One thing I love about Melbourne is that everywhere you go you discover little hidden gems in places you never thought you would. Bridge Road Richmond, once known for its fashion outlets has never really been the place to find amazing coffee. While there are some great places, they are few and far between. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s not a destination strip for the coffee hunter. So when I accidentally stumbled into Grafali’s late last year and had my first cup, I knew these guys were pros. It wasn’t until I met owner John Tan and head barista Daniel Levy that I discovered the coffee was roasted on the premises in a little 2kg electric machine out the back. Over the past few years it has become popular for cafes to have their own coffee, but what it usually means is they have a contract roaster creating a blend especially for them, and in some cases a coffee which is available elsewhere but just branded differently. I don’t see this as an issue, as long as what I’m drinking is made properly and tastes great, it doesn’t fuss me who roasted it and what the label says. That being said the fact that John was actually roasting his own meant I was sampling something boutique and very small batch.
It was at this time that I was also told that the coffee I tasted was not a blend but a single origin called Brazil Blue. When John opened the cafe in May 2014 he made the decision to offer a house roast originating from one bean and one plantation, choosing this Brazil because of the full-bodied nature and the chocolate hazelnut overtones. It also had to be smooth when served black and punchy with milk. For those who don’t know, these are the reasons why most traditional espresso blends are based on Brazilian beans. The consistency of taste together with grind and extraction is what led him to choose a single origin and he also roasts another single for his pour overs, currently a Rwandan Nygungwe and a decaf using Guatemalan. John owns two other cafes, one at La Trobe University Bundoora and another at Monash University Clayton bringing his great coffee to the caffeine addicted students who need the stuff to stay awake in their lectures after a big night out or during their frequent cram sessions.
To keep up with demand John recently stopped roasting out the back, has moved operations offsite and is the proud father to a beautiful 12kg baby also known as a Diedrich Infra-Red roaster. He is truly passionate about the coffee he produces and Daniel who is there most of the week behind the machine is equally meticulous with how he makes each cup. Often the roaster doesn’t know how the coffee reaches the customer, but here, John can rest assured that every time the beans are ground, the coffee is tamped and that golden liquid is released from the group head and into the vessel below, there is respect, care and love and you can taste it every time.
Here are the three cafes you can enjoy Brazil Blue:
Grafali’s Coffee Roasters – 58 Bridge Rd Richmond
Cafe Xpresso – Agora Square @ La Trobe Uni Bundoora