Assembly’s tea collection was getting too big to fit in its little Carlton outlet. So owners Chrissie Trabucco and Ollie Mackay found themselves a Collingwood warehouse, one that doubles as a second outlet for the exacting brewing business.
The word “warehouse” is perhaps too harsh for the Robert Street space; it’s an open room dressed with ply and oak, soft-pink highlights and the occasional houseplant. With a little help from architecture student Sacha Hickinbotham, Trabucco and Mackay designed and built the cafe themselves, even moulding the enormous black cement benchtops in the centre of the space. “It was a really cool process, testing out some forms and seeing how many people we would need to lift up the slabs,” says Trabucco. “It was eight.”
Along with serving the same eclectic selection of coffee as Assembly Carlton – Reuben Hills and Mecca from Sydney, or Barrio roasters in Canberra – and pastries from Matt Forbes and Bakewell, there’s also a growing range of specialty tea. Trabucco and Mackay have been consciously expanding their offering, meeting with growers, distributors and exporters from Taiwan, Japan and China.
“Tea’s still a long way behind coffee, so it’s really exciting in that respect,” explains Trabucco. “It’s also quite difficult to navigate. The way has been paved [for] coffee, but we’re still asking more of producers and suppliers and exporters than they’re used to.”
Over the coming weeks, Assembly will also begin roasting its own green beans through the roastery collective Bureaux. It will continue to sell other people’s coffee, but wanted to get acquainted with how it’s done themselves. “I feel like everyone starts roasting at some point, which seems a little unnecessary to me,” admits Trabucco. “But we’re roasting to keep understanding coffee more and more.”
Meanwhile, they’re going where no other third-wave specialty cafe has dared to tread: caramel lattes.
“We kept getting asked if we had caramel or hazelnut shots, and we kept sniggering at it,” says Trabucco. “But we thought, actually, that would probably be delicious. So we made our own dulce de leche that goes in a latte.”
Eat your heart out, Gloria Jean’s.
6 Robert Street, Collingwood
Mon to Sat 7.30am–4pm