Inspired by German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Mies Coffee Bar is seated in an otherwise coffee-desolate strip of Spotswood. Inside, guests find a seminal piece of the architect's, a bench in the shape of the Farnsworth House, showcasing his modernist design. Owner Paul Newcomen is a big fan of Mies' - in fact, he wrote a thesis on him - and, through the Mies Coffee Bar, he's found a way to pair this appreciation with his other passion, specialty coffee.
“Coffee is both a need and a want,” says Paul, who also serves as the café’s head barista. Overseeing all coffee operations, Paul has made sure that the Mies café participates in the suspended coffee movement. The basis of the movement is very simple: Coffee lovers can purchase an extra coffee and the café will give it to someone in need. The tradition began in the working-class cafes of Naples, where someone who had experienced good luck would order a sospeso, paying the price of two coffees but only drinking one.
Mies Coffee Bar is moments from Spotswood train station, and it hums to the ebb and flow of commuters making their way to and from the suburb. The café serves its quality espresso alongside pastries and New York-style bagels. With a focus on constantly perfecting its brewing techniques, it not only pulls shot after shot of espresso but also offers the syphon brewing method and the pour over method using a V60.
The Mies team feature beans from multiple roasteries including Sensory Lab/St Ali in South Melbourne and this gives the café access to coffees from all over the world. Paul’s initial interest in coffee came from a love of its various regional tastes, and, when sourcing new coffees, he focuses on South and Central America primarily. In particular, Mexican, Costa Rican, Brazilian, or Colombian beans feature heavily in the coffee offerings at the café, because they typically provide the bright and fruity overtones, as well as light chocolate undertones, that his regulars want.
For instance, the seasonal house blend from St Ali aims to provide two types of characteristics. Firstly, a base level of flavours that anyone can enjoy, particularly customers who like to add milk to their coffee, which is the majority of most café’s clientele. Secondly, this regularly updated blend offers drinkers an upper level of unique flavours. This provides savvy coffee drinkers with the more complex aspects they may be looking for.
“Now that I’ve been extensively involved with specialty coffee for a while,” says Paul, “what I’m finding keeps my interest in this industry is that it is continually evolving, and that ensures all of us are constantly on our game.”
Mies Coffee Bar serves as an unpretentious venue, and the baristas are always happy to share their knowledge with those who are interested. Paul would one day like for everyone who walks through the doors to be curious about where their coffee comes from and the particulars of how he prepares it, but he dismisses the holier-than-thou attitude that can be found in the specialty coffee industry. “If our customers have questions, we answer them with a smile and without prejudice,” he says. “We always insist specialty coffee is not elitist, and we encourage all our customers to embrace it by making it widely palatable and affordable.”