It makes sense to name a café ‘Steam’ when it’s located directly opposite a train station with a history spanning over 135 years. I’m sure that many a steam engine dashed through this outer eastern suburb over the years. It’s also fitting, considering the main machine on the front bar is centred on the art of steaming.
When Johnny George and Samantha McGarry decided to open their first café in the leafy suburb of Surrey Hills, Steam Co was born. Being a tradie, Johnny knew the importance of that daily dose of caffeine. Similarly, working in hospitality meant Sam was familiar with the significant role cafes played in a community.
They’ve created a warm space where the atmosphere matches the laid back yet efficient service. Food wise, the menu is modern contemporary, with some indulgent favourite like the Chai Dusted Doughnuts; Halloumi and Zucchini Fritters; and Scotch Fillet Steak Sandwich.
The one striking feature about Steam Co. is the Lego collection within the Sanremo Café Racer. Yes, I did say within. His beloved Café Racers distinctive transparent sides not only allow you to see the heart of the machine, but also the Lego men that have been close to Johnny’s heart since his early childhood. Growing up, his love for Lego inspired a career in building, which is still of great importance to his life. He’s sharing this love with kids and adults alike at Steam Co., and some customers have even brought their own in to add to his collection. It’s a fun novelty, and much like a café, it serves the purpose of connecting people.
What struck me most about Steam Co. was Johnny’s excitement for coffee. In a city that’s oversaturated with cafes, and complacency for the real meaning of specialty coffee can sometimes be blurred, it’s delightful to see someone who can get as animated about coffee as I do. It normalises my obsession, if nothing else!
Speaking of which, coffee is sourced from Mikro Coffee Roasters, with 2 different blends, and a selection of single origin beans that change weekly. Now, while I usually write about my black coffee experiences (And there were several here!), I have to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible experience I had with Mikro’s ‘Best of Africa’ Blend. I rarely drink milk coffee, but when a friend (who knows I don’t drink milk coffee) had the courage to recommend I try this blend with milk, it was a challenge I couldn’t resist. What began as a challenge completely shifted my perspective of milk coffee, and shows just how well extracted and properly executed milk based coffee can serve as a stepping stone into the realm of specialty coffee. It’s a huge call, but it’s one I have the conviction to stand by. This coffee completely rocked my world. It was incredibly sweet, so much so, I accused Johnny of putting honey in it. So when I watched as he remade it, and I again tasted its enchanting inherent sweetness, I was left humbled. I liken this coffee to a strawberry milkshake. As it cooled, the subtle fruity acidity rounded out to a velvety finish. I have to thank Johnny for shifting my perspective, so I’m taking this opportunity to pay tribute to his craft, his passion, and his ability to do the unthinkable. Make Tesspresso drink not 1 but 2 flat whites. That’s more than I had for the entirety of 2017.
Find Steam Co at 131 Union Rd, Surrey Hills.