On our very first day in Australia, back in 2018, the host at our accommodation tried to explain to us the significance of coffee culture in Melbourne. It won’t be long until you find your favorite café, he advised. And when I began work later that week, still jet lagged from our international flight, the truth of this sank in. Even within our corner of campus, my coworkers had their favorite cafés, with myriad reasons why they preferred one barista over another or were loyal to one café instead of its competitor.
In Melbourne, Australia, the coffee culture is real. Just north of the city, in my suburb of Brunswick, I feel less of a tourist. With the competitive nature of the restaurant scene in Melbourne, places come and go on a regular basis, and it’s up to the locals to keep track of what’s good. So although I may still be a novice to knowing the intricacies of coffee culture in Melbourne as a whole, I believe I can speak to Brunswick, Victoria.
The pale pink and jungle green color palette sets the scene for this oh-so-Melbourne café, opened in late 2018 on Sydney Road. The sleek interior, paired with perfectly presented brunch dishes (think $19.50 eggs benedict) and creamy coffees, makes a morning at this café a very Melbourne experience. I often get a table for one at the bar overlooking the baristas and make my foamy, heart-topped soy latte last as long as possible while I use the free WiFi. Compared to the other clientele at Lobbs, I often feel underdressed and far less cool, but the coffee’s just so delicious and the bustling vibe jogs me awake on a weekend morning.
589-591 Sydney Road | lobbscafe.com
For a much more relaxed start to the day, I go to Steam Junkies, located on the bike path by the Anstey train station. The wall of windows facing the trains pulls away completely in the summer, removing the barrier between inside and outside and letting customers enjoy the breeze. Although the interior design is not as glamorous as at Lobbs, the coffee is still poured with care. At this tucked-away café, the long wooden tables provide a reliable work space for quiet mornings when I want to dig into a book or get some writing done.
11 Florence Street | facebook.com/steamjunkies
Across the street from Steam Junkies is home.one, a “micro-café” with limited seating available inside on the weekends. This is where I go for takeaway coffee on a Saturday morning, when I’ve got lots of errands to run. Like Tempo Rubato, the piano bar around the corner which donates its profits to provide free music lessons to immigrant children, home.one is also a social enterprise. All of home.one’s profits are reinvested into a hospitality training program for young people experiencing homelessness, meaning every cup of coffee purchased here goes to a good cause.
6 Florence Street | homeone.melbourne
I pass Acústico several times per week, as it's located along the bike path I take to work, and it’s often bubbling with activity. This is your classic retro café, outfitted with mismatched chairs and tables, a vintage television set mounted on the wall, and an ancient piano with its interior exposed resting in the corner. A huge garage door on one side of the café is lifted halfway open, putting diners at eye level with the cyclists riding by outside. There are Pac-Man icons climbing up the ceiling, patchy leather couches you might find in your grandparents’ garage, and bright green house plants sprouting around the periphery. The vibe is very hipster and very Brunswick, and it's a great place to spend an afternoon.
32 Union Street | acustico.com.au