Minimalist: Market Lane Coffee in the Queen Victoria Market deli hall. Photo: Armelle Habib
There are three people behind Melbourne's Market Lane Coffee and they are obsessed with the bean. Actually, only two of them are, while the third, Will Studd, is Australia's cheese king. So two out of three ain't bad, which allows for a gratuitous Meatloaf reference.
The other two partners, Jason Scheltus and Fleur Studd, joined forces in 2009 after Scheltus returned from England where he learned his trade at London's Monmouth Coffee. Their goal was to deliver a high quality coffee experience, which meant sourcing and roasting beans from the world's best estates and farms.
"We felt a lot of coffee merchants weren't completely transparent about the origin of their coffee blends so we decided to ensure there was a clear link to where the beans are grown," Scheltus says.
'It's not a secret science': A barista prepares pourover coffee. Photo: Armelle Habib
Developing this clear link means Scheltus and Studd, as well as company barista Toshi, spend a lot of time on the road. This year Scheltus has travelled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Guatemala and El Salvador in search of the perfect bean.
And when it comes to the bean, Scheltus says he looks for sweetness, cleanliness and something distinct from its location.
"With the sweetness, it's something we're inherently drawn to as humans. It can range from fresh stone or citrus fruits through to dried fruits depending on the variety of the coffee and the cleanliness comes from it being free of any outside taints or defects," Scheltus says.
Market Lane stamp their takeaway cups with the mantra: 'We love to make coffee for the city that loves to drink it.' Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen
As for the best places in the world to grow coffee, Scheltus says East Africa is where the growing conditions are ideal as it's also coffee's natural home.
"I particularly enjoy Ethiopian coffee. It's grown with less attention than the other countries where there's more intervention from the farmer," he says.
Wander into any of the company's four outlets in Melbourne and you'll be immediately hit by their simplicity. Fairly pared back decor and nothing much but coffee on the menu. Scheltus says this is deliberate because food doesn't really augment the flavour of coffee.
If anything, he nominates toast, full-cream milk or maybe chocolate as the natural partners of a good brew.
In regard to the best way to experience the full flavour of the bean, Scheltus prefers filter coffee to espresso and encourages customers to try it as every cup is brewed to order.
"We like to show people how easy it is to make a great cup of coffee. There are only two ingredients. It's not a secret science or a dark art, as some people like to suggest.
"The barista isn't God."
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