There's no official list of World Coffee Cities (like, say, the UNESCO Cities of Literature), but if there were, Melbourne would be on it.
Yes, really. Ask a coffee person from another city known for its coffee culture – Seattle, London, Oslo – and they'll tell you Melbourne is on their list of must-visits.
Melbourne has always been a coffee city – at least since the 1850s, when coffee stalls operated around the Eastern Market in Bourke Street, as historian Andrew May records in Espresso: Melbourne Coffee Stories.
In the late 19th century temperance coffee palaces offered a booze-free alternative to pubs. In the early 20th century bohemian Melbourne gathered at cafes such as Fasoli's in Lonsdale Street, and we got our first espresso machine in the early 1950s, not long after Achille Gaggia invented the modern piston-driven version.
European migrants who came here after World War II brought their coffee culture with them and installed it in bars and cafes all over town. Some of these – such as Pellegrini's, the winner of this year's Age Good Cafe Guide Hall of Fame Award – we still enjoy visiting.
In the past 10 years a new breed of young coffee roasters has brought the 'third wave' to town in the form of lighter roasts, filter brewing and coffee of traceable origin, and a new generation of cafe owners has taken on the challenge of serving great coffee and excellent food to a very discerning public.
The variety of cafe experiences in Melbourne is almost (but not quite) bewildering; from holes-in-the-wall in city subways where you stand up for a quick shot of espresso and a pastry to architect-designed establishments with chefs turning out fine dining-type food; from coffee bars tucked away in grungy inner-city backstreets to cafes sitting on bright corners in suburban shopping strips.
Our reviewers have visited more than 300 cafes and coffee bars in the course of researching this guide; the best are presented in the book for you to explore and enjoy.
Matt Holden, Editor
The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 is available in selected bookshops and online at theageshop.com.au for $9.99.