Located in the midst of a business hub and residential area, CafeGaia is a haven in South Yarra for coffee-loving families and corporate execs. Open seven days a week, it offers specialty coffee blends and a wide variety of brewing methods.
For many in the area, the cafe is at the heart of their daily routine, and to say that owner Nick Cocker knows how important coffee can be would be a clear understatement. Nick got his start in the hospitality industry at a young age, and, after completing a chef apprenticeship, he spent years cooking in kitchens everywhere from hatted fine-dining restaurants to cafés and bars. It was pleasant enough, but cooking didn’t give him what he needed. “I had never found something I was really passionate about,” he says, something that I would consider doing long-term.”
In 2008, Nick took ownership of CafeGaia, and the decision to do so has since seemed fated. “Gaia has been a huge learning experience for me,” he said. “I’ve always loved coffee, who doesn’t? I feel like you’re constantly learning with coffee because there’s so much to immerse yourself in.” From exploring new single origins to testing out new brewing methods, Nick has found his home within the world of specialty coffee. Further, it’s his excitement paired with his culinary background that makes CafeGaia special.
Behind the machine head baristas Evi Meisa and Kieran Maguire serve coffees by Proud Mary and other local roasters. It features Proud Maryås Exploding Heart blend for milk-based coffees and Ghost rider blend for those who prefer their coffee black. Exploding Heart has light fruit and honey aromas, a creamy mouth feel, and caramel on the finish, and these characteristics are still prominent with milk. Ghost rider, on the other hand, is a seasonal blend that will especially appeal to those with sweeter palates, its big creamy body with sweet spice and plummy flavours produce an excellent long black or espresso.
CafeGaia likes to keep things creative when it comes to brewing coffee. “We offer different styles of coffee,” he said, “from filter and batch brew to cold brew and drip.”
On the breakfast and lunch menus, you’ll find innovative options, too. For breakfast, try the Egyptian Eggs, a dish of poached eggs with beetroot relish, house-smoked salmon, avocado, and dukkah. For lunch, there’s Spiced Lamb, with sweet potato, quinoa, mint, parsley, smoked almonds, currants, and harissa yoghurt. But don’t worry, all you traditionalists: More familiar items are available.
With specialty coffees, a diverse selection of brewing methods, and exotic food options, you might think that this little café takes itself a bit seriously. Fortunately, it’s as laid back as can be: It has a friendly vibe, and the staff knows many of its customers by name.
“We love that we are well known as a friendly local café,” said Nick. “Some customers refer to it as their second home or office; in fact, many of our customers have become a lot like family to us, so we really value their presence.”
At CafeGaia, you can get all the perks of a small café experience. At the same time, It’s nice to know that you’ll keep up with the latest alternative brewing methods popping up in Melbourne, too.