Market Lane Coffee

Shine A Light

Words by Jerome Lebel-Jones
Pictures by Guy Lavoipierre

What drives people is something that fascinates me. What drives Rupert Murdoch, at the age of 79, to maintain his epic workload, when most of us would prefer a cup of herbal tea and a lie down? I doubt very much it’s the money, though being able to bathe in rhinoceros milk each night must be nice. That said, by the looks of Rupert Murdoch’s skin, rhinoceros milk’s moisturising properties have been somewhat overstated.

Talking to Fleur Studd about Market Lane, I came away with the feeling that she is driven by a desire not to have to compromise. The fact that she sacrificed her career in marketing so that she could pursue her interest in speciality coffee speaks volumes. As does the fact that she and Jason Scheltus, Market Lane’s Director of Coffee, control everything from sourcing the coffee, the roasting, to serving it in their purpose built space. Having frequented Market Lane for the last six months, I can say that their refusal to compromise has been well worthwhile.

Not wanting to compromise. I understand the feeling. Like Fleur, having worked in marketing the majority of my life I’ve had enough of compromising. Everything. All the time. It’s an exciting feeling when you know you’re doing something that hasn’t been dumbed down, something that is as good as you can make it, rather than that apologetic feeling you get when you put something forward that isn’t what it could be.

A refusal to compromise, however, is not where the story ends. Let’s face it, plenty of the cafes that are already on this site have taken an uncompromising approach to setting up their businesses. That’s precisely why Nolan at Proud Mary has a six group Synesso and why Kate and Marwin at Monk Bodhi Dharma don’t serve meat or eggs.

So why does Market Lane stand out from the crowd? The answer lies in Fleur and Jason’s decision to make individual farms, estates and cooperatives the hero, rather than relegate them to being anonymous producers. They believe that where coffee is grown and how it is treated, contributes enormously to what appears in the cup. In addition to the variety, they want to know things like whether it was wet or dry processed and how it was dried. It wasn’t that long ago that people were only making the distinction between arabica and robusta beans.

Not only do Fleur and Jason want to know this esoterica, they want to share it with you. They have quite a few really nice ways of doing it too. Like the little card that accompanies your coffee and tells you a story about where it came from, who grew it and some details about the region and farm. They also offer Coffee Tasting Flights which allow you to compare three single estate coffees, which incidentally are beautifully presented in little Bison jugs. If you wanted to up the ante, they run free, daily cuppings that anyone can attend, where you taste and compare up to six different coffees. We’ve posted some photos from a recent cupping we attended.Trust me, you’ll walk away educated and very alert.

Yes the focus here is squarely on the coffee, but they haven’t neglected the other bits that count. Unlike the cafe in the city’s legal precinct I visited earlier this week. The coffee was sensational; certainly on a par with the best in Melbourne. The experience, however, was nothing short of terrible. Inattentive service, a barista that was more interested in entertaining himself and his co-workers. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. No such issues at Market Lane. Just great coffee and an enjoyable experience.

Words by Jerome Lebel-Jones
Pictures by Guy Lavoipierre
Originally published 15 June, 2010
Market Lane Coffee 
Shop 13, Prahran Market
163 Commercial Road
South Yarra, Victoria 3141
T. 03 9804 7434

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