Seven Seeds

114 Berkeley St
Carlton, VIC 3053
03 9347 8664
www.sevenseeds.com.au

Seven Seeds
Beauty in a cup
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Melbourne has really bred my love for coffee. Like cousin trouble and geek hubby would say, unlike other cities, the coffees you can get in Melbourne are almost “uniformly good”. Three years in, I’ve grown so spoilt by good coffees here that it’s actually quite hard to please me now.
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It’s such a stark contrast to my kopitiam-loving self back in Singapore. Back then, I’d grab a kopi-peng (iced local coffee), chock full of condensed milk and rich burnt coffee, and slurp it to my heart’s content. And I think there is something to be loved about both styles of coffee. I love a good kopi as much as I love that flat white with a perfect rossetta on top.
Seven Seeds
Seven Seeds’ shop frontage in October last year
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This post has been a long time coming. I’d actually brunched here last year with Willem. The coffee was sooo good that I had no guts to write it up because I couldn’t describe what I’d tasted. Haha… silly, right? That first visit should be marked in stone. I still remember that inaugural cup… ooooh such smooth, lingering notes that carried so well with the rich milk that my eyes were squeezed shut with delight as wave after wave of flavours kept coming to me even long after I’d taken my initial sip…

Seven Seeds
Let’s fast forward to the present, this is how the shop front looks like now…
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Seven Seeds was opened by Mark Dundon and Bridget Amor after they sold wildly popular St Ali in the winter of 2008. Tucked into an unfrequented corner of Carlton, the new warehouse space is not just a café. It’s also a roastery and ultracool-yet-maniacal research laboratory for the love of the bean. I’ve read that the café was named after the seven seeds that the monk (Brother Baba Budan) smuggled out of Yemen to bring coffee to the world.
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Mark loves to experiment with beans and the setup at Seven Seeds allowed for exactly that. You could call him a coffee sage rather than a barista. He’s also been called ‘the father of third wave coffee’. The first and second waves revolved around big and commercial names like Genovese, Rio, Grinders and Illy. With third wave coffee, we are going into specialty coffees with single origins, where beans are sourced from a single farm rather than a single country. New roasting techniques are played around with, and we’re now seeing an increase in small batch coffees and micro roasters.  This is the direction we’re headed now. It’s been said that while Mark doesn’t work behind the espresso machine much, his coffee blends can be called true creations each time he shapes one.
Seven Seeds
 My second visit happened in mid-winter this year. I’d just finished work on a Saturday afternoon. As I walked in, the place was packed. Took a seat by the window and started with a flat white while I waited for Swells.
Seven Seeds
Service is prompt, the coffees arrive swiftly. And the waiters are of the hipster variety, with skinny jeans and a relaxed friendly approach. Although, I can still sense a slight aloofness about them.
Seven Seeds
To the right of that glass wall, I believe sits their roasting house, coffee lab and grinding station. There are actual live coffee plants in the sunlit atrium. I wonder if they hold coffee tasting courses here… would be so lovely to learn more!
Seven Seeds
It’s been nearly a year since I’ve had that mind-blowing cup of coffee here, I was a little trembly to be faced with a 7seeds flat white again. This time with many more guided cups of coffee behind me, some knowledge of the coffee industry, and a marginally better taste vocabulary.
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With regards to each café’s house blends, I’m sure all blends evolve over time and it won’t ever be the same as last season’s. They’d probably even be mutable from week to week! That’s the nature of coffee, it all depends on where it’s sourced. The rainfall, soil, sun and growing conditions that, because of the beauty of nature, are never the same from day to day, and year to year. And it takes a skilled barista to create a blend that fuses all the best elements of its component beans, roasting them at the correct amount of time and temperatures, to mould a house blend that goes well with and without milk. And as the barista’s mind grows, so do the blends that they create.
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I picked the cup up and put its edge to my mouth… on first sip, my coffee tasted oddly light yet tasty… with notes of milk chocolate, especially when I added in a teaspoon of raw sugar. Swells had the same drink, he just found it milky and wasn’t too impressed. I thought it’s a very drinkable house blend that goes well with milk, leaving a nice aftertaste. But it was nowhere as wonderful as last year’s cup.
Seven Seeds
During weekdays, the crowd seems to revolve around law students and hipsters who, I quote Willem, “are not quite hip enough to know about Auction Rooms”. Lol. On weekends, the mix probably gets more varied.
Seven Seeds
Roasted field mushrooms, basil pesto, poached FR egg + turkish bread $13.5
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Like Axil in Hawthorn, this place is probably all about the specialty coffees. But it’s always a bonus if the food menu is good as well, right? Swells found his brunch interesting. He liked the pesto and found the mushrooms lovely, except some of them had something chewy and gritty inside.
Seven Seeds
Crushed pea, mint + spring onion FR egg omelette, whipped feta, beetroot jam, hot pressed sourdough sandwich $11.5
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My brunch choice was refreshing to say the least. The feta tasted almost like yoghurt, with hints of lemon zest. There was no salt, just the ingredients was good enough to make things tasty. Swells had a taste and liked it, but I personally found my omelette on the dry side.
Seven Seeds
Seven Seeds
Magic $3.50
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It has been rumoured that the first cup of magic was born here, in Berkeley St. And it was all happenstance, the drink was discovered during a barista’s efforts to make soy milk workable with lightly roasted specialty coffees. While I don’t have my coffees with soy milk, I still enjoy a magic because it holds less milk than a flat white, and hence has a stronger flavour.
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I was a little puzzled when my magic seemed to have arrived in a normal flat white cup. But already from the colour of the foam cap, you can tell it’s stronger. Quite a lovely drink, really. Swells had a sip and found it too strong. But I liked that… and to me it was strong and yet light at the same time. Maybe it’s because they are using lighter-roasted coffees here. With this cup I could actually detect sweet fruity berry-like hints in my sip. And with two sugars added, there were notes that reminded me of fruit ‘n nut chocolate!
Seven Seeds
Seven Seeds
El Gordo 250g $12
In the tradition of Black Cult and Phat Tony we have devised a blend that, needless to say, is full-bodied and stands up to milk. It’s base is Brazil natural which is thick and sweet with El Salvador pulped natural and Sulawesi Toraja for that fat cream.
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Nothing like buying your coffees direct from the coffee mecca. I kept sniffing this bag like a pervert all the way on my drive home. They actually had quite an extensive menu of blends and single origins that you could buy. But with my mediocre home espresso machine and my super crappy coffee-making skills, I’d say the good ol’ house blend is more than enough. But the guy actually recommended El Gordo because it’s more full-bodied and goes well with milk. I bought my coffee freshly pre-ground by the café because I still don’t own a grinder. Just tell them what machine you’ve got and they will grind it to the correct size.
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Unfortunately, my machine churned and groaned and could only spit out a few drops of espresso with this bag of coffee. Still troubleshooting the problem… is my portafilter clogged, or is the grind too fine?  Very sad! Methinks it’s time to buy myself a grinder.
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These days, many cafés across the city like APTE, Von Haus and The Premises are using beans from 7seeds. This could be a testament to how reliably good the beans are? When I have my first sip from such a café, it is like visiting an old friend, but made by different hands. Some good, some bad. How about you? Are you a fan of 7seeds coffee?
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You may also want to check out Mark Dundon’s other coffee ventures: De Clieu and Brother Baba Budan.
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Seven Seeds