“I didn’t know Lichfield until I came to Melbourne,” said one of the regular customers at Melbourne in Lichfield on Saturday morning. The coffee is impressive at Melbourne in Lichfield, a small speciality coffee shop tucked away down an alley — laneway in Melbourne lingo — in the titular south Staffordshire town. But it was the sense of community that Melbournite owner Deb Pease has created around her Bolt Court bolt hole that impressed me even more. Even on a cold, rainy winter’s morning, regular customers were queuing up outside the kiosk for the coffee, cruffins and conversation, served up in equal measures.
My family comes from the Black Country town of Walsall, and although we used to drive the ten miles northeast to Lichfield quite often when visiting our relatives, it has been several years since my last trip to the small cathedral city. As such, I wasn’t expecting to find any speciality coffee and had brought my Aeropress with me on my visit last weekend, but a quick Google search soon brought up Melbourne in Lichfield, which happened to be a two-minute walk from our hotel. Between the five of us in our family, we got through about 15 hot drinks in two days — a sign of how much we liked the place.
Melbourne in Lichfield is located about halfway along an alley that runs from bustling Market Street to the Bird Street car park in Lichfield town centre. The diminutive space is more of a large kiosk than a cafe, but there are a few stools (replete with blankets, as we’re not really in Melbourne anymore, Toto) underneath the overhang where you can perch to enjoy your coffee and chat with Deb and the other friendly baristas. There is Melbourne-laneway-inspired graffiti art on the walls, and reusable cups for sale in Melbourne in Lichfield’s distinctive black and yellow colours. They have also worked with local businesses to try to encourage people to use reusable cups wherever possible (the Union-branded takeaway cups are also compostable).
The house espresso — and Deb’s favourite (it even says so on the hopper) — is Union’s Rwandan Maraba, which I enjoyed as a piccolo and as a V60 pourover. The bright, fruity coffee had lovely redcurrant notes that came through both in the espresso-based drink and the filter coffee. It’s a really drinkable coffee and I can see why it has proved so popular. V60 and Aeropress aren’t technically on the menu, but if you are in the mood for a filter coffee, the team are happy to brew one up for you.
During my visit, the guest espresso was a DR Congo Idjwi Island coffee from Wiltshire-based roasters Girls Who Grind. Described variously by Deb as “fierce AF” and “the boldest coffee I’ve ever tried,” the coffee had particularly delicious marmalade notes when I tasted it as an espresso. It was nice too with milk, although perhaps slightly less fierce.
I don’t normally go for non-coffee lattes but Deb made me a shot of their turmeric latte, which surprised me pleasantly with its smooth but spicy, gingery flavours. But if you want a more decadent treat, don’t leave without trying one of the cruffins (croissant muffins). The chocolate button and salted caramel one I tried was delicious, and my sister-in-law was a big fan of the lemon curd flavour.
More exciting still, a second, larger Melbourne in Lichfield location will soon be opening on Bird Street. This one will have indoor seating and a brew bar and Deb hopes it will become another community hub. One of the best things about the job, she says, has been surprising local customers with a really good cup of coffee. And better still, the customers want to know why the coffee tastes so different — and so much better — than coffee they have drunk in the past. It’s this sense of inclusivity and the complete lack of coffee snob-ism that makes Melbourne in Lichfield such a special place. I can’t wait to go back and to visit the brew bar when it opens — I might even try to bring my pony!