"I've literally wanted to come here for years," were the first words that gushed out of my mouth to the barista as I entered the League of Honest Coffee. It seriously was no exaggeration.
The League of Honest Coffee, part of the Padre group of roasters/cafes sprung up in 2011, well after I left Melbourne, and quickly took hold of the 'caffeine dead zone' of the north-eastern part of the Melbourne CBD. I got exhausted hearing about it. As Padre's flagship store, it's stocked to the hilt with quality staff, impressive machines (Slayers and Clovers) as well as the full spectrum of their retail offerings. I tried the clover (just for something different), and was proudly told that the Padre group owns 9 of the only 11 Clovers in Australia, bought before Starbucks bought them out.
The coffee is, of course, excellent. Serving Melbourne crowds of mostly suits, the vast majority of what is ordered is milky espresso-based drinks like flat whites and lattes. I ordered a Kenyan coffee prepared by Chemex, and was politely told that it would take around 15 minutes due to their back-orders and the fact that it's a slower process. I didn't flinch (maybe I should have, was it a gentle hint?)
The Clover was the second thing I tried at The League. What’s amazing about the Clover (acquired by Starbucks in 2008, though they didn't seem to be doing anything special with them) is the ability to control infusion and extraction time and temperature repeatedly with ease. Since Starbucks acquired the Clover coffee company, no more have been released to the wider market, and given Padre owns most of them, you have to try coffee made with Clover at a Padre cafe. And no better place to go than The League. When done well, a Clover coffee tastes like... an Aeropress. It's pretty good. But even the barista conceded that the majority of the advantages of the clover are not the brew parameters or method, but the fact that it's fast and repeatable. I.e. the advantages all go to the cafe. The coffee is good of course, but any skilled barista could replicate it at a fraction of the cost - they used to come it at over US$11,000 per unit.
The League is plagued with suits having meetings. I shouldn't complain, as I used to be one of them and bemoaned the dearth of options for suited minions, but it affects the atmosphere. Everyone just looked like they were having meetings. Still, it was packed and buzzing. I set up a laptop for a small part of it (I hate doing this, but I was really freaking busy OK) and was able to chill out for over an hour in between conversations with baristas.
The League was worth the nearly four-year wait. Even if you're not really in the area, it's worth checking out and getting an intro into the cult of Padre.