The Hellenic Museum speaks with the couple behind the Greek brand giving Melbourne specialty coffee a run for its money.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Melbourne's coffee standards are among the highest in the world. Starting a coffee label can be a gruelling endeavour – let alone a brand based in, and named after, a city full of world-renowned coffee critics!
But Thalia and George Dardamanis are onto a good thing. After launching Melvourni in 2022, the couple has already built a name for themselves with stockists across the city and support streaming in from the community.
We recently spoke with Thalia and George about their journey to creating the world's only Greek coffee that is specialty-grade, organic and ethically sourced, locally produced here in Melbourne, and now available at the Hellenic Museum shop!
Tell us about the story behind Melvourni. When did it begin?
We officially launched Melvourni in 2022, but the idea started way back in 2016.
We're both Greek-Australians. Thalia moved here when she was quite young, and has kept a strong connection with her roots in Siatista Kozani, while George's family hails from Mytilini. We also have a fond spot for Crete where we holiday as a family!
It was family that inspired the business. Thalia was used to working long hours as a lawyer, so when she took maternity leave for our first child in 2016, she found herself with more time and space to be creative. A new baby also meant lots of visitors – and Greek coffee! It was then we realised we couldn't find a Greek coffee to serve friends and family that was equivalent to the quality of espresso coffee that we were used to in the Melbourne coffee scene.
We started to research what was available, to no avail. On trips to Greece, we found a few organic options, but none that were made with premium or speciality grade beans or ethically sourced. Almost everyone is aware of the ethical issues surrounding coffee these days, as the conversations and transparency around fair trade have grown. So finding an ethical brand was non-negotiable for us.
When we realised there was a gap in the market, we started the process of finding
ethically sourced, specialty-grade, organic coffee beans from the best regions around the
world and then locally roasting these to our specifications, to develop our Greek coffee. It seemed like a lot of boxes to tick, but the more research we did, the more reasons we found to pursue the project and the more passionate we became. Fuelled by Thalia's creativity, George's 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry and our joint passion, Melvourni was born.
It's been quite the journey, including a pandemic and a second baby! This is part of the reason Melvourni was something of a hobby until relatively recently. Things really kicked off in 2022, and we now have a flourishing business and an amazing network of friends, family, locals and stockists who deeply understand, and believe in our mission. We can't wait to see where it takes us!
For those who might not know, 'Melvourni' is Greek for Melbourne. This beautiful city is built on a fusion of cultures and an intense love of coffee. We wanted to honour that, as well as the Greek culture which thrives in this city and throughout the generations of our family – while also being a twist on tradition! Our brand is truly Melbourne and uniquely Melvourni.
For the enthusiasts – what can you expect from a cup of Melvourni?
An excellent coffee! But in all seriousness, the Melvourni range includes Greek coffee in Classic and Decaf (ground extra fine, using traditional stone methods) and Freddo in Classic and Decaf (available as whole beans or espresso ground.) The entire range uses organic, ethically sourced, specialty-grade arabica beans roasted right here in Melbourne. All of the farms we work with are completely chemical-and pesticide-free.
Our signature Classic Greek coffee uses single-origin Arabica beans grown 1600M above sea level on a farm in Brazil. When boiled It produces a rich kaïmaki that one hopes for and loves from Greek coffee. On the tail end, it's like sipping on a specialty brew – smooth and delicately sweet with no bitter aftertaste that is typically found in traditional Greek coffee.
A very important question – how do you both take your coffee!?
For Greek coffee, Thalia likes hers diplo kai sketos (a double coffee without sugar)
and George likes his metrios (a single coffee with one teaspoon of sugar).
For Freddo coffee (a cold espresso coffee drunk as an alternative to the instant coffee used
for Frappe), Thalia likes a Freddo cappuccino metrios (cold foamed milk and two teaspoon
of sugar) and George likes a Freddo espresso metrios (no milk and two teaspoons of sugar).
Now, we don't normally allow drinks in our galleries, but! in an ideal world where you could kick back in a quiet corner of the Hellenic Museum, take in an exhibition and enjoy a cup of coffee, which spot would you pick?
Since Greek coffee is often drunk socially, and enjoyed with family and friends when they
visit, Thalia would choose to sit nearby one of the marble statues in the museum’s foyer - a welcoming and social spot that represents how Greek coffee should be enjoyed. George
would choose the Henson Gallery with his Greek coffee and a tavli (backgammon) set to
play while taking in the exhibition.
What's next for Melvourni?
We have so many ideas to launch. Collaborations and new products are on their way.
This June, we are off to Athens to showcase our classic and decaf Greek coffee at the World
of Coffee 2023 trade show by the Specialty Coffee Association. We cannot wait!