Coffee King

By Fiona Stocker.

Image: Fiona Stocker

Image: Fiona Stocker

Behind a tiny shopfront on Kingsway lies a big secret – and a revelation for coffee lovers. Shane Dawson is new to Launceston, but he’s an old hand and a good one when it comes to our favourite beverage.

Shane first learned to brew a great drop with coffee institution Dukes at Ross House in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Keen to keep learning from the best, he took his newfound skills all the way to Europe’s top coffee houses, Blom and Kaffemisjonen in Bergen. There he found Norway and its champion baristas changing the way we drink coffee. And now he’s back in Launceston putting his passion to work behind the rig at his own café, Off Center on Kingsway.

Tasmania was always on his radar with its abundant food and café culture. Doing a stint of bar-work on arrival, he drew inspiration from businesses around town which flourished on the strength of Tasmania’s craft beer boom. Coffee, he believes, is hot on their heels.

Open a few weeks, the café is already a regular for serious coffee lovers and the city’s other baristas. And no wonder - every detail is finessed. Coffee beans come from the Australian importer and roaster Shane has worked with for years and considers the best. The café’s water supply is filtered before use, and farm-direct dairy milk, soy and almond is carefully selected for the purity of its ingredients. In every cup, flavour and mouthfeel is pre-eminent.

Giving coffee lovers a winter glow there’s a menu of comfort foods. Soups like Thai Potato and Coconut or Barley and Vegetable change weekly, and there are toasties, croissants and biscuits – with babycinos to keep the young café crowd happy too.

What makes a great café?

‘It’s all about what’s in the cup. Here I’m always measuring shots, tasting and quality checking. I’d never send anything out that I wouldn’t be happy to drink myself. A good café has a welcoming atmosphere and knowledgeable baristas – and great coffee of course.’   

Must-have winter beverage?

‘For black coffees like expresso and long blacks, I use a single-origin coffee that rotates every week or so. Over the winter I’ll have a lot of Brazilian and Columbian coffee. For all my milk based coffees, I use a blend, so it stays consistent all year round. As the coffee harvest moves around the world, the blend varies as different beans reach Australia.’  

Best kept coffee secret?

‘Filter coffee. It’s my favourite way to brew and my favourite way to drink coffee. Filter coffee isn’t roasted as dark, so more of the flavours and compounds remain intact and end up in your cup. It has much more subtle flavours and complexity. In Scandinavian countries they drink about 70 percent filter coffee and thirty percent espresso, whereas here we drink around 95 percent espresso based coffees.’  

What’s your guilty winter pleasure?

‘It’s that lie-in on a Sunday and then brewing a good pot of filter coffee.  I get a nostalgic for being out in the cold playing soccer on winter mornings, but my knees don’t let me play as much as I used to.’ 

What’s Launceston drinking?

‘This is a flat white town, we’re pretty easy going! I do encourage people towards trying black coffee because that’s how you get to appreciate the true nature of the coffee and its complexities more. But there’s always a place for flat whites and cappuccinos. In some cafes in Melbourne the baristas can make you feel like you’ve ordered the wrong coffee. There’s none of that here!’   

Devotees of the perfectly roasted single-origin or aromatic blend are seeking out this coffee scented corner of Kingsway. Whether you’re drinking it frothy, sugared, long or short, Off Center will see you wrapping your hands around an expertly brewed concoction every time - winter warming perfection in a cup.

Rob King