Latte artist: The Maling Room's barista, Kirby Berlin, trains until 8pm each day.
The Maling Room was already a café when Andrew Lew took it over five years ago, but Lew who had owned Café Maltitude, one of the darlings of the new-wave coffee movement in Melbourne in early 2000, knew he could make it a coffee destination.
He’d also worked in the coffee section of Daimaru and says it was one of the first places in Melbourne selling single-origin coffee. “We had something like 20 single-origins,” he says. “They weren’t great, but we were selling more than 150 kilograms a week.”
With many of the city’s third-wave pioneers, Lew began experimenting with espresso, milk and latte art: “We were all learning from each other and sometimes from the internet.”
Lew began roasting his own beans about 12 months ago, and has yet to be drawn into the growing filter coffee movement, preferring to continue to perfect espresso-based brews.
The arrival of star barista Kirby Berlin two years ago has helped build loyal, trusting customers. “It’s a relatively conservative crowd here. They like to hear that the coffee they are drinking is worth $100 a kilogram (or similar),” Lew says. “Not all of them want experiment, but we are starting to see change and a growing number of black-coffee drinkers who want to learn about single-origin coffees.”
Berlin was so determined to land a job as a barista at The Maling Room that she dropped her resume into the café 10 times – in one day. That was two years ago and followed her decision, at the age of 11, to pursue a profession in coffee. At that age, and in a country town, the best she could do – to the bemusement of her parents – was a doughnut shop. She was quickly poached by a big-name coffee franchise and followed a determined path to Lew’s Synesso espresso machine.
Lew encouraged Berlin to enter the coffee competition scene, and she won the Australian Pura Latte Art title in 2009 and was 11th in the world titles. Berlin placed second in this year’s Australasian Specialty Coffee Association’s latte art title and has her sights on next year’s World Latte Art title. Not surprisingly, she trains until 8pm daily.
The Maling Room, 206 Canterbury Road, Canterbury
Phone \ 9836 9889
Barista \ Kirby Berlin
Coffee \ The Maling Room
Barista’s choice \ Espresso
Open \ Monday-Sunday 7am-4.30pm
Web \ www.malingroom.com.au
Leadlight windows and high ceilings dominate this early-20th century, heritage-listed building.
Reminders of its past are evident in the post-office announcements scored into the muted bronze and green-toned panes. Inside, apricot walls pick up on the contours of the glass. Classic timber furnishings are deliberately sparse and practical.
Young, pleasant staff are considerate and omnipresent – just the way the mostly conservative weekday customers like it. Weekends attract a different coffee crowd eager to sample the latest single-origin blend, roasted in-house. One of this week’s four options is Bolivian San Juan. As a brilliantly extracted espresso, with glossy, super-thick crema, it carries notes of honey, vanilla and toffee.