How do you convince a non-coffee drinker to drink coffee? Wrap it up in some fancy science and serve it with a smile.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I don’t drink coffee. It’s one of my few weirdly inconsistent food habits – I will happily eat coffee cake and coffee ice cream, but I’ve never wanted to have a cup of the stuff.
Being a non-coffee drinker presents some gaps and challenges when I visit establishments which are shrines to the bean. So what did Industry Beans do differently to convince me to try their coffee?
Brothers Trevor and Steve Simmons from Penny Farthing Espresso take their coffee very seriously – they select their beans from around the world, batch roast them on site in Fitzroy and prepare the brew using a Synesso machine, using a pour-over filter or cold-drip. On every table there’s a tome to coffee with explanations about the different beans and brewing methods. Aeropress, filter, espresso and cold drip all mean nothing to me but flick the back of the guide and you can choose to have your coffee as an Aeropress Jelly, coffee pearls, coffee caviar and coffee toffee ($3 each), all made within the science lab aka kitchen cool room.
Always tempted by food with unusual textures I decided to try all four. The coffee pearls and coffee caviar were both made using by coating cold drip coffee with a thin jelly membrane using a technique called reverse spherification, whereby you submerge a liquid in calcium lactate in a bath of sodium alginate. The result is a curious sack of suspended fluid and the experience is just like eating caviar – you pop the whole sphere into your mouth, bite down and a squirt of cold drip coffee bursts into your mouth.
I also really liked the crunchy shards of coffee toffee but liked the jelly the least out of the four. It’s made by making coffee using an Aeropress and then putting gelatine into the brew before it cools down. The resulting jelly has an intense flavour and even the addition of panela didn’t make it enjoyable for me after a few tiny spoonfuls.
The four unusual coffee treatments were really fun to explore and together added up to about half a cup of coffee – just enough caffeine for someone as sensitive to the substance as me.
Now to the food. The breakfast and lunch menu is a departure from the poached-eggs-smashed-avocado-French toast triumvirate. Don’t get me wrong, I like all those dishes but I don’t get too excited by them when they appear on every cafe menu and when I can make a decent version at home. On the other hand, Industry Beans’ menu inspires much excitement – so many interesting choices!
I settled on beetroot rostis topped with smoked eel, tarragon, watercress and crisp samphire ($18.50) as it was firmly in the ‘won’t make it at home’ camp. The stack was beautifully presented and contained an addictive mix of salty, smokey and crispy in every mouthful. My only issue was that overall it was almost a bit too dry for me and I think it would have benefited from maybe some of the tarragon mayonnaise that comes with their vegetable crisps on the lunch menu.
I also tried the creamed lemon tofu breakfast brulee ($14) – a breakfast dessert so to speak. The dish didn’t have the traditional hard sugar crust I was expecting and I’m not sure whether it was supposed to be like that or that it wasn’t possible to create a hard crust given the nature of tofu. To be honest it wasn’t very pleasant having a sticky undercaramelised toffee skin stuck to my teeth. That aside, the set tofu underneath was silky smooth and only faintly tasted of lavendar or lemon. In fact, it reminded me of one of my favourite Chinese desserts, tofu fa, without the sugar syrup. The dish came presented with blueberries and caramelised rosemary.
I suspect word about Industry Beans has already started spreading around the neighbourhood. I was there at 8am on a wet and rainy Sunday and there were a steady trickle of customers from that early start. The space is industrial warehouse chic in the literal sense of the word – you can actually sit amongst shelves of warehoused coffee and wooden pallets painted in black form a feature above the counter and on the ceiling, with echoes of the slats in the outdoor/indoor area out the front.
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