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Breaking here on, there’s a pretty remarkable event happening at the end of July in Melbourne. The folks at St. ALi Family have teamed up with Melbourne City Mission – Victoria’s oldest charitable organization, established in 1845 – to put together a week of remarkable specialty coffee work education and outreach, as taught by some of the brightest minds across Melbourne’s specialty coffee scene.

Melbourne City Mission offer a broad range of social services to disadvantaged and disabled Melbournians. In addition to working with children and the elderly, they are the city’s largest provider of temporary housing, counseling, and work training support, with a significant part of MCM’s outreach focused on homeless and educationally disengaged young adults. Some of MCM’s youth-focused services are grouped in a project called Melbourne Academy, with a special emphasis and clients aged 15-25, for whom educational opportunities and work experience can make all the difference.

Here’s where coffee comes in. It doesn’t care about who you are or where you’re from. With the right training, dedication, and maybe a little bit of luck, specialty coffee can be an awesome career gateway for young adults, regardless of background (so long as one is willing to wake up really, really early). st-ali-logo-257px1And the specialty coffee industry and cafe scene in Melbourne is beyond booming; in our years of traveling and publishing this website, we’re increasingly convinced that Melbourne is one of the world’s two or three great specialty coffee capitals. This means thousands of jobs for the local Melbourne economy, and a braintrust of folks in Melbourne coffee with heaps of experience to share.

What’s happening early next month is a kind of synthesis of these realities, as the Melbourne coffee scene teams up with its oldest, most important charity to bring specialty coffee training and culture to disadvantaged young adults. Five members of Melbourne City Mission’s Melbourne Academy will be given a week of specialty coffee work experience and training, by a truly impressive team of Melbourne baristas. The selected folks from the Academy are known informally as “the Brew Crew”, and  their barista trainers are:

* Matt Perger (St. ALi) – 2013 and 2011 Australian Barista Champion, 2012 World Brewers Cup Champion.

* David Makin (Axil Coffee Roasters) – 2 time Australian Barista Champion, and 5 time Victorian Barista Champion.

* Archie Chiu (Code Black Coffee) – A professional barista, roaster, and trainer.

* Con Haralambopoulos (Gridlock Coffee Roasters) – The 2008 World Latte Art Champion.

* Craig Simon (Veneziano Coffee) – 2012 Australian Barista Champion.

These five coffee professionals baristas will work with “the Brew Crew” from Melbourne Academy for an entire week, offering hands-on training in all manner of specialty coffee skill sets, from basic espresso technique to cupping to latte art. This week of training will culminate and a pretty definitely one-of-a-kind event on Friday, August 2nd, when the five trainees will compete together in a night of fun, food, music and Melbourne cool, to be hosted at St. ALi South (12-18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne). They’ll be competing using their newly acquired barista skills, in the very same format as the internationally sanctioned barista competitions: 4 cappuccinos, 4 espressos, and 4 signature drinks in 15 minutes, all set to music by the legendary Australian DJ Grant Smilie.

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Matt Perger (left) with “Brew Crew” trainee Abdil Mussa.

Barista competitions as youth outreach! Specialty coffee as a career path for disadvantaged youth! And this is not just a one-week program. St. ALi has stepped up in a big way here, and will be offering the five “Brew Crew” participants ongoing work experience and job placements after their week of training ends. There’s even plans to expand this program worldwide – think of this upcoming event as a pilot program, the first in a series that will play out in the coming months in years. We think it’s a game changer. 

Follower St. ALi (@St_ALi) and Melbourne City Mission (@MelbCityMission) on Twitter for much more information as this program goes public, and look for more “Brew Crew” coverage on Sprudge in the coming weeks.

For another important program we feel echoes this one, please revisit our coverage of Central City Coffee in Portland, Oregon.