Where to find the best coffee in regional Victoria
The regional coffee roasters cupping some of Victoria's finest specialty brews.
Watch out, Melbourne. Regional Victoria's specialty coffee scene has been brewing and it's coming for the Coffee Capital of Australia crown.
Chalk it up to insane city rents, to tree-changers who refuse to forgo their daily caffeine fix, or simply to the powerful gospel of the third-wave coffee scene, but the rise of the regional roastery means country Victoria now has no shortage of artisan roasters and cafes showcasing serious coffee cred.
So, as we prepare to celebrate International Coffee Day on October 1, here are some of Victoria’s finest regional roasters putting the scoot in our boot.
Cartel Coffee has been bringing specialty beans to Geelong for more than a decade.
Six of the best coffee roasters in regional Victoria
Piccolo Coffee Roasters
Small by name but not by nature, this Warrnambool roastery and café has been a pioneer of south-eastern Victoria’s burgeoning bean scene. “There wasn’t too much when we first started out,” says Jon Darcy, who took over the roastery with wife, Olivia, four years ago. “Now Warrnambool has a specialty coffee block where a bunch of good cafes have opened up.”
The Darcys have big plans for their roastery and café, including a new warehouse with a bigger roaster, and a space for tastings and cuppings. “It will almost be a bit like a lolly shop for coffee, where people can taste and pick the beans they want to take home.” In the meantime, their Lighthouse blend is redolent with the chocolate and caramel notes perfect for a milk-based coffee. piccolocoffee.com.au
Martin Street Coffee
It’s safe to say that when Martin Street Coffee opened its doors four years ago it was the first roastery to hit the sleepy central Victorian town of Blackwood, population 295. The pride of the former gold rush town at the edge of the Wombat State Forest, this café-roastery is the classic story of a couple of inner-city baristas heading to the hills for the chance to run their own show. Worth a road trip in its own right, it’s a coffee nerd’s paradise where you can get your daily fix in its shape-shifting forms – from espresso to pour-over, cold brew, Chemex or iced – or go the booze route with their coffee liqueur and gin infused with coffee plant botanicals.
“One point of difference is that we air-roast, which means a better flavour and no bitterness,” says Simon Daniel, who runs the operation with husband Simon Gracie. Look out for their single-origin Thai beans: until recently these arabica beans were not allowed to leave the kingdom. “They produce a really amazing flavour profile,” says Daniel; “a lot of chocolate and nutty caramel but fruit as well.” martinstreetcoffee.com
Cartel Coffee Roasters
When Nathan James Johnson set up his specialty Geelong beanery in 2008, his goal was, simply, to provide Australians with the highest quality coffees in the world. More than a decade later, not much has changed. From its humble beginnings a small-batch, boutique roastery on the Geelong outskirts, Cartel has poured its way into the hearts and coffee cups of some of the state’s best cafes.
Cartel deals exclusively with rare, specialty (or, in other words, traceable) coffees that are grown at high altitudes. Owner Nathan James is also focussed on sustainable brews, providing training and working with farmers on ethical coffee projects in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Colombia, India and Indonesia. You’ll be sipping pretty with a choice of 30 hand-selected coffees and 40 rare loose-leaf teas at their Geelong Brew Bar. They’ve also recently unveiled their new city outfit, which opened last month at Melbourne’s bustling Somerset Place. coffeecartel.com.au
From little things big things grow. Five years ago, Luke Dudley started his coffee roastery in the picturesque north-eastern Victorian town of Bright with the humble hope that a few people might venture by for a coffee. Three years later demand was so great Sixpence outgrew its repurposed SES shed in an industrial area and moved to central Bright where it now shares digs with Reed & Co. Distillery.
“I started out purely as a roaster then thought I’d better put in a coffee machine and if people came, then great,” says Dudley, who turned the original Sixpence premises into bakery Pocket Full of Rye. The original six-kilogram roaster still resides there; a mightier 15-kilogram beast can be found at the Wills Street headquarters where a brew bar is perfect for tastings. “We run some batches and filter for people who are chasing that kind of thing, but most people are after the rich, full-bodied, low acidity milk-based coffee.” sixpencecoffee.com.au
Set the GPS for this roastery and buzzing café hidden in a huge repurposed warehouse away from the main Mornington action. This is where you can scratch your coffee itch with a dizzying range of single origin beans, served espresso, pour-over, filter and cold brew – and get some added buzz with the knowledge that 20 cents from every coffee goes towards an initiative helping support an ethical and sustainable coffee industry in Uganda. commonfolkcoffee.com.au
Phillip Island Coffee Co
You don’t get to be Phillip Island’s only coffee roastery without a Hemsworth sighting. Two years after opening in Cowes, sisters Kirsti and Jen Hayward are nonplussed at the appearance of the local boys turned Hollywood stars. They give more thought to the beans – including the five single origins that make up their house blend – that make Phillip Island Coffee Co the espresso stop to the stars.
“We were really inspired by the coffee bars we saw in Manhattan a few years ago,” says Kirsti, “and decided to bring a bit of that to the island.” The small one-kilo roaster runs all day meeting demand; they also stock all sorts of coffee-making apparatus so you can recreate their in-store magic at home. phillipislandcoffeeco.com.au
On the hunt for Victoria's best cup of Joe? From Torquay and the Mornington Peninsula to Inverloch and the Goldfields, take your time pouring through Victoria's craft coffee scene with 25 per cent off stays for RACV Members.