New Richmond coffee den Long Street Coffee is the brainchild of baristas Francois and Jane Marx. The husband-and-wife team have taken their passion for defending the rights of asylum seekers and refugees living in Australia, and matched this with their love of a caffeinated drop to create positive social change.

“We should be a really welcoming country, because we’re a nation of migrants, and that’s something we should be celebrating,” Jane says.

Francois and Jane are both long-standing volunteers with the Collingwood refugee community – Jane teaching English through AMES and Francois sharing coffee and kitchen skills at The Social Studio. Three years ago they first thought up the idea for Long Street Coffee and began to make it a reality.

Starting with a coffee stall at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in 2014, they employed two young refugees to work with them at the pop-up. They then caught the eye of Arts House Melbourne and went on to run a second pop-up at the Melbourne Festival of Live Art.

After successfully crowdfunding $18,746, the pair converted a garage into their new cafe. They’ve had some help from kind-hearted folk along the way, including architect David Hislop, stonemasons URBI Design, Cargo Crew, KeepCup and artist Harley Jones. The resulting space melds white, wood and stone with plenty of plant life and small details such as Wingnut & Co sugar bowls.

Proud Mary beans shape espresso-based coffees and Aunty Peg’s supplies the cakes and pastries. Beans for filter rotate and the organic fair-trade tea selection is from Brisbane’s Tielka.

Genshu Sata (ex-Hyatt) is in the kitchen using entirely organic ingredients to shape dishes such as the crispy quinoa-dusted poached eggs with asparagus, mushrooms, tomato confit, feta and truffle oil, and the apple-cider eggs Benedict with leek-and-potato rosti and braised ham hock.

With a basketball hoop in the laneway and free wi-fi, Long Street Coffee is a place to linger. “We really want to return to the traditional notions of hospitality and have people feel they can sit here for ages, drink cups of tea and coffee, and not have to rush in and out,” Jane says.

The cafe has initially employed three young refugees from Iran, Gambia and Malaysia for a six-month skilling-up period with Proud Mary barista Tom Gunn. For many of the staff, working at Long Street will be their first job in Australia, and Jane and Francois will assist their team to find future study or employment opportunities. “It’s one thing to accept that asylum seekers come here, and accept that they are refugees, but it’s a whole other thing to expect them to somehow create a life for themselves when they can’t find employment despite all their best efforts,” Jane says. “We want to uphold the Australian value of a fair go.”

Long Street Coffee
45 Little Hoddle Street, Richmond

Tue to Sun 8am–4pm