First appeared in Issue 4 of Inner Circle Magazine in print (June 2017). To request a free hard copy, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melbourne is the city of coffee. We’re famous world over for our iconic cafes, creative blends and trendy espresso bars, and whether it be single origin, long black, latte, or cold drip, you’ll always find what you’re looking for.
From the back streets of Brunswick to hilly High Street or a quirky Fitzroy lane comes some of the best coffee the world has to offer, and behind it, the baristas, roasters and café owners who make this glorious liquid a possibility. They are passionate, energetic and invested, and as full of life as the coffee they serve.
Robert from 30Kerr65
30 Kerr St, Fitzroy
Robert Dimattina, owner at 30Kerr65, has been in the coffee industry for over 19 years. He’s brimming with knowledge and passionate energy, and this, mingled with the caffeinated aroma of the café, makes his enthusiasm for coffee almost palpable.
He sits across from me at the low, wooden table, then, remembering a roast, bolts back up to check on it. When he returns to the table five minutes later, he brings with him a blue saucer full of still-warm beans.
“You probably won’t have had this experience before,” he says, offering me the beans to smell. “You won’t get it any fresher than that.”
For Robert, coffee in his blood. His father and his family began roasting coffee in 1954, and Robert followed suite later in 1998, joining his cousins in establishing Dimattina Coffee.
“There’s always been an interest in coffee for me, because of the family involvement,” he explains. “There was always the aromatics of coffee in the car, and an important part of school holidays was earning some pocket money by going in and helping Dad with the roasting.”
Although he studied Urban Planning at University, and still maintains an active interest in the area, Robert couldn’t escape the siren call of the coffee industry.
“There’s something about it… many years later it still appeals to me,” he says. “It’s a means of social interaction, of opening up communication, of bringing people together. It’s a really easy product for people to embrace.”
It’s also the ever-changing nature of the industry that he enjoys, and the level of customer connection it affords him.
“We try and get to know the customers, and have the customers know us. We want them to feel a part of us,” he says.
Outside of coffee, Robert is an avid sports fan, both of soccer and AFL.
“I also follow community sport, which has evolved through having children who play for local teams,” he says, “It’s been a really nice thing.”
When asked what coffee he embodies, Robert likens himself to a ristretto. A stronger version of an espresso coffee, Robert says it’s “because in this business you need to be alert at all times and always on the go…always active.” With an energetic ‘punch’, not unlike Robert himself, ristretto seems an appropriate choice.
It’s clear he holds a passion for coffee that’s a lifetime deep. And it’s not only passion, but a deep respect, almost reverence, for the industry and the product itself, too.
“I enjoy the process of making it, hand grinding it, getting the coffee into the actual stovetop until and experiencing those aromatics,” Robert says.
“It’s a ceremonious action.”
Elliot from Atomica Coffee Roasters
268 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Newer to the industry is Elliot, roaster and account manager at Atomica Coffee in Northcote. He’s been with Atomica for just under a year and it’s his first foray into the coffee industry. Bearded and bubbly, he laughs as he retells the story of how he first got started.
“I was working in a logistics company and I got so sick of talking about pallets, it was hard to get up each day. Eventually I quit and started thinking about what I really wanted to do. I thought, I like coffee, I like drinking coffee, and here I am!”
When he first started in the industry, Elliot admits he “didn’t really know anything”, but a coffee and barista course later and he found himself immersed in an industry he finds fun and exciting.
“I enjoy the culture behind it, how fun it is. It’s always changing and you’ve always gotta be trying something different,” he says.
“What’s great about coffee in Melbourne is everyone’s always trying out different things and bringing in new trends.”
Hailing from Adelaide, Elliot credits his move to Melbourne with sparking his interest in coffee. “I used to drink a bland flat white… I probably even went to Starbucks without even thinking about it,” he says.
Now, he’s a self-confessed “nerd” when new beans come in, and is firmly set on short blacks or a filtered coffee or pour over. The odd espresso martini doesn’t go astray either.
“I used to pretend they weren’t for me, but now I’m like – I’m taking them all!” he says with a grin.
Coffee also spills over into Elliot’s spare time, where he enjoys exploring different coffee shops around Melbourne, Admiral Cheng Ho, Ray’s Cafe and Penny Farthing among some of his favourites.
He also enjoys music, catching a gig “at least two or three times a week.” He and a friend jam together, playing what Elliot describes as Australian Slacker Rock.
“It’s basically just singing about beers and pubs in the most bogan accent I can manage. But it’s good fun,” he laughs.
Laidback and likeable seem to be Elliot’s vibe, traits which are reflected when he answers latte to my ‘what type of coffee would you be’ question.
“Standard, normal, not too bitter and easy to drink,” he explains.
“No one ever complains if you put a latte in front of them.”
Yris from Wide Open Road
274 Barkly St, Brunswick
“It all started through working at my first cafe in Melbourne which was mostly a pay-the-bills job,” says Yris, barista at Wide Open Road. “I wanted to work in my field of social sciences but nothing really worked. So I took the situation in a different way.”
Originally from Columbia, Yris decided it would be a good chance to learn more about a product from her home country. “I was very surprised about the coffee culture here, and I decided this was a good opportunity to spice up my job and learn about a produce that we cultivate at home. It was all about curiosity and making my daily life more passionate,” she says.
She’s been in the café and coffee industry for two and a half years now, and loves the experimental nature of the job.
“I love playing with coffee, trying new beans… I am also very lucky to have an amazing team so there’s a good work flow and lovely regulars that make your day,” she says.
When she was younger, Yris dreamed of becoming a biologist or a botanist, keeping research diaries about what she saw and experimented with.
“Like the time I tried to observe the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly that I had kept in my room or when I glued little samples of leaves and looked up their scientific names,” she tells me.
Now, in her spare time, Yris enjoys writing, photography and roller derby.
“Skating is my happy place,” she says. She’s yet to break a bone, but adds that she is “touching wood” because in roller derby there are frequent accidents.
Talking about her own coffee tastes, Yris says it depends on her mood.
“I love filter coffee, I think it is a very delicate way to experience coffee so I usually would go for that. Sometimes I just feel like changing it up and I will go with a different cup,” she explains. But, no matter what the type, something Yris finds a constant in coffee is the comfort it gives. “The smell makes me feel so nice, like home. Sometimes I dream of my next day off, just to wake up and make a cup of coffee and have that time to myself,” she explains.
“Coffee is that excuse, to have that time with yourself.”
Photography Credit: Jean Baulch follow on Instagram