Confessions of a bean fiend

Cheerio cafe in Richmond.
Cheerio cafe in Richmond. Photo: Eddie Jim

How many coffees a day do you drink?

Two is my theoretical limit - maybe a stove-top at home and an espresso out and about somewhere; or sometimes two espressos out. I think I had about five at the recent Coffee Expo and World Barista Championships in Melbourne - there was so much good coffee to taste. My record (not that I'm proud of it) is seven sipped - but not finished - in a day. To be honest, no matter how good the beans, it starts to taste pretty ordinary after three anyway.

What happens if you can't have it?

Nothing, because ''can't have it'' doesn't happen. I would have to be in solitary confinement or a coma.

What do you look for when you go for a coffee?

Quite often, I go for coffee alone, so somewhere I can sit up at the bar and order without a lot of rigmarole is an attraction. I love the aroma hit of freshly ground specialty beans - it's kind of sweeter and more floral than the usual grind aroma. If I get that at a cafe, I'll be going back.

Collingwood's Everyday Coffee.
Collingwood's Everyday Coffee. Photo: Eddie Jim

What gets your back up?

 Picky cafe bloggers who lose their sense of proportion - it's not the Michelin Guide! People who work in cafes aren't, surprisingly, our slaves or servants. Most of them try hard most of the time to do their jobs well but, thankfully, they're only human, not servicebots.

There are lots of new cafes in this year's guide. How do you find them?


Surprisingly, often through word of mouth in the cafe business - someone knows someone who is opening a place, or someone's barista is leaving and opening a place. Quite a bit through Twitter - either cafes tweeting @AgeCafeGuide or hardcore cafe-goers (there are a couple in particular - you know who you are!) tweeting about a new place they've spotted. Not as many through press releases as you'd think. And I keep an eye on the what's-on type websites because they are always right on the scene when a new cafe opens, sometimes banging on the door with photographer in tow at 7am. I keep an eye out all year.

What's your core reviewing policy?

Look for what's good in a place - don't go in there looking for the bad. Although, obviously, if a place isn't any good, we won't recommend it. I try to keep the reader in mind - what kind of story can I tell a reader of The Age about a cafe?

Assembly Cafe in Carlton.
Assembly Cafe in Carlton. Photo: Eddie Jim

How is the 2013 guide different to last year's?

There are loads of new cafes and cafes we haven't reviewed before - about 80 out of 300 or so. There are a bunch of really exceptional new places in Melbourne this year - great spaces with really good coffee and very good food. Some of the new cafes that won't win the best new cafe award just picked the wrong year to open - there were about half a dozen genuine candidates and it was very hard to call. And specialty coffee continues to spread through the suburbs. We are very well served for quality coffee in this city.

After all that, do you have one favourite cafe that's ''home''?

Most definitely. There's a little place in Brunswick that's between where I live and lots of my other destinations. Latin-themed, single room, turntable, three-dish blackboard menu. I've been going there for years, and I know the people who work there and most of the regular customers, too. There's a real neighbourhood feel that I don't get anywhere else.