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Published June 2nd 2014
It is not difficult to find a cup of coffee in Bourke Street Mall. There are plenty of cafes in the department stores and laneways immediately adjoining the pedestrian mall that serve up an average brew for $3.50 to $4 if you're not fuss. If you're like me and pampered by the specialty coffee shops and bars dotting Melbourne CBD, then it can be vexing. Fortunately the decision between an average cup and a great brew can be easily addressed at Sensory Lab, located in David Jones.
This coffee "lab" takes the dark brew seriously. Well as seriously as you can without dampening all the joy of drinking coffee. There is a display of hardware needed to concoct the perfect brew and sensory tests with tasting notes. Most importantly, every staff member I've interrogated know their house blends from their single origins, and the best ways to enjoy the beans. This is definitely a go-to place for addicts of premium quality caffeine shots that excite the senses. There is a walk-by window if you need to take a cup of addiction away with you.
I've tasted the evolution of coffee in Sensory Lab over the years with blends like 'Champion' to the 'Kenya Mutheka F.C.S.' single origin. While I don't enjoy every type of coffee bean, its about drawing out optimal flavours, roasting recipes and freshness of the beans. Its also about skilled baristas who take pride in transforming the gourmet beans into a delicious cup of rich and dark brew, topped with a meticulously crafted rosetta.
My favourites include the Colombia San Agustin single origin which has a balanced sweetness with black cherry overtones and the Brazil Forquilha do Rio single origin with a smooth, creamy and rich dark chocolate finish.
The staff is as urban trendy as the decor, and service is usually friendly and polite. Although I've found the occasional sulky face because of a good hair day. Coffees arrive promptly without extended waiting time and are perfect 8 out of 10 times. The best thing is you're charged the same amount of money for a great brew at Sensory Lab as the mediocre ones available nearby. The house blend of comfy spaces, knowledgeable staff, good service and well-craft coffees makes this the best value-for-money specialty coffeeshop in Bourke Street Mall for now.