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Innovative Brews and Sweeping Views at Vue de Monde

Five Senses CoffeeJacob Ibarra 9 December 2013

Vue de Monde hardly needs an introduction. Its notoriety stretches across Australia and even to foreign shores. For more than a decade, Shannon Bennett has been steadily building his brand and the cluster of businesses that embody its name. Despite the fame and following, it is probably a fair guess that many are not privy to how Vue de Monde interacts with coffee as a beverage or product. It should come as no surprise that Shannon and his team are upholding Vue’s overarching ethos of pushing boundaries and aiming for excellence within the realm of gastronomy.

As mentioned before, the Vue empire has grown far beyond a single space. It now encompasses two restaurants and five cafés in total. For those café owners who know the joyful struggle of creating passion for and educating a venue, imagine the magnitude of undertaking multiple venues. Hiring, employing, training and fostering coffee passion are crucial and must exist in a well-executed facet.

While training might not receive the publicity it deserves, one foundational step Vue de Monde has taken is to create a monthly time slot at the Australia Barista Academy for its employees. Vue staff members from the various venues are free to book into this spot to further their skill set. Because the space is entirely theirs during these sessions, the staff is able to tailor their training to areas where it is most needed.

Also, at the end of every month, the head baristas from each venue, and those highly interested in the coffee programme, gather together for a tasting. There is a shortlist of coffees to experience and the tasting is held as a traditional cupping so as to expose those attending to a lighter roast and a different representation of the coffees. The hope of the tasting is to pick the following month’s Vue de Monde single origin. Because there are multiple venues and a desire to provide consistency, a single coffee is chosen for all the venues, one which complements the Vue de Monde blend.
Currently, Vue de Monde is offering the natural Sidama Ardi as a single. Some of you might be familiar with this coffee which, whilst huge in fruity flavour and sweetness, can be a challenge for the palate. However, the discerning Vue clientele has spoken and the overwhelming response has been positive.

While coffee is the topic, it is probably a fair time to discuss Vue’s unique blend makeup. Many blends are made up of two or three coffee origins, yet Shannon decided on a mixture of six! Making up the base of the blend – 50% – are the Brazil ‘Santo Antonio’ and the Colombia ‘Asprounion’. These two coffees provide much of the creamy body and rich flavour associated with the Vue blend. In addition, comprising 30% of the blend are the Costa Rican ‘San Guillermo’ and Guatemalan ‘Hunapu’ which provide an added sweetness and floral, cherry flavour. Last, two more coffees are added to give a touch of complexity. The Sumatran ‘Simalungun’ and Ethiopian ‘Yirg Zero’, which are striking in and of themselves, add spice and berry flavour to the composition. If afforded the opportunity to try this exceptional blend, have it as an espresso or long black and it will not disappoint.

For those of you who want something other than an espresso and also a unique setting, two Vue locations really stand out. The first is Cafe Vue at Heide Museum of Modern Art. Literally a glass box, the venue overlooks the museum and the park which is filled with abstract sculptures. Just as beautiful as the venue and the art, is the coffee filter service they provide. A Clever Dripper, an egg timer and a cut wine bottle arrive on a cheeseboard. The water is poured into the Clever Dripper with the coffee before the waiter leaves the service station. By the time the waiter reaches the table and offers notes on the flavour and origin of the coffee, the brew is ready to be drawn down into the elegant, olive coloured, cut wine bottle.

The second venue is far from standard fare and is more for those who like to dabble in the city at night. Say ‘hello’ to the Lui Bar and the Vodka Pour Over. The Lui Bar rests 55 floors up the Rialto Tower. Its panoramic views are unmatched across Melbourne. Amazingly, you can see the Melbourne bay extending into the horizon and gently becoming the Mornington Peninsula. It’s not a huge leap of thought to see how this rare view and perspective gave Vue permission to explore a twist on a classic cocktail.

Following the trends in Melbourne city cafes, the bartenders at Lui Bar created the Vodka Pour Over. Using Belvedere Vodka (instead of water), chocolate liqueur, a selection from the Five Senses Backroom, slow frozen ice and a Clever Coffee Dripper as a mixing vessel, the bartenders literally create a cold brewed pour over. Once the initial shock at the misplacement of the Clever Coffee Dripper over a martini glass passes and the flavours of the beverage sink in, there really is no going back. Espresso Martinis are a thing of the past and, like the newest waves of coffee, the Vodka Pour Over makes us wonder how we missed this simple creation all along.

No one can argue against the passion Shannon and his staff have for food, beverages and service. Nevertheless, for any institution, fostering passion is a continuous work in progress. It was from this hope that the first internal Vue de Monde barista competition was birthed. The competition rules were pulled from the World Barista Championship guidelines and re-configured so that the competition was more Vue-centric. Competitors were asked to come up with a 15 minute presentation focused on the Vue de Monde coffee blend and their experiences in their respective Vue venue. They were asked to prepare espresso and cappuccino beverages and a unique signature drink for a panel of three judges, consisting of a World Barista judge, the Five Senses’ National Trainer and Shannon Bennett himself.

What would a competition be without a few incentives and prizes, particularly if you are looking to drive coffee passion within your staff? The winner of the competition received an all expenses paid trip to Bali, where Five Senses works closely with farming groups. Over the course of the trip, the winner will get to work on the farm, help build new nurseries, experience the selection and harvesting of coffee cherries, examine the post-picking cherry processing and have an in depth look at the drying methods. The prizes do not stop there! The winner also gets the opportunity to step into a wider role at Vue de Monde and have more influence on their coffee programme. For example, after the above mentioned single origin tasting, the winner will meet with their Five Senses’ representative and have the final say in the monthly single origin choosing. Further, they will be responsible for picking the weekly filter option from the Five Senses’ Backroom. It is safe to say that Bec Cohen, the winner of the competition, will find herself tasting numerous coffee options and, on the whole, exploring the world of coffee for Vue de Monde.

In closing, it seems fitting to mention an insight Shannon was discussing during the competition.

Australian coffee culture, particularly in Melbourne, has become a driving force in hospitality. Coffee concepts and certain advanced, coffee-oriented roles are becoming the norm. As such, Vue de Monde will continue to elevate the position of the coffee professional within its own organisation (paraphrased).

It is this sensitivity to the market combined with how it will shape Vue de Monde’s identity that drives the coffee programme and has created the general ethos and exceptionality for which Vue de Monde is known.

Vue Venues:

Level 55, Rialto
525 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
T: +61 3 9691 3888
E: vuedemonde@vuedemonde.com.au

Opening hours
Lunch: Thursday to Sunday
Dinner: Monday to Sunday

Level 55, Rialto
525 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Opening hours
Monday — Wednesday: 5:30pm to midnight
Thursday: 11:30am — 1:00am
Friday & Saturday: 11:30am — 3:00am
Sunday: 11:30am &mdashl 11:00pm

430 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Opening hours
Monday — Friday: 7:00am — 4:00pm

430 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Opening hours
Monday — Saturday: 11:30am until late

7 Templestowe Road
Bulleen VIC 3105

Opening hours
Tuesday — Friday: 10:00am — 5:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 9:00am — 5:00pm

Melbourne International Airport VIC 3045
Terminal Two

Opening hours
Monday — Sunday 6:00am — 1:30am
365 days a year

Royal Botanic Gardens
Birdwood Ave, South Yarra 3141

Opening hours
Monday — Friday: 9:00am — 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am — 4:00pm
Thursday — Sunday: Kiosk open late

Burnham Beeches
1 Sherbrooke Road
Sherbrooke 3789

Opening hours
Monday — Wednesday: 10:00am — 5:00pm
Thursday & Friday: 10:00am — 8:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 9:00am — 5:00pm

© Photos provided with permission by Dan McMahon. All rights reserved by photographer