“There’s a list as long as your arm of things we don’t do” says Jason Scheltus about Market Lane. It doesn’t sound like the world's most winning mission statement, but for a city teetering on the verge of actually exploding from its excitement over coffee, it is. “It’s not that we think we wouldn’t do a good job of making tea for $4, we just wanted to keep our focus on the coffee, and the coffee alone.” And whilst it might seem limiting, or like snobbery to eschew all that is not bean related, the specialist coffee market is one that is rapidly growing, and the Market Lane duo can proudly claim to be one of those who led the way.
We tend to think that Melbourne has always had the dynamic coffee scene that it does today, but just a few years ago, before Scheltus paired up with Fleur Studd, specialist green bean importer and owner of Melbourne Coffee Merchants, there were only three companies who sourced and imported raw product for roasting. “Fleur started the Coffee Merchants with the desire to see more provenance, traceability and quality in the Australian green bean market”. It’s clearly something Melbourne wanted too, because the duo gained an instant following when they began small batch roasting that product for serving and selling at the Prahran Markets. Three years on, the pair have done such a bang up job of creating dynamic blends and roasting single origins like the famed La Fany (don’t), they’ve had to open a new venue at the Victoria Markets to serve their fans from the North.
Again amongst the leaders of the pack, Scheltus is now experimenting with more labour intensive brewing techniques to really showcase the characteristics of certain beans which espresso extraction just doesn’t reveal. “As an industry we’ve pretty much perfected espresso – we can make a good business out of just selling espresso coffee", but like a lot of places they are now trying to find a way they can "serve filters, and still make them approachable, affordable and fast enough for the customer.”
With both stores bustling, Scheltus is a man in the enviable position of knowing that for him "this is it”. “Hopefully I’ll just keep getting better at serving customers, sourcing product and making delicious coffee. That’s my end game.” We'll drink to that.