Milky Joe's inhabits a tiny patch of the QV food court (across the road from Melbourne Central). They offer three different bean options, and Ali Reserve is my favourite. It's smooth yet full-flavoured and oh so delicious. I revel in my first morning sip of my large Ali Reserve latte; it convinces me that getting out of bed was the right move. I can wrap both hands around it to ward off the Melbourne wind; it's the biggest coffee cup I've found, and it's filled with the best coffee. And at $4.50, it comes in well ahead of the competition.
The standard bean they use (Felici – the one you'll get unless you specify) is also delicious. It's a bit stronger, but nothing like the strong bitterness I've had elsewhere. It's smooth, but with a little after-kick. Best of all, you can take home your favourite.
Don't be put off by all the customers standing around at Milky Joe's. The staff are a well-oiled machine and you never have to wait long for your coffee. Workers around the area will stand and chat as they wait for their coffee and toasted goodies, giving it a communal kind of vibe.
Other details I love about MJ's are that the staff wear denim aprons, and the food and sweets are fantastic. Oh, and there are endless milk options – as you might expect. So all your needs can be met by Joe* and his team. (*I don't know if that's a real person, but I don't care, just give me the coffee.)
If, heaven forbid, it's a Sunday and Milky Joe's isn't open (this really upsets me, Sunday isn't my favourite day anymore), you might have to venture elsewhere. But that's okay – it's Melbourne, so there are other great options nearby. You might have to go across the road, but you'll still have a hot cup in your hands within 4 minutes.
Streat, Melbourne Central
My favourite cup of coffee in Melbourne Central is easily at Streat.
If you're using Melbourne Central Station, you can't miss Streat, as it sits just beside the escalators going down to the station. The convenience factor cannot be underestimated. Being able to get a good coffee, even when I'm running late for a train, has been a life saver many times.
They've recently changed beans here and I'm really enjoying the results. The last coffee I got here was smooth and milky. Also, the large coffee is a real large – a whole two-hander. I love that Streat supports unemployed youth as well, so I want to spend my coffee dollars here.
Location and good coffee count for a lot, and the next time my train is 5 minutes away and I haven't had a coffee yet, I know I'll be ordering at Streat.
Plantation Coffee caters to a sophisticated coffee drinker; it was one of my go-to places, before I discovered Milky Joe's. There are two Plantation shops in this area – one in Melbourne Central on the second floor, and one on the lane from Swanston Street into QV food court.
I have local friends who will only drink at Plantation, however it has never resonated with me – I'm not entirely sure why. I think it's the cup-size. I am all about value for money, and even though I've enjoyed the coffee here, I'm disappointed by the sizes (and the corresponding prices).
Plantation coffee has a chocolatey crema, which is nice, but they serve it extremely hot, and it is more acidic than I like. If that's your taste however, they have a nice shop as part of the Melbourne Central location, where you can get your goodies.
No need to worry. Milky Joes is still doing a busy trade.
I felt like a cheater when I tried Earl Canteen coffee, but I had to, in the spirit of research. That, and they had a half price introductory offer. The baristas at MJ understood – they asked what the Earl coffee was like. My report: quite good. A strong bean, which is not to my taste, but it had a nice caramel flavour. Size-wise it was decent, but not as big as Milky Joe's and Streat, whose large cups have ruined me for everywhere else now.
There are dozens of coffee places around Melbourne Central and QV, and I've tried almost all of them (I say almost only because one might have opened up last week that I haven't spotted yet). I hope you can benefit from my research, and that your next coffee experience around the area will be a fantastic one.