Want to understand filter coffee or buy a custom-designed Japanese teapot? The just-off-Lygon Street precinct has inherited the Chanel store of coffee and tea houses
They don’t do espresso at Assembly. That’s the first thing you need to know. Here at this tiny temple of the bean and leaf it’s all about gentler methods like pour over or Aeropress for coffee and carefully brewed specialist teas.
Caffeinating yourself here is about as Zen as that activity gets. Free of strident espresso machines, the working station is a simple flat convection stovetop covered with the gently steaming long spouted Hario kettles. We’d say that this little joint is not so much a ‘café’, more an artspace-with-coffee-in it.
Assembly’s tidy, light interior ain’t made for gossiping or loose talk. It’s designed for tasting and learning. There’s only one low bench where a few architect-types pause to meditate on the care it takes to prepare their brew and decorations run to illuminated alcoves artfully displaying Japanese Hario syphons, bamboo paddles, and other wotsits like ceramic Kalita ‘wave drippers’.
It’s a relief that no-one at Assembly will cock a brow about requests for dairy. At last a quality purveyor (in this case, owners Chrissie Trabucco and Ollie Mackay of Lowlands in Thornbury) gets that everyone has a preference. They do encourage people to drink black filter coffee to appreciate the clarity of flavour but they’ve no beef with those who don’t. They’re specialist without being pretentious.
Want tea? Ancient Jasmine and a sturdy Chinese Peony are brewed just as carefully, by controlling water quality, temperature, time and dose, and served in odd-bod cups by local ceramicist Alison Frith.
It’s a simple set-up. A few fat cookies are the only eats and Assembly doesn’t roast – they do, however, partner with some of the city’s best suppliers such as Small Batch, Market Lane, and Storm in a Teacup. Take-home containers as small as 15g are pretty enough to show off in your kitchen, and if you return them like the good adult you get a gold coin. Ting!