The Age

Northern obsession

Author: Mary O'Brien
Date: 22/02/2011
Words: 856
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: Epicure
Page: 18
Beechworth blends an international brew, writes Mary O'Brien.

BEECHWORTH locals are very serious about their coffee. If you stand in the centre of town at the GPO roundabout, you can see 21 cafes where you could have a lazy latte. Competition is intense and an impressive range of places offer good-quality coffee.

The town has developed a well-deserved reputation for fine food, with two-hatted restaurants in The Age Good Food Guide 2011 and several other entrants. With the emergence of top-end winemakers in the area, locals began to demand good coffee to accompany their food and wine.

"People are very coffee-savvy now and do appreciate a well-made, well-selected and well-roasted coffee," says Michael Ryan, chef and owner of Provenance restaurant. He offers an organic Allpress arabica blend from East Timor, Peru and Papua New Guinea.

Cirko V winemaker Kristy Taylor attributes Beechworth's coffee obsession to the arrival of Luigi Cipolato, who started Gigi's in the 1990s. He came from Brunetti in Carlton and was obsessive about coffee, food and wine.

She says Beechworth's coffee and food reputation really took off in 2004 with the opening of Wardens Food & Wine. Former Melbourne restaurateurs Rocco Esposito and Lisa Pidutti raised the bar for other eateries.

"It's hard when you are a local to split your loyalties," Taylor says. "You think, 'I haven't had a coffee up there for a while'. We're very lucky to have a town that has such a high-quality offering of food, wine and coffee."

Larder

There was great excitement in September when Larder started to order its coffee from Melbourne roaster St. ALi. Owner Gina Bladon uses the Chompy blend, a mix of Sumatran (Blue Batak Estate), Brazilian (Delarisse and Ipanema estates) and Columbian (Curazao Estate) beans. It's big-bodied with bold chocolatey notes, low acidity and a dark chocolate finish, Bladon says.

She says the locals love a coffee with her signature cake, castagnaccio, a traditional northern Italian treat made from chestnut flour, raisins, pine nuts and rosemary.

14A Camp Street, Beechworth, 5728 2299.

Beechworth Provender

Provender's Divina blend is a big coffee. It can be a syrupy short black, a perfectly balanced long black with soft floral overtones, or a deep and well-rounded milk-based coffee brewed to perfection. Owners Martin and Sue Thomas use Grata Espresso's Divina blend roasted by Custom Coffees in Bendigo.

Divina's arabica beans come from Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Uganda. These produce a rich, full-bodied coffee with fruity-chocolate characteristics and a velvety texture.

Don't miss Provender's organic sourdough muffins (warmed on a cold day), panforte, figs in dark chocolate, Catanies or flourless chocolate cake to accompany your coffee.

18 Camp Street, Beechworth, 5728 2650

Gigi's of Beechworth

The locals know they can grab a good coffee here at any time of the day and the outdoor tables are always in demand. Gigi's was the first place to serve serious coffee in Beechworth under original owner Luigi (Gigi) Cipolato. In 2007, Allan Parker bought the place and gave it a new lease of life.

Parker roasts his own coffee from a blend of five types of arabica beans to achieve a sweet chocolate flavour. The beans are left to rest for four days after roasting to release the essential oils. Muffins are the most popular with a coffee in the morning, the owner says. There's also a good wine list and often interesting foraged food on the menu.

69 Ford Street, Beechworth, 5728 2575

Wardens Food & Wine

Another great haunt is Wardens Food & Wine, housed in the old Wardens Hotel. Fans of traditional Italian coffee go there for the classic smooth Genovese coffee. New owners Mark and Amanda Petts took over from Rocco Esposito and Lisa Pidutti in December.

Coffee is served in the wine bar. The Petts use Genovese's Super Brazil blend, which has beans from 14 origins. This is also the best place to sample many top-end local wines, which are available by the glass.

32 Ford Street, Beechworth, 5728 1377

Bridge Road Brewers

Hidden behind Tanswell's hotel is Bridge Road Brewers. This is where the young set hangs out and it's also popular with families on Sundays. Owner Ben Kraus gets his coffee supply from Zo'i boutique roasters in nearby Albury.

This means Bridge Road Brewers' coffee from Rob Hiles's roastery is always fresh. Zo'i sources coffees from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua and Fairtrade organic ones from Timor and Ethiopia.

Kraus offers a small range of locally made slices and quality chocolates to go with his coffee. His wife, Maria, makes pretzels, which are very popular.

Old Coach House, Ford Street, Beechworth, 5728 2703

Local knowledge

Locals who recommended the top five:

Michael Ryan, chef and owner of Provenance restaurant; Danny Neate, head chef, Brown Brothers Epicurean Centre; Will Flamsteed, local winemaker and Falls Creek marketing manager; Kristy Taylor, winemaker, Cirko V.

Best of the north-east

Mountain View Hotel, 4 King Valley Road, Whitfield, 5729 8270  Padre coffee (all the way from the Brunswick East roaster).

Brown Brothers Epicurean Centre, Milawa-Bobinawarrah Road, Milawa, 5720 5540  Coffea Coffee handcrafts its Espresso blend (four beans) for Brown Brothers.

Boyntons Feathertop Winery, 6619 Great Alpine Road, Porepunkah, 5756 2356  coffee from artisan roaster Witham's in Hornsby, Sydney.

The Pickled Sisters, Cofields Wines, Distillery Road, Wahgunyah, (02) 6033 2377  Gravity coffee made by much-loved barista of 10 years Kaz Briggs.

 
 
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