Hospitality runs in the blood of the Knezevic family.
“I remember working afternoons and nights at my parents’ café while I was doing TAFE and my sister was at college,” says Co-Owner Elissa. “I was studying fashion but there weren’t many opportunities for that career path in Tasmania and the study took the passion out of i. But it didn’t take my passion out of coffee.”
Elissa’s family took over Island Espresso in 1999 and it’s been operating through various members of her family from the past 17 years, including her parents and brother. Now it’s her turn, which she’s been operating with the aid of her sister for the past six years.
“What’s not to love about coffee? I enjoy giving my customers the very first coffee of the day. So many of our regular customers get off morning buses or park their cars looking a little worse for wears until they visit us for a coffee. To see the joy such a simple thing can give them is really self motivating,” Elissa says.
Island Espresso is located just a few blocks off the business district of Hobart or as Elissa describes it the “uptown of Elizabeth Street” for those who relate to Melbourne. It is surrounded by small office blocks, shops and soon to be a 480-university-accommodation block.
The café itself is located in a 1834 building, which was one of the first commercial properties in Hobart.
“It’s got a lovely country cottage feel. We’ve used lots of brick and wood in our design, with vintage features from jars to images, books and music. And outside, my sister’s love of succulents shines through,” Elissa says.
Elissa is in charge of the coffee making on her La Marzocco Linea while sister Marina Knezevic is the baking master.
“We have a great relationship. Our parents raised us with a close sense of family, and now we’re literally as close as we can be working in the same café each day,” she says.
Island Espresso serves locally roasted Zimmah Coffee’s Devil and the Deep blend for milk based coffees. “It is very palatable. It has caramel, nutty, buttery and complexity with a nice acidity,” Elissa says.
Zimmah’s Tattooed Nun blend is also available. “This has fruit acidity, and is strong and punchier, which I love as a long black or espresso,” she says.
Cold drip is served in vintage bottles over ice, with a Mexican Finca Kassandra available at time of print.
Marina is kept busy baking delicious treats in-house daily. Her almond croissants and friands with lemon and rhubarb are popular favourites, as is the Cuban toastie. Breakfast and lunch are served daily.
“Hospitality is hard work. It’s physically and mentally challenging. People expect a lot from us, and so do we,” Elissa says. “In the last five years the cafés in Hobart have tripled. The café culture has grown and the standard has increased all over, which is great for the entire industry here.”