The date is Monday 3rd July 2017. The time is approximately 9:27am. I am sitting in a small, rustic cafe on Bourke St, meeting my law school mentor, Scott, for the very first time. Outside, it’s yet another gloomy Melbourne day. The sky is so dark that one would be forgiven for thinking that it’s 9:27pm, whilst there is a strong north-westerly wind sweeping through the urban landscape – a wind so strong that it would provide a 4 to 5 goal advantage for any AFL team kicking towards the Lockett end at an open-roofed Etihad Stadium.
The small-talk between my mentor and I isn’t going well. We are simply two different people. Thankfully, a young waiter, no more than one or two years out of high school, politely asks for our coffee order. Before I could respond: “just a latte thanks mate”, Scott interjects with his own order, which was worded as follows:
“Could I please have a ¾ almond milk magic with half a raw sugar stirred anti-clockwise?”
With a coffee-drinking career spanning almost a decade, this was without a doubt, the most ridiculously pretentious coffee order I had ever heard. Stunned by Scott’s response, but more curious than anything as to what he had just ordered, I instinctively turned towards the waiter and gingerly uttered the words: “I’ll just get the same mate”.
Fast-forward to Monday 19th March 2018. It is the opening night of the MULSS Client Interview Competition, of which I am one of the co-opts. At the end of the night, I take the opportunity to thank a good friend of mine, and the esteemed editor of Purely Dicta, Amy Clements, for volunteering her time as a client. In response to my gratitude, Amy requests that I return the favour to her by writing an article for the Purely Dicta publication. Her brief for this article was relatively simple: “Just write something interesting about yourself”.
Well… as it turns out, I’m not a very interesting person. So, to generate some excitement in my life, and to pay homage to Scott of whom I never saw again, I decided to launch a mission into discovering the best ¾ almond magic with half a raw sugar stirred anti-clockwise the near MLS. Over the past few weeks, I have visited five of the most renowned and loved cafes within a 1.37km radius of the MLS building; and I am now eager to share my findings with the Purely Dicta community!
But first, what is a ¾ almond magic with half a raw sugar stirred anti-clockwise?
Before I launch into the reviews, allow me to first deconstruct the elements to this order.
Essentially, a “magic” is a double ristretto with steamed milk poured over the top (with the milk in this case being almond milk, but only ¾ full).
A “double ristretto” is two shots of coffee extracted with half the amount of water. The optimal duration of extraction for a double ristretto is said to be 10 seconds.
The final element is quite straightforward even for the non-coffee drinker – the insertion of half a raw sugar stirred anti-clockwise. Whether stirring the sugar anti-clockwise makes any difference, I highly doubt so. However, Scott was pretty adamant that it provided a greater equalisation of the sugar’s sweetness to the coffee’s bitterness – so I’ll just take his word for it.
Now that all of the preliminaries have been dealt with, let’s begin the review!
Stovetop (Leicester Street)
Stovetop may have relocated itself recently along Leicester Street, but it still hasn’t lost its popularity as the “go to” destination for the MLS’ coffee-loving contingent.
To summarise my experience briefly, my coffee was 160ml of pure perfection (“magic” some might even say). A slightly sweet, concentrated flavour that plays out without any bitterness. The friendly barista did not laugh at my order – furthermore accepting my request to stop the espresso shot after exactly ten seconds.
Nice coffee guy place (Leicester Street, opposite Stovetop)
Does anyone know what this place is actually called? Located just around the corner from the law school along Leicester Street, my almond magic was served with a friendly smile. Ultimate water ratio, brew time and temperature. A subtle acidity provided a bright, dry sensation that enlivened the taste of the coffee. The volume of almond milk used was a bit more than ¾ as per my specification, but this was forgivable as the always jovial barista proceeded to sell me a chicken baguette for half-price (I should really find out his name some time).
For those of you who plan on ordering a ¾ almond magic with half a raw sugar stirred anti-clockwise from this cafe in the future, I should mention that although a “nice guy”, the owner/barista has a tendency to make egregious claims about the Carlton Football Club. As an avid Blues fan himself, he once told me that Marc Murphy was not in Carlton’s best 22, and that he should sacrifice his spot in the midfield for Jack Silvagni……righto nice coffee guy!
Seven Seeds (Berkeley Street)
This particular almond magic had a syrupy mouthfeel, provided by a grind size controlled to extract the coffee’s maximum sweetness. Whilst such sweetness was the hero of the coffee, it’s achilles heel was the barista’s lack of care and skill in frothing the almond milk. There were more bubbles in my milk than at a 5-year-old’s birthday party – creating a real detriment to the magic’s presentation and my overall experience.
Another notable negative is this cafe’s pricing. With an excessive almond milk surcharge, you would’ve thought that Australia’s entire inflation crisis was confined to the locality of 114 Berkeley Street. With small lattes starting from the ridiculous price of $4.50, this particular cafe is one for the top-tier private school students (g’day all you Grammarians and Xavarians reading this).
7 Eleven (Swanston Street)
Who ever said that you needed a barista to enjoy barista quality coffee? Do yourself a favour – The next time you find a $1 coin on the ground, pick up that coin and save it for a rainy day. When that rainy day comes, spare no thought and visit 7 Eleven to create your own ¾ magic. Simply place a $1 sevs cup under the machine for ten seconds and then hold the “warm milk” button until it reaches ¾ full.
The freshly ground arabica beans set the tone for a unique and unparalleled coffee experience. The biggest advantage of this cafe is that you, as the barista, can ensure that all of the elements of a ¾ almond magic with half a raw sugar stirred anti-clockwise are satisfied. One of the elements that cannot be satisfied, however, is the almond milk component. When I asked store manager, Winston, of the possibility of 7 Eleven switching from full cream to almond milk, Winston chuckled slightly – proceeding to then top up my myki (thanks for the top up again Winston if you’re reading this!).
Rating: 9.5/10 (-0.5 for the lack of almond milk)
Porta Via (out the front of MLS)
When I think of Porta Via, one particular word comes to my mind……location – as in the only thing that’s going for it. The only thing more bitter than their coffee was my experience of ordering a ¾ almond magic with half a raw sugar stirred anti-clockwise from them. The almond milk was steamed to a temperature probably less than what my central heating is on right now (21 degrees celsius in case you were wondering). Furthermore, the barista blatantly disobeyed my request by stirring the raw sugar in a clockwise direction. Whether this was done out of spite, I am still unsure; so perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.
On a more positive note, Porta Via’s banana bread is second to none. If you are searching for the perfect compliment to your next ¾ almond magic with half a raw sugar stirred in an anti-clockwise direction, look no further than immediately outside the law building!
Rating: 5/10 (+1 point for the banana bread)
What can we take from all this? Well, the pessimist would say not much. The pessimist would say that I’ve just reviewed a genre of coffee that no normal person would even consider ordering – making this whole exercise entirely redundant.
In response to that pessimist, I’d be inclined to label them as a realist and agree with their summations. The reality is that I’ve spent in excess of $30 on a genre of coffee that I don’t enjoy in the first place. Perhaps the deepest reality though lies in the underlying motives for this piece……..
Amy, you asked for something interesting and so I hope this is what you were looking for!