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 21st 2011
Seven Seeds is a Melbourne coffee icon. Up there with such first-rank places as St Ali and Brother Baba Budan, Seven Seeds offers consistently good coffee in a spacious and relaxed atmosphere. Living in Melbourne can easily raise one's latte standards, and indeed it's not uncommon to hear people complaining about quite excellent cups of coffee – "the milk is half a degree too warm, and the caramel notes are frankly derivative," and so on. Seven Seeds is almost guaranteed to satisfy the most spoiled coffee-drinker.
There's no getting away from it: the atmosphere is very hipster-ish. An entire wall is taken up by fixies on racks (which one could charitably suppose belong to the staff), and surrounded by glass walls in the middle of the cafe is what could only be called a coffee laboratory. Yes, the waiters have skinny jeans and blocky glasses, but the service is prompt and polite. After you try a couple of the coffees, you might even learn to love the decor.
The Seven Seeds house blend is interesting and distinctive. The best way to describe it is as a faint burnt-toast taste – in a good way. It's a strong taste, not weak and milky like a lot of other coffees, but at the same time not bitter. If you want, you could probably call it a chocolate or caramel flavour. While it's not quite as accurate, it sounds nicer and you'll probably convince more friends to come along that way.
That's assuming, of course, that your friends don't already know about Seven Seeds, which is unlikely. Seven Seeds is the worst-kept secret in Carlton, and is usually full of hipsters and law students. Unless you're clever about when you go (early in the morning works, as does halfway between breakfast and lunchtime), you might be forced to grab a takeaway. It's not the end of the world if you are – The University Square lawn is a very short walk away and is a great place to sit and sip.
More experienced coffee drinkers will want to try the Clover coffee. It's almost painfully strong and comes in a jar with a disturbingly large cork in the top. The Clover machine is sort of like an automated French press with a vacuum system to separate the liquid from the coffee grounds. While the company is owned by Starbucks, it's actually very nice (and if Seven Seeds have a Clover machine, it can't be that bad.)
The food is an added bonus, ranging from hearty meals to little snacks. Try the grilled pumpkin, ricotta, spinach and candied spicy walnuts pressed sandwich on wholegrain bread: it's about as delicious as it sounds. The bircher muesli is a great breakfast choice, and there are assorted pastries available for under four dollars each.
Finding criticisms of Seven Seeds is difficult. It's founded by the same guys who ran St Ali, and they've clearly had a lot of practice ironing out the wrinkles. If you don't like coffee – perhaps you're a visitor from Sydney – you can give Seven Seeds a miss without losing sleep. For everyone else, though, this is one of the cafes you have to visit at least once.