On a Thursday afternoon, Hash Specialty Coffee is pumping with customers. It’s only been open only a few months, but word is spreading fast about the new laneway specialty café. Maybe it’s got to do with all the social media “hashtagging” for #Hashspecialtycoffee, or the simple fact that it serves really great coffee and food.
Hash Owner Ben Luo says he wanted to create a specialty coffee venue where busy city workers didn’t have to wait 30 minutes in long queues for a coffee.
“So many people wait in lines only for the offering to be quite disappointing in the end. I want to provide great food and coffee with quick service so those busy office workers can get back to their jobs,” Ben says. “On the other hand, for those who can afford 30 minutes to take a break from their desk job, we want to be their escape.”
Ben and Co-owners Syed Mirranay and Chen Chen have made the most of their CBD venue, finding clever ways enhance seating numbers, such as a mezzanine level and separated booths that provide privacy and ample floor space to move around.
Ben describes the design as a “cool, industrial warehouse” with black tones and wooden furnishings. This includes a Tasmanian Oak communal table, and the wooden service bench top that has been varnished 11 times to get the desired effect.
Visitors are presented with a menu that features food on one side and an array of single origins coffees on the other.
Zest Specialty Coffee provides a great selection, including a Colombian Las Margaritas for filter and cold drip, and a Kenyan Maganjo for cold brew immersion. The house blend is Zest’s Composition VII, consisting of Kenyan Maganjo and Kieni beans, and an Ethiopian Konga Keeble.
“It’s roasted very, very light, to the point that it can be hard for baristas to control. When we first put all these African beans together they started fighting with each other and the result was flat. We realised that after roasting we had to put the two Kenyan beans in a separate bag to the Ethiopian bean to maintain flavours,” Ben says.
And that’s how the Composition VII blend comes for those who want to try it at home – two 250-gram bags stapled together.
Ben says when looking for a roaster to partner with, he first met Rob McDonald of Zest at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo. He says he tested Rob by asking him to come for a cupping on Good Friday.
“I didn’t think he’d show up on a public holiday, so I didn’t either. Before long Rob was ringing me saying, ‘Where are you?’ That’s when I knew he were serious about what he does, and it’s proved to be a great partnership,” Ben says.
Head Barista Alex Asimakopoulous works the manual white Slayer machine, while Chef Adam Pruckner dishes up a killer menu of treats including foie gras sliders and slow roasted pork belly.
For those with a sweet tooth, a must-try is the Hash hot chocolate that’s served with fairy floss, and a beacon glass of 85 per cent chocolate. Before your very eyes the two combine to form a creamy drink that’s not as sweet as you may think – just delicious.
“We’re a team of really passionate people who enjoy what they do,” Ben says.
As for name Hash, well, that’s open to interpretation. “It’s a social media sign, and for others it can refer to drugs. We’re all addicted to coffee anyway,” Ben says.