The pandemic almost ended Coffee Anthology. Adam Wang lays out the challenges faced by his celebrated coffee spot since Covid-19 blew into Brisbane in March last year.

“Thirty per cent of our customers were travellers or destination visitors. Twenty per cent were international students,” he says. “Then the remaining 50 per cent are regulars. The 30 per cent, they were gone. The 20 per cent students, gone. Then you’ve got the remaining 50 per cent – half of them aren’t in the city. When Covid happened our trade dropped by around 80 per cent.”

Wang wound down Coffee Anthology’s kitchen and the cafe’s front-of-house was reduced to running just two staff, much like in 2014 when the small space on Margaret Street first established itself as a CBD yardstick for specialty coffee. This all took place against the backdrop of unresolved discussions with Wang’s Margaret Street landlords about a lease extension, and then the successful opening of sister venue The Maillard Project on Charlotte Street. It would have been easy to simply walk away from Coffee Anthology.

“It was really upsetting,” Wang says. “We were at the point where we thought, ‘There’s no future. Let’s close the shop and focus on Maillard.’ … But then [developer] Ashe Morgan approached us one day and said, ‘We’ve got something really cool happening. Would you be interested?’”

The really cool something was Midtown Centre, an ambitious office tower development atop the 1890-built heritage listed Walter Reid facade at 155 Charlotte Street, which has turned a ground floor atrium – or “laneway”, as Ashe Morgan is calling it – into an expansive public area that joins Charlotte and Mary streets. Coffee Anthology will be reborn in the precinct next month with 200 square metres of kitchen and service area, and 500 square metres available for seating with capacity for 120 people. The cafe will go from almost not existing to being bigger than ever.

“I’m a little nervous but also excited,” Wang says.

The new Coffee Anthology will be part of a wider food and beverage project called Intersection, which will also feature an outlet for highly rated Upper Mount Gravatt patisserie The Whisk.

“It’s the intersection of both streets, Charlotte and Mary,” Wang says. “And then it’s the intersection of coffee and pastries. And it’s the intersection of people: corporate, traveller, visitor, everybody. It’s this great intersection of all these different aspects.

“For the pastry operation, we’ve teamed up with The Whisk. Instead of making a brand new business that overtakes everything else, we want all these older vendors that have been successful in the past to come together and retain their old values under the same roof.”

South Brisbane’s Clui Design is working on a tiered space that drops down to the large arched windows that overlook Charlotte Street. The final design will include plenty of brick, stone and arched brass features.

As for the black stuff, expect Coffee Anthology to continue to present a rotation of the best roasters from around the country as espresso, cold brew and pour-over filter. It’s currently working with Padre, Monastery Coffee and Sample, but over its seven-year history has introduced Brisbane locals to the likes of Dukes, Industry Beans, Axil, Cartel and Reformatory Caffeine Lab. A second coffee bar on the Mary Street side of the precinct will switch between presenting local roasters on a pop-up basis and widening the Anthology multi-roaster purview to include international brands. It’s an approach that might’ve almost seemed outdated two years ago, but Australians’ growing expertise with different styles of boutique coffee and an appetite for online exploration fostered during lockdowns has seen a resurgent interest in the variety offered by different roasters.

“Definitely with Covid and the lockdowns, people are changing their habits,” Wang says. “Back in the day they used to go into a coffee roaster to pick up coffee or go to a coffee shop to pick up a bag of coffee. But now people are going around Australia [virtually] with subscriptions, ordering coffee from different roasters and getting them delivered.”

The new space will also bring back the much-loved Coffee Anthology food menu, although Wang says to expect some evolution to differentiate it from The Maillard Project a few doors down Charlotte Street.

Coffee Anthology will close at 126 Margaret Street this Friday October 22 and reopen at Midtown Centre at 155 Charlotte Street in mid-November. In-between, a Coffee Anthology pop-up will operate out of the Mary Street side of the Midtown Centre laneway precinct.