’s quirky art scene, Industry Beans is a coffee roaster, restaurant and brew bar all in one. Owned by Steve and Trevor Simmons, the barista team serves up mostly blended and single origin coffees brewed that change every two weeks.

They also use a huge variety of methods that will leave you wide-eyed, including espresso, Aeropress, pour over and cold-drip. It’s honestly more coffee laboratory than a cafe and the dazzling offerings extend to the food menu.

 
 
 
 
 
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Their season brunch is oh so pretty, with dishes like lemon myrtle panna cotta, wattleseed granola and bee pollen curd designed to complement their coffee beans. Of course, you can also get the classic Aussie breakfast fave – avocado smash on toast.

Proud Mary
172 Oxford Street, Collingwood

 
 
 
 
 
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Located in a former Collingwood warehouse, Proud Mary embraces hipster culture with a serious coffee and foodie reputation to match. They’re a cafe, speciality coffee roaster, coffee educator and retailer in one.

Proud Mary serves their coffee all kinds of ways, from espresso and cold-drip to V60 and Aeropress. They also dish up an amazing all-day breakfast with fresh juices, smoothies, sandwiches and homemade cakes.

 
 
 
 
 
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Don’t forget to visit the nearby Aunt Peg’s, an offshoot of Proud Mary. This state-of-the-art coffee cellar is a must-visit on your trip around Melbourne’s coffee scene. Part roasting house, part coffee bar, Aunt Peg’s only serves black coffee and ale-like coffee from beer taps, that’s basically like a refreshing and frothy iced coffee.

It’s also used as a training area for upcoming baristas and homebrewers, and they also offer free cupping sessions. All in all, this place is a coffee addict’s fantasy come to life.

Where is your favourite place to experience Melbourne’s coffee culture? Let us know in the comments below! For more Aussie inspiration, take a look at our new and exclusive Near Not Far Limited Series of trips in Australia.

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