Interview with Mike Munroe
There’s no doubt that mining is not the only industry that’s booming in WA. The average Joe, will no doubt have noticed that the average cup of joe has improved out of sight. You need look only to the multitude of new cafés, espresso bars and the like to realise good coffee is king. One man knows this better than most, himself being a party to this rise in quality of the humble coffee. Michael Munroe, still incredibly young at 20 has helped establish 2 class establishments where the art of the bean was treasured above all else. I queried whether he sees himself staying in the industry. "I have a caffeine molecule tattooed on me, so I’m branded into the industry really. I love, live and breathe coffee."
His own love child: Standing Room Only is a super trendy new specialist coffee shop in the city. They have a house blend called the Rock and Roller, a self designed coffee that Mike prides on its versatility “It’s our base coffee; it’s designed to taste good no matter the coffee. Super creamy, a lot of toffee note and some fruity, floral and spice notes. Every morning we crack that open and have some of that. It’s really special because it is our own blend, and we designed it so there’s that aspect to it as well. But we bring in new coffees every week just to give the customers some variety. Why not try something different for such a small price, which really can improve your whole day." You need only look to the reviews to know that the place is something special, the brew’s have been likened to “A small part of heaven”, “Sleeping with a beautiful woman in the south of France” (The man should be a professional critic) and even “The best coffee in Australia”. I decided to catch up with this young barista to see his views on Perth’s scene, the art of coffee and life in general.
Mike worked in Melbourne for a time. He thinks it’s one of the best places in the world for coffee. "It’s really hard to compete with Melbourne as they have been doing it a lot longer, and they have got a lot more people. Over there, the culture is probably second to none. Every suburb has a micro roastery or two which is awesome." Mike has some heartening words though, as for why he moved back to Perth: "The next two years are going to be the biggest for Perth. We’re going to see a lot of specialty coffee shops open up, and more then that I think there’s going to be a big push into the independent roasting industry. Melbourne has happened. I wanted to help push the Perth movement. We’re in a prime position right now and I want to be a part of that." Not to say that he thinks Perth is behind in quality, indeed he thinks that Perth has some of the best coffee in the cup in Australia. If you have ever been to his café you’ll no doubt be forced to agree.
I have always wondered about how places like Dome and McCafé do so well, I think we can all agree that they are not exactly 5 star establishments. I asked Mike what he has to say to those who prefer ease over taste. "At the end of the day, coffee costs the same wherever you go. There’s a lot more love and a lot more fairness in the price. There’s love behind the machine and even down to the farmer who grows the bean. They have their place, but if you have a hankering for some coffee, why not treat yourself."
Focusing more on the man himself, you know he’s got that special something when it comes to getting the best out a grind. Already having been in the top 3 in the state twice to qualify for the national coffee championships, it’s not just his customers that appreciate what he’s doing. It’s a crazy world, one wherein paying $80 for four spoons can be the difference between being number one and being told to please try again. What does he think about the lofty reviews he and Standing Room Only receive? "It’s very humbling to know we have the support behind us. We took a risk when we just came to the market with specialty coffee, it was always a risk. But in the last few months we have seen a massive increase in support." What does the future hold for this rising star of the coffee scene? "I’d love to get into small batch roasting, to have the extra control and individuality is really important to me. But I’d love to taste coffees with other roasters and to work with farmers to improve their coffees and reward them for the better work they do. The next step is to get into roasting and to be able to start sourcing coffee and going to the producers, meet the farmers and have the opportunity to see the work that they do and experience the amazing places where coffee is grown."
And if you want an insider’s tip for where to go, his top 3 places for coffee outside of his own are Elixir (Self roasting) in Nedlands, Bench Espresso in East Perth, And Small Print (Self-roasting) in Perth. But this writer thinks if you’re looking for a truly special brew, you have to head to SRO to try the filter coffee. "It’s about brewing by hand to really bring out the subtleties and intricacies of the coffee. It’s so sweet and beautiful, to give samples to customers so they can have a feel for that, a free sample one day and maybe they’ll be the next day to get a full one for themselves just because it is so lovely."
Tom Camp with Michael Munroe