The Melbourne International Coffee Expo (or MICE) is to coffee professionals and hipsters what Mecca is to Muslims; a holy pilgrimage to a city renowned the world over for its art, culture and of course coffee. Melbourne is truly the perfect setting for an event such as MICE. Down every graffiti encrusted alleyway you are almost guaranteed to find a small semi-secret cafe slinging some of the best brews you've ever had. Just walking down the main streets in the CBD I would overhear snippets of conversation relating to the latest single origin on offer at the coolest new spot. Even businessmen and women rushing off to meetings proudly carry their hand-stamped takeaway cups bearing names such as Axil and Code Black; in Melbourne the type of coffee you drink is worn like a badge of honour. For Melbournians coffee is more than a drink, it is a social scene, a Bohemia, even a subculture; for many (including myself) it is an obsession.
As well as being an industry trade show MICE also plays host to the Australian barista championships; a prestigious competition that sees the country's elite come together to strut their stuff. In the previous two years MICE also hosted the World Barista Championships to resounding success. This year's show was notably smaller than in previous years but no less exciting. The Dimattina crew bravely manned the new San Remo Opera espresso machine (a brand new machine based on the contemporary 'ratio brewing' system) and served up some delicious Ethiopia Konga from a gigantic cold-drip tower. Filter coffee was the order of the day at MICE with countless companies striving to showcase the uniqueness of their single origins. It is clear that the current trend in specialty coffee is moving away from espresso and blends and towards the more purist, clean-cut filter and single origin style of brewing. Cold brew coffee was also a big player at the show with nitrogen powered beer taps aplenty. It is quite humbling to see how quickly the way we drink and perceive this simple yet complex beverage is changing. Merely two years ago the idea of showcasing something as controversial as cold brewed coffee would have been unheard of; now if you're not doing it then you're not in the game.
MICE is the annual culmination of new concepts and ideas in the world of specialty coffee in Australia. It has been a major driving force in the development of quality in the industry and hopefully will be for many years to come.