Black Dog Cafe, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

There’s a lot of places to get coffee in Tunbridge Wells but not as many as in Melbourne

I was lost in my own city when the saying follow your nose took on such a profound relevance to my situation. Looking for one of Melbourne’s coffee institutions I came unstuck when suddenly a waft of roasting coffee almost knocked me for six. It was beautiful and like the mice following the pied piper I was lead to Yarra Place, a lane of workshops, and into St Ali, unassuming from the outside but a caffeine mecca inside. This was part of a week home in Melbourne, and lots of sun, swimming, beer and coffee. Australia sits at number 47 of coffee consuming nations but it is the cafe’ culture that is as alive as anywhere in the world and St Ali epitomises this national love of sitting in cafe’s and drinking coffee.

 St Ali in South Melbourne is bare in design, the focus is very much on the coffee and I found it inspiring to see how through great coffee people could come together in big numbers, different sectors of the community, there for work, for social , for a few minutes of space, or purely a caffeine hit. But you could feel the vibrancy, like you were somewhere important, a unity of mind and soul, yet this was a warehouse turned into a cafe’, and it was the religious nature of coffee that was bringing it all together. It was a joy and I did linger for quite some time, the coffee was exceptional, whether it be a Flat White, espresso or a long black.

 I frequented many cafes in my week, for the most part the coffee was great, some were roasting their own but the number of roasters seemed vast compared to my last time in Melbourne. Lily and Lavazza seemed like an older era that had now been surpassed by local high grade speciality roasters, and everyone has embraced it. And ultimately what I loved about my time was how no matter where in the city you were, this cafe culture was a very dominant part of people’s day to day life and it was exciting. Each establishment different but they all reverberate with the hum of chatter, the clanging of cups and saucers, the sizzle of the kitchen, the steaming of velvety milk and the beat and rhythm of music.

It is very much a way of life in certain parts of London, in fact I think the scene in London is as good as the offering in Melbourne as far as the quality of roasts produced and the expertise of the baristas. Maybe this cafe’ culture won’t spread but what I see is an opportunity. Cafes offer a space for community to come together, to meet, discuss, laugh, debate. They offer offsite work meeting spaces and chances for members of classes and groups to meet socially. They offer downtime for busy mums, pressured corporates or the self-employed working from home. With the High St in a state of irreversible change cafes offer a space that keeps a vibrancy on the street, an active footfall and a place to be social and maintain our core values.

The latest news from The Black Dog Café