A destination café draws a diverse crowd: all ages, varied dress codes and pied senses of purpose. Some linger, some clock-watch, some check out the daily single-origin coffee.
Many know the story behind St Ali – how it was established by industry leader Mark Dundon in 2005 and sold to passionate, energetic businessman Salvatore Malatesta a few years later. Others don’t care. They know its reputation for excellent coffee and they are here to worship.
In the three years he’s owned St Ali, Malatesta has taken it to another level. He’s added a roasting lab, offices and a weekend takeaway outlet to cope with the crowds. In 2009, he added Sensory Lab in David Jones to the empire and is roasting coffee under both brands. But Malatesta hasn’t just rested on the reputation of St Ali and Sensory Lab in Australia, he’s taken it to the UK too, opening St Ali UK in St John’s Square in London in May and, in two weeks, a Sensory Lab roastery in London’s West End. Next is a Sensory Lab-style shop called Plantation, to open in Melbourne Central soon.
Joe Tynan has a holistic view of the coffee chain – from plant to bean, roast, barista and cup. Ambitious Tynan, who lists high-profile Melbourne employers such as Jasper Coffee, Veneziano Coffee and Proud Mary café on his resume, plans to understand every link. He’s worked as a barista, roaster and trainer and, since joining St Ali in February, combines all three roles. Meanwhile, he’s studying for his bachelor of applied science at RMIT and pursuing the bioscience stream, which covers plant structure and genetics – with a longer-term eye on green-bean buying. Tynan has dabbled in the barista competition scene, taking fifth place in his first attempt at the national titles in 2009, and hopes to compete again next year. He’s on the espresso machine only a couple of hours a day at St Ali, but says training others allows him to give back to the industry.
12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne
Phone \ 9686 2990
Barista \ Joe Tynan
Coffee \ St Ali
Barista’s choice \ Pour-over
Open \ Monday-Tuesday 7am-5pm; Wednesday-Saturday 7am-11pm; Sunday 8am-5pm
The grunge café look is nothing new, it’s just that at St Ali, it’s delivered with more attitude. Bare concrete floors, recycled furniture and naked globes hanging from exposed beams ensure any glory is for the food and coffee. A team of baristas glides between the four-group Slayer espresso machine and a three-group La Marzocco Linea. Calls of “coffee’s up” regulate the pleasant floor staff. At the counter, glorious cakes vie for attention with brewing equipment and a menu of coffee beans for sale.