To the joy of a large proportion of the 10,000 lawyers in the Department of Justice building adjacent, the city face of Tobys Estate coffee opened on Exhibition Street in July last year.

Tobys Espresso Bar

15:31:PM 07/04/2011
Leanne Tolra

Lucien Kolff
Lucien Kolff


To the joy of a large proportion of the 10,000 lawyers in the Department of Justice building adjacent, the city face of Toby’s Estate coffee opened on Exhibition Street in July last year. Sadly though, its Brunswick outlet and roasting plant closed a few months later.

Lucien Kolff owns the city espresso bar with Toby Smith and Jason Berley. Kolff is the day-to-day operator and head barista. All coffee is roasted in Sydney and sent down the next day, he says.

Toby’s Espresso Rico, which includes Ethiopian Djimmah, Kenyan Sunbird and Colombia Supremo beans, is offered as a house blend. As a flat white, it’s evenly balanced, with a depth of flavour that cuts through milk without sacrificing sweetness.

There’s an ever-changing array of single-estate and single-origin coffees shipped south too, and as many as eight coffees for sale as beans. Pour-over and syphon brews are offered as a coffee of the week and short blacks are encouraged by a $2 price tag.

“People go nuts for them,” says Kolff. “They are not as time-consuming or as expensive for us to make and it’s a great way to encourage people to try single origins. Once they’ve tried them, they are hooked.”


Other than a lull between noon and 1pm, Lucien Kolff (right) says it’s always peak hour at his hole-in-the-wall café, which grinds through 85 kilograms of coffee a week. Crowds cover the pavement from 7am, and return after lunchtime. New Zealand-born Kolff did most of his coffee training at Atomica Café in Fitzroy and also worked at Degraves Espresso in the city before returning to NZ. He worked at the Toby’s Estate coffee house in Brunswick and enjoyed operating a double-lever Mirage Idrocompresso espresso machine so much that he moved one into his tiny city café earlier this year to increase capacity. “It looks great on the front counter and it’s a beautiful machine, but it has a long temperature extraction and doesn’t perform at the speed we need here.” So he’s planning to bring in a second three-group Mirage Bastone.

Sip this

Toby’s Espresso Bar, 136 Exhibition Street, city

Phone 9650 1079

Barista Lucien Kolff

Coffee Toby’s Estate

Barista’s choice Espresso or syphon

Open Monday to Friday 7am-4pm

Smart monochromatic floors, pressed-metal panelling, glossy black bags of beans and slickly branded coffee paraphernalia add a touch of class to this Euro-inspired espresso pit-stop. A chocolate-toned feature wall and clever use of mirrors warm and enlarge the interior, while the shiny triple-group Mirage Bastone espresso machine operates at full tilt to appease the queue lining the pavement. Most grab a brew to go, but some linger at the corner bench to watch the trio of baristas behind the counter. Sparkling glass cases hold colourful macaroons, cookies and cakes, while a row of small tables lines the foyer of the adjoining building, hosting city workers with time to spare and issues to discuss.

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