A perpetual student with a PhD in history, Dave Henderson had dreamt of opening his own cafe for many years.
His infatuation with coffee began whilst working as a barista to support himself through university and while Dave was trying to get his thesis completed, the coffee industry was exploding in Melbourne. It wasn’t until pushed by his girlfriend Mim Hayes, that they got the ball rolling. Mim also supported her studies in art and design with jobs in cafés and organic foodstores. This is where her love of quality food was kindled – a key element she brings to the Carolina experience.
Having spent considerable time planning their cafe, they opened Carolina on Australia Day 2012, and were inundated with customers from day one. The duo were forced to learn the ins and outs of running a cafe quickly. Dave said, “When you spend the good part of nine years planning and dreaming about the cafe you are going to open, a lot of care and consideration goes into it. But that doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the reality of job at hand. That has to be learnt through experience.”
The venue inhabiting Brunswick East’s stretch of Nicholson Street is quite deceptive. As you enter you will be greeted by sleek booth-style wooden seating juxtaposed by stripped back brick walls. A bench occupying the front window provides a great perspective to watch the world go by, or perhaps a stool at the bar to strike up a conversation with the barista is more your style.
Don’t be fooled by the gold leaf signage ‘Invicta Italian Hand Made Shoes’, which pays homage to the store’s previous home as an old shoe shop. From time to time the team still gets the odd perplexed lady or gentleman rocking up with a bag of shoes in need of repair. But the days of two Italian men churning out beautiful hand-made shoes are gone, although you will find a picture in the cafe’s hallway of the two gentlemen who ran the old shop.
Like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia, the hallway out the back of the café opens up to one of Carolina’s best assets, one of the more beautiful courtyards to be found in Melbourne. Replete with a flourishing garden, plenty of shade, and ample seating, it is an oasis to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Coffee has always been the cafe’s focal point. Originally using Seven Seeds when they first opened, the team now has Industry Beans’ seasonal blend coursing through their grinders. The blend changes on a regular basis and currently consists Mountain Mogiana (Brazil), Kelagur Heights (India), with the last 10% coming from Kichwa Tembo (Kenya). It is blended to create a rich, full-bodied coffee with a long satisfying cocoa finish that has just a hint of spice.
Mim said, “We are a café that is focused on doing great coffee and great food while providing friendly but not overbearing service.” As well as their seasonal espresso blend, Carolina offers a rotating single origin, filter and cold drip coffee.