October 13, 2011 Nathan

Melbourne Cafe Review: Sensory Lab

The final stop on our caffeine charged Melbourne adventure was Sensory Lab – home of Hario products and a pretty amazing brew bar operation where the coffee scientists can apparently brew a cup to your taste specifications. We didn’t put this to the test. Sadly. As it wasn’t entirely clear how that all worked. There were some cool vials of scent which matched up with traditional tasting note features, so I assume the idea was you selected a few of those and got a little blend made on the spot.

Customer service wasn’t the strong point of this place, the staff were really friendly but they just seemed distracted by life. Or something.

It wasn’t exceptionally busy, but we did get there after what I assume is a lunch time rush for a CBD cafe attached physically to David Jones… Don’t, I repeat, Don’t go down to the food court and mistake the “cafe” there for the sensory lab. I almost did. Because my directions were “the cafe at David Jones”… Sensory Lab is on the non-Mall side of David Jones, and it is literally the entrance to the shop… we ordered coffees on arrival, I had a short black because I wanted to try the single origin, and that’s how it was recommended (it was prepped via a Slayer. I still think the Slayer is a thing of beauty).

The coffees were alright, but not excellent. Robyn didn’t like hers much at all, at first, but it was, to my thinking a nice slightly-bitter dark chocolatey kind of deal, and it was pretty smooth. It is possible that after the approximately 25 shots I’d had over the five day period that I was a little bit palate fatigued.

Sensory Lab is a retail arm for St. Ali coffee. They’ve got a few blends and a rotating batch of seasonal single origins. The customer service let down came when I ordered my second coffee, a flat white, and they appeared to forget about it (they did actually forget about it, I had to remind them) for about 20 minutes. Luckily we were enjoying our little spot in a window alcove watching people on the streets of Melbourne. And this cute little old lady buying some specialty coffee gear. I had to take a sneaky photo so it’s not great…

When it arrived the flat white was actually pretty sensational, it’s possible the piccolo we had in the first round was an anomaly, it’s also possible that the wait heightened my anticipation. Who knows.

I am wondering how much using panella rather than sugar is the mark of a quality cafe…

While we weren’t blown out of the park by Sensory Lab, they do offer what I think is the best coffee web shop in Australia. So their website is worth checking out.


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About the Author

Nathan Nathan is a coffee lover, home roaster, amateur barista and coffee tinkerer. He's married, has two kids, one turtle, and for a day job works for Creek Road Presbyterian Church. He previously worked in PR. This blog is his attempt to make coffee tax deductible.