Journal.

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Hospitality is an industry that keeps people hooked. Aidan and Tanya have been in hospitality for over 14 years working in some of Melbourne’s best restaurants. Persillade is the couple’s first venture opening its doors 2 months ago.

As Aiden’s most recent management role with Europa Wines in East Melbourne was coming to a close, the opportunity to purchase the same location seemed a natural progression. Those years in the wine industry gave rise to Persillade, what Aiden describes as “a wine shop where you can eat.”

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Hole-in-the-wall cafés are now a common feature of the Melbourne coffee scene. 2 years ago however when Black Velvet came into town, there were very few, if any.

Escalating rentals and council restrictions are typically the core reasons for these square-foot establishments, but it can also be a deliberate decision by the owners.

Darren and Jackie wanted to downsize. 3 previous cafés, seating 80-100, working weekends and focusing on volume just wasn’t right for the couple. Another 4 years taking care of wholesale accounts for Di Bella Coffee also didn’t fit. What all that experience did provide however, is a solid base for Black Velvet Espresso; the café, the online business and its growing wholesale accounts.

Black Velvet is also the realisation of a personal craft. The roasting started with a machine that fit on the front bench, but with rising demand, soon grew to a warehouse to house the machinery required. I’m told that a significant percentage of sales is still milk coffee and as such, the house blend relies on a robust flavour profile to break through milk. It is with great pride that Darren explains the craft in his roasting, as well as the joy of creating the cakes, muffins and pastries on offer. It is a long day for the couple, baking after a long day at the office, but after a successful 2 years in this location, winning two 2013 MICE awards, and an eye on a new hole-in-the-wall, the fit is obvious.

Where: 136 Exhibition St. Melbourne
When to go: Monday to Friday 7am-4pm
What to order: Darren and Jackie’s home-baked savory muffins
Coffee highlight: Voodoo Child

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Living on the edge has its benefits. Located on the north-western edge of Melbourne’s CBD, Brother Thomas is already reaping some benefits in its short 2-month residence.

At this end of town, the buildings open up to Flagstaff gardens and along with surrounding hotels, the lost tourists take on a slower, meandering pace than the very serious marchings of the Court and County officials in the next block.

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For those who are searching for a perfectly balanced coffee, or perhaps a specific flavour profile, or some knowledge about where their coffee comes from, then Coffee Cuppings are the place to be.

Similar to wine tasting, attending a Coffee Cupping is an opportunity to talk and learn more about the process of creating exceptional coffee. Roasters, wholesalers and cafes will often host or attend and many cuppings are now open to the growing number of individuals wanting to learn more.

SILO Coffee is a wholesaler of green beans, sourcing and importing the beans which are sold to roasters to create their blend or use as a single origin. Hannah from SILO was kind enough to host Adrian and I at an industry cupping session.

Who is attending the event?

Mostly those who work for roasters in Melbourne with a few other industry friends.

What makes this cupping different?

This cupping event was named ‘Time Space Compression’ because we were cupping together with coffee producers and industry professionals based in Guatemala.

We connected with them via Skype and projected the image of our friends and their cupping table on to a big screen placed here in our cupping room.

We here in Melbourne cupped simultaneously with those in Guatemala and we were able to talk in real time about the coffees – varietal differences, altitudes, growing conditions, production techniques and the pursuit of producing excellent quality coffee.

What is cupping?

Cupping is an International Industry Standard process used to assess the quality of a given coffee. The process involves roasting the coffee within standard parameters, then assessing the coffee using sensory analysis of the dry grounds and wet brewed coffee. The coffee is analysed and scored based on acidity, balance, cleanliness & sweetness. The process of cupping provides a common language useful within the industry to analyse and discuss coffee characteristics and qualities.

What do you want to achieve at the end of a cupping session?

Cupping can be used for various end goals, depending on your role in the industry. We use cupping to assess green coffee throughout the purchase process, then for QC when the coffee has landed. We send samples to customers so that they can cup coffees for their own purchasing decisions and we love to cup samples alongside our customers also.

For this particular event, we were really keen to connect the roasters over this side of the world with producers based in Central America, who would rarely have a chance to cup and talk together. And (in my opinion) it was an amazing connection!

What appeals to you most about this industry and these types of events?

Our industry is ever changing, ever developing, there is always more to learn and just when you think you’ve answered one question you realise there are 1000 more questions to ask. I love the people side of the industry too – it is super cheesy to say it but imagine the number of hands working together to create and drink that final amazing cup of coffee? I love that every day I learn something new, from a customer, colleague, peer or supplier. And every day I am privy to drinking and sharing beautiful coffees that are the result of so much hard work.

I like to think these types of events provide the opportunity to gather a whole bunch of excited minds together and to facilitate sharing of knowledge, ideas and questions.