As any time-poor, assignment laden student will tell you, the humble coffee bean is no mere drug- it is the liquid elixir of life, dark prince of potency, sweet maiden of regeneration.
For many of us, coffee is so much a part of our daily routine that the act of actually savouring a brew, let alone trying something new, is lost in the rush of take-away cups and hastily gulped espressos. But recently, a trend has emerged- a slew of recently opened cafes have placed coffee as the central element of their ventures, with a focus on process, and a more inclusive coffee culture.
This may seem an obvious statement. But to speak with a true zealot is to appreciate the philosophy behind a return to a dedication to coffee. Mulyady Sutopo (‘Yang’ to friends, family, and the numerous customers who greet him as we speak) could convert a vegetarian to ribs: such is the power of his almost evangelical passion. Though he has branched out from his original intention to serve coffee and nothing else, his freshman venture Triple Pick Coffee places beans at the heart of the operation. Grown on a family property in the Karo Batak Highlands in North Sumatra, Indonesia, he maintains control of the entire process, from the picking of the coffee cherries, to roasting on the premises, to brewing. “It has to be interactive,” Yang explains to me. “A lot of roasters, they tend to roast in a separate room, where the customer can’t really ask questions. Here, the roaster is right at the entrance.” Education and appreciation extend even to customer’s homes, with a variety of speciality brewing equipment for sale, and not only roasted material, but green beans for those who wish to roast at home.
This unique set-up speaks to an evolving approach to Sydney’s exemplary coffee culture, a move away from the quick fix of espresso-based coffee like cappuccino and latte to an appreciation of the multifarious complexities of coffee brewing and the richness of the results. For Yang, coffee is a science, something that’s constantly evolving even though the raw ingredients remain the same. And it is this philosophy he wishes to share with his customers.
A similar sentiment imbues the newly opened Sensory Lab, a Melbourne institution that has recently opened its doors in Hall Street, Bondi, as well as Reformatory Caffeine Lab in Surry Hills, and the Paramount Coffee Project nearby, which houses a built-in filter bar. Each establishment stands apart in its unique process of selecting, sourcing and specialty brewing (Reformatory Caffeine Lab uses a cold drip technique, and these coffees are often sold out by lunchtime), all of these venues seek to infuse Sydney’s already heavily caffeinated lifeblood with a more evolved brew. Much like the slow-food movement, this emergent trend speaks to a desire for a more considered, thoughtful coffee culture, with an emphasis on process and an inclusiveness which breaks down the elitism that often characterises high-quality foodie haunts.
Where Americans favour supersized concoctions, and Italy favours an espresso culture where piccolos and macchiatos are consumed while standing at a roadside, Sydney’s coffee culture seems to speak to a collective identity that, though valuing quality and dedicated sourcing practices, also demands that coffee keep up with the hectic pace of our lives. It seems reflective somehow of the brash, hyperactive sensibility of our city that a fast coffee culture has gained ascendency, even more so when compared to Melbourne’s (our twin for whom we compete for attention) more serious approach.
Where the slow food movement strives to preserve tradition and educate about the benefits of creating sustainable ecosystems, the slow coffee movement uses globalised, and local approaches to create coffee creating and drinking micro-ecosystems, as evidenced in Yang’s family-based farming practices and interactive brewing process. And whilst re-adjusting an entire city’s mindset may sound like an overwhelming task, as I discovered, if you look for it, the revolution is already in full swing.