So you think you know Australia or, specifically, country Victoria?
So you think you know Australia or, specifically, country Victoria? Well, I did until last Friday when a group of us boarded the Austrian Coffee Express for, of all places, Castlemaine. Our readers who have travelled to the Golden Triangle of Central Victoria will be familiar with this well-preserved, historic gold-mining town. But today they ‘mine’ another sought-after commodity – coffee.
We were guests of the Austrian National Tourist Office and our express was, in fact, a modern road coach. After approximately one and a half hours journey north-west up the Calder Highway from Melbourne, we were in ‘North Brunswick’ as Castlemaine has become affectionately known since the influx, in recent years, of many inner suburban Melbourne refugees. We alighted in front of the former hospital to be greeted by a youthful band, replete with tuba and a tray of champagne flutes, served by the staff of Coffee Basics in traditional Austrian national dress.
Our hosts, Edmund (Eddy) and Elna, were celebrating the tenth birthday of their boutique coffee house (it’s not just a cafe!) and roastery. They relocated from Melbourne to establish this entrepreneurial business drawing on more than 50 years of Schaerf family tradition in roasting and blending coffee. In the process they’ve created a thriving business, employed and trained a large number of local school leavers and generally infused their new community with their infectious enthusiasm.
We were treated to the best possible slap-up ‘morning tea’ where the greatest danger was that we would not be able to rise from our chairs in the bustling coffee house. Every conceivable type of coffee, all from beans roasted on the premises under the watchful eye of Eddy, was being served accompanied by the positively wicked array of kuchen with which visitors to Vienna will be familiar. Outside, in the warm spring sunshine and clear country air, many other patrons were dining al fresco.
After having consumed the finished product, Eddy, whose knowledge of all things coffee appears encyclopaedic, demonstrated just how the very best arabica beans are roasted, blended and then packaged.
We returned to Melbourne with the warm inner glow infused by our hosts’ hospitality and impressive professionalism, resolving that we must return to Coffee Basics whenever we found ourselves anywhere, even remotely, close to the old hospital in Castlemaine.
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