Coffee Break with Adam Marley

The Argo on the Square barista explains Adelaide’s quality coffee explosion and the secrets to Argo’s brews in the latest Coffee Break.

Specialty coffees houses have been popping up all over Adelaide recently. Why do you think this is?

There’s probably a few factors at work – people are forgoing big purchases at the moment and to balance this are allowing themselves more ‘little luxuries’, like going out for coffee and cake more often. Adelaide has also embraced a café culture akin to Melbourne – meetings are no longer conducted in boardrooms, but in cafés and on MacBooks. Why speciality coffee? Like everything culinary we do in SA – we do it right.

What makes Argo’s coffee different to others you will find around Adelaide?
Attention to detail. We’re not trying to be fancy, or redefine what coffee should be; we’re solely concerned with presenting a product people will enjoy – exceptional coffee brewed well, with fresh, local milk steamed to the right temperature – what else do you need?

Can you explain how you became a barista and what made you want to pursue it is a career rather than a casual job?
Like many, I started working as a barista part-time whilst studying. But much to the chagrin of my parents, my graduation was accompanied by an epiphany – I didn’t want to work in a glass and steel box and wear a suit; there’s so much life in a café – business meetings, social meetings, students arguing pedantically – I love facilitating it all, my adoration of coffee itself is a bonus. Have you ever smelled freshly poured good espresso? You’d want to do what I do too!

Do you believe Adelaide is entering an age of professional baristas?
Yes, and no. I believe Adelaide is replete with passionate baristas that want to work in coffee as a career, but for the majority it simply isn’t viable. Why make coffee for $20 an hour when you can walk straight out of uni into a $60,000 a year position? Until the labour market adjusts, until being a barista is actually seen as a career (that is – until consumers are willing to pay more for quality), the mantle of ‘professional barista’ in Adelaide is going to be relegated only to those with enough passion to make the inherent sacrifices worth it.

Your first cup of the day – what is it?
An espresso. Every morning, and throughout the day, we perform what’s called ‘dialing-in’ the coffee: adjusting the variables at our disposal to help the coffee reach its true potential – to really shine. To best analyse the coffee, it has to be black. But I make sure the first sip is just for me – no analysis, just my espresso and me.

Can you describe the blend or the different blends you offer at Argo?
Actually that’s a little complicated – we’re currently experimenting with blends as homework. We’re about to start roasting our own coffee (in the interest of quality control, i.e. being a bit fussy). Eventually we’ll offer more than one blend to cater to different tastes, but we want the workhorse to be a favourite – good strength, good body, nice black or ‘on milk’, sweet and above all – balanced. We’ve invested a lot of time into research, and it doesn’t look like that will cease! The more you delve into coffee, the more complex and beautifully intricate it becomes. With blending, not only do you have to choose individual beans on their own merits and balance them against one another, but combining Bean A and Bean B doesn’t necessarily get you Bean A+B – more often than not what it gets you is totally bewildering (in a pleasant, satisfying kind of way).

Argo on the Square
211 Victoria Square
argoespresso.com.au