Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pony Express, West Perth: funky venue and artisanal coffee making

I never knew the Pony Express existed until I had to meet someone for a coffee recently and they suggested that we meet there.

Tucked away on Mayfair Street, which runs parallel to and in between Hay Street and Murray Street, I never would have discovered it on my own.

It's a funky little venue with bright colours, old curios hanging off the walls, a narrow terrace-garden type thing where you could pull up a stool and perch your coffee on a bar to enjoy the sunlight.

They don't serve hot food but people bring their lunch to eat while enjoying a good coffee.

When I got there at 11am, the morning coffee rush was well and truly over and it was at least another hour before the lunchtime crowd would start to turn up. As I was the only person in the place, which gave me the opportunity to have a good chat with the barista-owner, Garrett, a jovial chap who clearly takes pride in his coffee-making.  He instantly recognised me for a coffee-w@nker after the first few minutes, and was quite happy to indulge me.

He had two whiz-bang coffee machines, but had just turned one off.  I was wondering about this but wondered no more when I asked for a single origin.  He told me that the one that he had just turned off was required for single origins, because the other one did not push out enough pressure to get the water through the coffee grounds in the portafilter.

Since there was nobody else demanding coffee, he demonstrated by trying to make an espresso with the "normal" machine, and it was clear to see when nothing came out.  He tried again with less coffee, more loosely packed, and we managed to eke out a ristretto-sized pour.

In contrast, he easily made a perfect espresso with the blended coffee.  Interesting.

Even with the sub-optimal pour, I still enjoyed the complex, stronger flavours of the single origin over the blend, which was nevertheless a tasty beverage.

The came along a couple who ordered lattes and Garrett and I cracked jokes with them about whether they wanted their milk piping hot.  Fortunately they didn't (I'm glad Garrett said he wouldn't even if they had asked - a man with artisanal integrity!), and we started chatting around the coffee machine.  As Susan is a naturopath who practises at Centro Health around the corner on Wellington Street, we started talking about the benefits of organic and wholefoods compared with the issues with additives and chemicals in processed foods.  Sure, the good stuff is more expensive and has a shorter shelf-life, but is this a false economy, if over the long run, you developed health problems from ingesting all those chemicals over a lifetime's worth of consumption and ended up having to pay a lot more on medical and healthcare expenses later?  And did you know that many Western Australians are deficient in Vitamin D, even though we have such a sunny climate?  And vitamin D deficiency contributes towards the so-called Seasonally Affected Syndrome (or SAD), which is why we feel sadder in winter time when there's less sunlight.  Or at least that's what they say.

The whole exchange probably took no more than 15-20 minutes, but it left me feeling uplifted and happy for the rest of the day - the benefits of meeting nice new people and having a good connection over good conversation and great coffee!  And of course, more vitamin D!

It's certainly worth taking the effort to check out Pony Express.  I'll be going back again.

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