We’ve come a long way. Five years ago, buying a coffee in Sydney CBD was like playing Russian roulette, though, the odds of getting a killer coffee was even less favourable than 1 in 6. We all have nightmares where we relive the moments we were handed disaster in a cup: a sea of boiling hot milk and an extraction of an over roasted bean from a non-determinate origin or era, weak in structure, lacking in flavour, overpowered by bitterness and topped with a turbulent foam and air bubbles of gigantic proportions.
Things have changed drastically thanks to our coffee pioneers who showed Sydney what coffee was meant to be. Living two doors down from Campos Coffee in Newtown, I practically saw Will Young change the cafe scene single handed. The bar was defined and raised, and as more and more people experienced what a good coffee could taste like, the new face of Sydney’s coffee culture started emerging, and the debate of what coffee is best began. But sure enough as with all things food, there is a natural progression in our understanding of what defines the best coffee.
There is a movement in our understanding that no longer accepts one definition of a good coffee, but instead tries to cover more depth and breadth in the coffee experience. The depth is in terms of our knowledge of the bean itself; its origin, altitude, varietal, drying process and seasonality, and the breadth is in terms of the methods of preparing the final cup. Sydney is almost strictly an espresso drinking city, but espresso is certainly not the only way to drink coffee. The Middle-East is big on Turkish coffee and the Americans and much of Europe favour the drip method, and then there are experimental brewing means such as the vacuum method or our main topic, the Clover, a very unique method of preparing coffee. And to sample the Clover’s unique brew, you need to make a pilgrimage to Mecca Espresso.
The long queues of caffeine craving business people at the CBD’s Mecca Espresso may give you a clue about the quality of the coffee that owner Paul Geshos (who I met at our first secret dinner) and his crew of passionate baristas bring to the masses. However there are no big banners or signs telling you about how seriously these guys take their coffee. And boy are they serious. Mecca not only roasts its own, but goes to great lengths sourcing high quality, interesting and unique beans. Direct relations have been formed with geographically diverse growers of high quality coffee, some a unique niche whose produce is sold exclusively to Mecca.
The attitude to selecting a bean is as rigorous as that of a wine maker, which takes into account the location and the altitude of the growing regions, along with seasonality and the method in which the berries are dried and handled. With the quality and variety of beans available, a coffee maker such as Mecca that possesses the inquisitive Australian spirit is driven to explore this diversity by focusing on single origin coffees, in an effort to appreciate the nuances of the terroir and growing process and how these variables affect flavour.
That’s where the Clover comes in. The Clover (short of Coffee Lover) is a high-tech piece of machinery that simply allows a barista to select the exact temperature and brewing time for a coffee. This exactness and science applied to brewed coffee puts the Clover on par with the commercial espresso machine. The Clover was designed by an independent design company as they were researching a brewing technique for Starbucks, who was looking for a way to overcharge Americans for brewed coffee. Before the company was fully taken over by Starbucks, coffee shops had the opportunity to own a Clover, at the measly price of $11,000 USD. Since the takeover, only the Clovers that remain in circulation are the machines available for the general public. So you see what I mean when I say Mecca is serious about coffee, having spent $15000 AUD to acquire the Clover. Paul knows of only 3 other cafes in Australia that own a Clover.
At Mecca, coffee for the Clover is roasted at a lower temperature than that for normal espresso. Espresso is a short, strong, concentrated drink. Clover brewed coffee is enjoyed over a longer period of time, and the flavour and complexity of the coffee bean itself is preserved, as the bean’s sugars are less caramelised. You will find yourself using wine terms to describe the flavours of a Clover coffee: fruity (watermelon, stone fruit, berries), earthy, crisp, complex, spicy, etc… At $5 a cup, it’s certainly not cheap, compared to an espresso, so you might not replace your three short blacks a day for a Clover. But bear in mind that the coffee used for the Clover is usually of an extremely high quality, which can cost up to ten times the amount of that used in espresso. So you can choose to spend $5 at the pub for a VB, or you can sample some of the most unique coffees in the world… Don’t buy a VB. A Clover coffee is well worth the price tag, and depending on the coffee used on the day, you will get to immerse yourself into a unique world region and taste experience. It is not better than an espresso, but rather a totally different drink, one that will give you much insight and pleasure.
Single origin coffees available/coming soon to Mecca Espresso
• Aricha Selection 16
• Beloya Selection 16
Alta Mira Estate
Special Preparation for Mecca
Cup of Excellence
Cup of Excellence
High Altitude (1900 m)
Helsar De Zacery
Villa Sarchi Varietal
Experimental Process for Mecca, producing only 60 bags a year in total
Address: 67 King Street Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9299 8828