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 24th 2011
Who knew charity could taste so good? These visionaries, that's who: the STREAT team, working tirelessly to transfer your coffee money to where it's most needed. In the grand tradition of Kere Kere and, well, Kere Kere, STREAT is a coffee shop dedicated to helping social problems like youth homelessness and disadvantage. They've got a cart in Melbourne University's North Court, just outside Union House, serving coffee and food for most of the day.
STREAT tries to employ the homeless and underprivileged, providing social support, training and much-needed work experience. From their website, they "ensure holistic care and well-being to trainees"; in other words, they try to treat their employees with respect. And they're here to stay: in the next few years, the number of STREAT carts is expected to grow from two to five. Better them than Starbucks, right?
This charity is all very well, but let's get down to brass tacks. Is STREAT coffee any good? Well, it's certified fair-trade and organic, if you care about that sort of thing. It's also roasted locally at the Abbotsford Convent Bakery. STREAT only use Arabica beans, not Robusta, due to free-trade concerns (but then again, so does Kere Kere, and look how good their coffee is). Your average cup will be smooth and rich – shut your eyes and try to taste the hints of chocolate.
What about the food? STREAT offers several different kinds of sandwich, and while the specific ingredients might change, there'll always be a vegetarian, chicken, pork and beef/lamb sandwich available. As an example, the current vegetarian sandwich is Middle Eastern lemon marinated eggplant with minted labneh and za'atar. Only two of those ingredients are normal (assuming Middle Eastern lemon is similar to just regular lemon), so prepare yourself for exotic flavours. Sandwiches are eight dollars fifty – not cheap, but not bad compared to some of the overpriced food you'll find nearby in Union House. And you'll be contributing to charity at the same time, which has to count for something.
They've only been around for a year or so, too. STREAT was founded by Rebecca Scott and Kate Barelle in 2010 to bring the South-East Asian tradition of theatrical street food and hawkers to Melbourne. The website describes watching the street food being cooked as like "watching a good busker". This might be a bit of wishful thinking, as there's not much showmanship involved in throwing together a sandwich, but STREAT is still young. Who knows – in a few months they might be cooking with blowtorches or making sandwiches flambée.
So should you visit STREAT? At least once, yes. The coffee at Kere Kere is, unsurprisingly, a little better (rumours that the owner is some kind of espresso god remain unconfirmed), but STREAT is more conveniently located and has more variety of food. You could do a lot worse than going there on a regular basis. Also, they have milk-crate seats. Who doesn't love milk-crate seats?