The latest café to been christened with the ‘Tess Presso’ stamp of approval, is not a brand spanking new venue in Melbourne’s ever growing café scene. Actually, it’s not even in Melbourne. It’s in a small township 54 kms north-west of Melbourne. I took the trip out to visit The Corner Boutique Coffee Bar here in the Macedon Ranges, to find out exactly what was so special about this Gisborne café.
Upon arrival, I didn’t notice any glitz & glamour, which didn’t surprise me for a country town café. People out here don’t really care much for all the hype we city folk indulge in. What I did notice, was the beaming smile on the barista’s face, which could have lit up the darkest of nights. As soon as I arrived he asked how my day was going. It was an instantaneous feeling of warmth. That same face lit up the entire room, and warmed the heart of every person who walked through the door. It was this friendly attitude, which has set the foundation for what is today, a stalwart of the Gisborne community.
You see, Saad and Salwa Elamin (owners of The Corner Boutique), moved to Australia in the 1990’s to find a better life. It was not long after the Lebanese Civil War, so the transition was made with haste, and the early years weren’t without their struggles. After taking a redundancy package from Ford in 2009 when the renowned car manufacturer shut its operations in Australia, Saad found his place in the industry he felt most comfortable: Hospitality. He spent several years managing coffee bars, but soon craved a place to call his own. When the prospect of buying this corner café arose, Saad took that leap of faith, and five years on, it’s proven to be the best decision he ever made.
Over the years, the family grew from 2 to 5, and all three sons work at the café when they’re not at school or university. Their value in the community grew alongside them, and when developers where building the towns first major medical centre, the couple were approached to run the in-house café. Three years on, and Kozy Korner café is today dubbed as the lifeline of Macedon Ranges Health Centre.
Coffee for both cafes is sourced from Clark St, a roaster Saad felt delivered not only consistent quality coffee, but the respect and care any small business owner needs to thrive. I was thrilled to find both venues extracting what can best be described as liquid gold on both of their Linea Classic machines. The Mastermind blend serves as the ideal milk coffee base, offering a rich cup with sweet praline notes as a latte. Single origin beans rotate weekly for black coffee, and I enjoyed a delightful Kenyan Ngutu that had a clean body, with orange acidity. Food offerings are simple, with pastries, focaccias, and sweets displayed in the refrigerated counters. Saad prefers not to have the standard bacon and eggs option-he wants coffee to be the main aroma people smell when they walk into the venue.
Meeting Saad reminded me of a David Frost quote- ‘Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally’. Its humble folks like these, who remind us exactly what purpose a café serves in a community. His love for coffee and people go hand in hand, and we’re all better off for knowing him.