Merlo is Brisbane's most popular coffee brand and is found in coffee shops across the region. Merlo has brought more than just good coffee to Queensland, they actually brought coffee culture here. To celebrate 20 years of roasting coffee in Brisbane they have returned to where it all started, and opened a coffee shop in Fortitude Valley.
Merlo brought in Queensland's first espresso machine along with their own coffee roaster, which can be seen at the Fortitude Valley Cafe. There was much more to it that just convincing Queenslanders' to drink great coffee, they also had to fight government regulation to introduce Italian style sidewalk dining. Next time you are enjoying a coffee or a meal al fresco, you know who to thank.
At the official launch of the new coffee shop on the corner of James and McLachlan Streets in the valley I was able to learn some more of the stories behind Merlo. They innovated to put coffee shops on the ground floor of office buildings, something today we wouldn't know how to live without. I also talked to Alan, a long-time coffee drinker, who remembered 20 years ago swimming at the Valley pool while being teased by the smell of Merlo coffee drifting out over the waters.
The new coffee shop is a combination trattoria (Italian for coffee shop), training centre, museum, art gallery and showpiece for Merlo. The walls of the cafe are decorated with a range of coffee memorabilia and they have their coffee roasting machine out in the open for you to see and smell the beans being roasted.
They even have espresso machines for sale. Many people are losing the art of coffee making as those automatic coffee machines take over, but there is still a lot of interest in the art of coffee making.
For Merlo in the end it is all about the bean and great traditional coffee. They are less interested in competing against places like Starbucks that hide the coffee aroma under cream and flavours. Merlo, for many people I have talked to, is where you go for a great cup of coffee.