1A Queens Bridge Street,
Fri 1 Mar – Sun 17 Mar: 8am – 4pm, 5.30 pm – 10.30 pm
A Melbourne Food and Wine Festival special event
Coffee is one of those products that is seemingly simple to brew and enjoy, however, the reality is that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Coffee is selected and plucked at the ideal time before being processed in different ways. These little beans are then transported across the globe before they’re finally roasted onshore for consumption. Every little step along the way can impact the final product provided to the end consumer.
It was the first Sunday of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival for 2013 and we made our way bright and early to the centrepiece of the festival – The Urban Coffee Farm & Brew Bar. Melbournians were already milling about, having a cheeky peek at what this giant sustainable structure was all about.
Ellie, one of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival organisers greeted us on arrival, showing us to a seated area where we were joined by other bloggers and architecture/design houses.
“We were approached by the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival around March last year (2012) to come up with the centrepiece of the festival,” said Brenton from Hassell, the design house behind this magnificent structure. “We were all really excited to get involved with this fun project but then we realised that we didn’t really know anything about coffee! There was a lot of research involved.”
And research they did – not only did they come up with a structure that represented the Northern Equator regions that coffee is grown in, they also looked to utilise sustainable materials. Over 1,500 wooden pallets commonly used to aid shipping coffee from point A to B were used to reconstruct the mountainous terrain that coffee is commonly found growing. Cleverly, they used (and hid) the giant red stairs found on Southbank at Queensbridge Square. And the best part? At the end of the festival these pallets go back in the supply chain to help transport goods.
Andrew Kent, Customer Support Manager at 5 Senses, took us through a coffee appreciation session, brewing three different types of coffee. Coffee based on region, varietal and process whilst sampling some of the breakfast treats available at The Urban Coffee Farm & Brew Bar.
It’s often hard to explain to a someone new to drinking coffee that the flavour isn’t just a coffee flavour. The cupping session that we had with Andrew, who was our tasting guide, had certainly highlighted this point. A whole separate blog could be dedicated just to the flavours and background of the coffees we consumed, but we thought it might be best to provide the highlights. The flavour of coffee can be adjusted by three major things (before it even makes it to roasters like 5 Senses!):
- Regional – refers to where the coffee beans have grown within a country. The main focus of our cupping session was celebrating the Guatemala coffee story and the various regional blends it produces. Andrew had mention that coffee grown at slightly different altitude had a serious impact to the flavours and texture that is delivered to our cups;
- Varietal – refers to the different favours of a bean grown from the same region or farm of that country; and
- Process – refers to method chosen once the bean has been picked from the coffee tree. Andrew had outline the three main processes a coffee bean can undergo:
- Washed is the process were the bean is washed with the aim of removing most of the pulp. This will remove the sweetness from the bean and possibly provided more of a nutty flavour.
- Natural is the process that once the bean is picked it doesn’t get washed. Alternatively, the beans are left in the sun for a number of hours with the amount of time depending on conditions (or specific to buyer requirements). This allows the citrus of the bean to dry and ferment with an end result of delivering a fruity and crisp taste.
- Semi washed is a hybrid method of washed and natural which had originated from Columbia. For a fast coffee fact, this type of blend has recently been discovered to be disease resistant. We’ll drink to that!
The first coffee we had was the Coban, which was one variety from one particular region that had been washed. The taste had a heavy juicy body with a medium to high acidity. We quite enjoyed this blend as we typically go for a more crisp blend. Next we sampled a Natural bean, sourced from one farm and one variety where the beans had not been washed. We noticed the texture of the coffee was quite dark and in turn had a defining fruity taste. Our last coffee (before the samples were mixed up) was Colombia. This blend was washed and had a thicker taste. Miss SL lived the buttery tones but Mr LB enjoyed the earthy tones. Finally, we had a semi-washed Acatenango which had a softer texture and in turn, produced subtle flavours.
It was one of the better cupping experiences that we have attended as the theme centered around the origin and processes applied to the bean had undergone and because of that the various flavours the final product had derived.
In terms of food, we were served a load of delights including Koo Wee Rup asparagus with whipper Gippsland goats’ cheese on parmesan shortbread, Caramalised onion and Persian feta sprinkled with za’atar, adorable mini Croque Monsieurs, Croissants from Mill & Bakery and Mini Bombolini’s to finish it all off.
The Koo Wee Rup was incredible. We’re big fans of Gippsland goats cheese but to have it whipped was another experience entirely. The salty parmesan shortcrust complimented the sharp tang of the cheese but was softened by the asparagus, which was key to tying all the ingredients together.
The caramalised onion tart was sweet and gave the palate a rest from the strong flavours of its predecessor.
The croquet monsieurs were delightful! Despite their size, the tasty cheese provided a real bite and they burst with flavour with every bite (which was good, as there was only two of them!).
The Mill & Bakery croissants were a real highlight. Despite their dark colouring on the surface, the pastry was baked to perfection; crispy, flakey and crunchy without being burnt. Sampling their croissants made us really want to try them out.
Last up was the mini bombolini’s. Sprinkled with icing sugar and chocolate powder, the donuts were filled with a chocolate mousse that was light and fluffy. The nice thing about these was that they were not too rich or dense – the balance was just right between the dough and the filling.
The Urban Coffee Farm & Brew Bar makes an immediate impression amongst Melbourne’s landscape, providing a trendy escape from the busyness of the city. The pop-up rotates Melbourne’s top coffee roasters by day, converting into a cocktail bar in the evenings with different bars rotating each night.
Each bar has taken up the challenge to create a coffee inspired cocktail(s) for the night and includes the likes of Black Pearl, The Aylesbury Rooftop, Longrain and Lily Blacks. The Urban Coffee Farm & Brew Bar has all the right ingredients (coffee, food and alcohol!) for good times no matter what time of day and we highly recommend you take the time to stop and take a moment to experience this tribute to sustainability, coffee and all things Melbourne.
Final thought: “The centerpiece of MFWF that surrounds itself in coffee and cocktails – no more needs to be said”