Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published September 12th 2011
In the same way that pets and owners come to resemble each other, the kind of coffee shop and the neighbourhood it's in are often similar. Business districts where people go to get quick takeaway coffee have Starbucks and equivalents. Expensive areas full of professionals have coffee shops that excel at espresso shots and other yuppie-oriented brews. And the best coffee shops tend to cluster around the places where people pride themselves on no-frills, excellent coffee – hipster areas like Smith St and Brunswick St.
Heart in a cup.
Melbourne University has a coffee character all of its own: in general, students are overly judgemental, stressed out, and in desperate need of caffeine, and its cafes cater to those needs by providing excellent, quick coffee. While Lot 6 Cafe might be the most consistently good coffee in Melbourne University, Kere Kere is the best. Whether you're a student or not, it's worth checking out.
Kere Kere is next to the John Medley building, easily accessible from Grattan St. It's a relatively unassuming wooden box set into the side of a wall, with seats scattered around that are little more than blocks of wood with cushions. It's when you place your order that the fun begins – instead of a little piece of paper with your order number on it, you get a large-size playing card, and when your coffee's ready the barista will call out "four of spades!", for instance, instead of your name.
Interesting, right? But there's more: when you collect your coffee, you put the card back into a box with several sections in it, marked 'environmental', 'social', 'cultural' and 'owner'. This determines where the profits from your coffee go to – when a thousand dollars worth of profit builds up for any particular cause, it'll be donated to an organization that fits the description. Recent recipients of this money have been CERES, for environmental causes, Oxfam for social causes and the Malthouse Theatre for cultural causes. The 'owner' category is what it sounds like – putting a card in that category will let the owner, James Murphy, keep the profits from that coffee. Luckily, enough Kere Kere patrons put their cards in that box to keep him in business.
This box makes about $10,000 a year for charity.
James is an all-round great guy. Visit regularly and he'll shout you the occasional free coffee, or if you show up around closing time he might give away the leftover pastries. Moreover, Kere Kere's practice is to employ young people who might not be able to find work otherwise: people from underprivileged backgrounds, for instance. Even if he didn't make the best coffee in Melbourne University – and, arguably, in Melbourne – it'd still be worth giving him your money.
That's James on the right (not current age).
However, in the interests of making this review sound fair and impartial, let's list some criticisms: Kere Kere gets quite crowded at peak times, so expect to be waiting in line for a while. When James is working the machine, the coffee is stellar, but at other times it ranges from good to merely passable – a common practice among students is to walk past Kere Kere and casually see if James is there, and if not, to continue to nearby Lot 6 Cafe.
These criticisms are, on the whole, very minor. While its coffee is sometimes the second-best, Kere Kere is easily the best coffee shop in Melbourne University. It manages to make your latte consumption ethically praiseworthy (which might explain its extreme popularity among Arts students) and be delicious at the same time. It's hard to recommend it highly enough. Suffice to say that if you're anywhere near Melbourne University, take the time to find and enjoy a coffee from Kere Kere. You'll be a regular in no time.