Saturday, April 17, 2010

Coffee break: 65 Degrees

The north-eastern end of Exhibition St is an unlikely home for a world champion barista. It's a quiet area, away from the main CBD shopping strips, but that hasn't stopped 65 Degrees becoming a big hit with those in the know. There's a steady crowd of loyal regulars lining up for take-aways - even three businessmen, who were in Melbourne for just six hours, were thrilled by the tip-off that led them there. "We'll definitely be back!" they chorused as they left.

Con Haralambopoulos, one of three brothers behind the cafe, has an impressive list of coffee titles to his name, including world espresso champion and world latte art champion. The brothers previously ran 7 Grams in Richmond, but closed that to start this new venture. The obsessive attention to coffee detail even extends to the name: 65 degrees Celsius is the correct temperature for milk when making coffee.

The narrow but light-filled interior has tall tables and stools at the front and smaller tables at the back. The best seats are those by the leadlight full-length windows that overlook Exhibition St. This end of the street is quite pretty, lined with trees, and with less traffic than other, busier streets in the CBD (there were even some carparks available out the front on the morning that I visited).

A substantial breakfast and lunch menu is chalked on a blackboard at the front of the cafe and the glass display case is full of sweet and savoury treats. But the focus is on coffee, made here with beans from Gridlock, and Con's impressive coffee skills. Warm cocoa notes dominate in a smooth and silky short black that is a delight to sip. The cafĂ© latte is simply stunning: there’s a hint of toasted nuts but no flavour predominates in the smooth, balanced brew that slips down without effort. I am in raptures as I drink it: this is, quite simply, the best cafe latte I've ever had in my life!

The only drawback to 65 Degrees is that it is at the opposite end of town to my office, so I can't visit as often as I would like. If you love coffee, do yourself a favour and get to 65 Degrees as soon as you can: it's a must-visit destination.

65 Degrees
309 Exhibition St, Melbourne
Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm

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