Maven Espresso a specialty coffee house located in Raine Square. Its exterior is unassuming, it’s located in the middle of the mall and has very little space of anything beyond take away. Were you to walk past Maven you wouldn’t necessarily be able to identify it as different from any other coffee shop in the CBD, and that’s the way they like it. It was the brainchild of Ron and Lyly, coffee aficionados in their own rights (you may remember Ron from the Australian Barista Academy, he has since worked as a specialty roaster for five senses in Melbourne and is now back in Perth).
I was a little hesitant starting this review because although I consider myself a coffee snob, there’s still a big divide between me and the true coffee people, well specialty baristas who live and breathe coffee. Lucky for me the very talented and passionate Callum, a barista at Maven was on hand to run through everything with me.
Maven is a specialty coffee house, and they exist to not only give people good coffee but also to get people interested and talking about coffee. Just like the exterior, the baristas are quite laid back, and not preachy or prone to lecturing people about coffee. If you’re interested fantastic, they’ll be happy to give you more info about the beans or have a chat over the coffee machine but they won’t tell you the way you like your coffee is wrong or try and educate you on the right way. They just want to make coffee you enjoy (if they can) and I think for a lot of people the lack of pretension makes this coffee house more accessible and the coffee more enjoyable. You can certainly see all sorts there getting their coffee fix.
So now we’ve moved back to coffee, we need to consider what specialty coffee actually is. This isn’t an easy thing to answer but I’m going to try and give you my understanding. There are two parts to speciality coffee, the first is the coffee itself. It has to be of a standard considered capable of specialty coffee. This is layman’s terms is a score of 81/100 or more in a tasting session, or ‘cupping’. This tests for defects, and only those beans of the highest quality can be considered ‘specialty’, if you want to know more about this process you can do so here.
The more difficult question is what is the specialty coffee industry, or put another way – what makes Maven Espresso a specialty coffee house? Well there’s a number of factors to consider. The first is that they deliver speciality coffee to their consumers. This doesn’t just mean they stock the specialty beans, but also that they have highlighted something in the beans they use which they subjectively enjoy, and through the process of making coffee they work to refine and enhance those features to come to a ‘good’ coffee. This goes all the way back to the beginning of the process, including supporting a farmer/s in a certain area to grow the crop in a certain way, pick it in the correct way and then follow through with good drying and roasting. The nature of specialty coffee seeks to emphasise the entire process needed to get the cup of coffee you have in front of you to the best it can be. In this way it really highlights the role of the farmer, and where the beans came from, not just the finishing touches when it gets to the barista at the very end.
Next is the fact that the coffee and skills of the baristas at Maven are progressive, they are seeking to constantly develop and enhance what they can do. A good example is their use of Code Black seasonal blends (more on that in a moment) which change from season to season and require new exploration of how best to treat those beans. The conditions in which coffee is made are not static, they change from day to day, barista to barista. Specialty coffee houses like Maven know how to adapt and still deliver a brilliant cup of coffee. There’s a lot more that can be said on the topic of specialty coffee, but I’ll leave it to Callum if you’re interested in finding out more.
Maven previously used five senses beans but have now moved to Code Black. There are only two other coffee joints using Code Black in WA and Maven are the distributors for WA. So if you want some Code Black deliciousness after reading this review Maven will be the only place you can find that will let you take it home with you. Code Black Roastery is based in Melbourne and offer a unique mix of single origin and signature blends, you know they’re good when they entered the Golden Bean Roasting competition for the first time earlier this year and their Seasonal Blend came out on top for the espresso category. Needless to say I was pretty excited to try it out.
Maven Espresso offer a large number of ways for you to enjoy your coffee, be it black, white, cold or hot. Most people would go for a milky coffee, so it’s a good place to start the review. Maven’s current house blend is made up of 50% Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and 50% Costa Rican Terrazu. This is a brighter, less heavy blend then most people are used to. I really enjoyed how it complimented the creaminess of my latte, and it’s a refreshing change from the heavier blends I’ve been used to.
They also offer filter coffee, which I was lucky enough to try both beans on offer in. These beans tend to be roasted for a shorter amount of time, and are different to what would be used in an espresso shot. The equipment to make filter coffee is pretty cool. it’s very much in line with the notion that making coffee is a science. The beaker and paper filter are first rinsed and let to sit with hot water until the beaker is warmed up. Then the ground coffee beans are placed in the cone of the filter and water is slowly and precisely added. The coffee is then left to cool down to around 55 degrees after which point you can sip away!
The Kenyan bean was smaller in size then the larger Guatemalan bean and was much more fruity. It reminded me of tea to an extent, it was much less bitter then a normal coffee and a touch sweeter, increasingly so as it cooled. I really enjoyed the brightness of the coffee, and found the black coffee quite enjoyable, which as a staunch milk coffee drinker was surprising even to me. The larger Guatemalan bean had a more citrus-y flavour and had more of a sour note to it. I preferred the Kenyan filter coffee, but would happily savour either of them for a good morning brew.
I was also lucky enough to try the cold brew coffee on offer, also using the Guatemalan beans. As some of you may be aware, I tried it previously at Gordon Street Garage and found it a little overwhelming. This time was different. Funnily enough the last cold drip I had reminded me of tequila, while this one was prepared much like a cocktail. The already brewed cold drip was shaken with ice and sparkling water and served in a tumbler glass. It’s a wonderful ceremony that goes hand in hand with one of the reasons I so love coffee. It’s a ritual, the ceremony of that perfect coffee, hot or cold, my morning doesn’t start till it has been undertaken, and it’s fantastic to know I share this ceremony with so many bleary eyed others. The cold drip itself was fantastic, I loved the sparkling water with it, it lessened the intensity that I found a bit much previously and allowed me to actually enjoy the enhanced flavour.
The cold drip is the coffee used at Maven when making iced coffee. Most places will offer an espresso pour over ice, and then sweeten it to mask the very bitter and almost sour flavour of the espresso (I got a demonstration of what this tastes like for myself and gosh it’s terrible! It even smelt sour!). I now understand why they offer the cold drip, and armed with new knowledge I doubt I will go anywhere else for an iced coffee!
Maven don’t stock much in the way of food, but they do have a selection of croissants and the most darling cupcakes I have seen in a long time. Somewhat greedily (but very much in the spirit of food blogging) I sampled a few small cupcakes so I could get as wide an experience as possible. They are just so beautifully presented, it felt a shame to eat them. I could see them being a lovely addition to any morning tea or a cute birthday gift for a co-worker. It’s a shame they don’t use cream cheese on their red velvet, but other then that the cupcakes are nice and fluffy and the flavours are interesting.
For me there a a bunch of things to love about Maven Espresso. They make fantastic coffee, without pretension and are absolutely committed to what they do. During the peak busy period they manage to get coffees out in three minutes, making them one of the fastest, and highest volume espresso bars in the CBD.
If you are looking for more information on coffee and the specialty coffee industry check out Callums new blog.
If you’ve been to Maven what did you think?
What’s your pick for best coffee in Perth?