STORY AND IMAGE S BY R ICHARD CORNI SH
Elna Schaerf-Trauner cuts a stunning figure. With her crown of gold curls, and dressed in a traditional Austrian dirndl, she sits down at the marble-topped table with a glass cup filled with coffee. The co-owner of Das Kaffeehaus in Castlemaine she looks around the great space inside the former Castlemaine Woollen Mill, now known as The Mill. Since 2015 this has been a popular part of the Castlemaine lifestyle. It moved from the Old Castlemaine Hospital when it was founded in 2003. “Both sites have chimneys, important for venting the aromatic output of the coffee roasters,” points out Elna.
Elna takes a sip of her coffee. “This is the Daniel Moser coffee,” she says. It is a layer of espresso sitting on top of condensed milk. The Daniel Moser is named after the Daniel Moser Cafe in Vienna that opened its doors in Rotenturmstrasse in 1685. Owned by Edmund’s family, it was where Elna and Edmund worked before they emigrated to Australia. “In Vienna the apartments are small, so the coffee houses became the local public meeting places,” she explains. “They are beautiful and elegant buildings with wood and marble where people come to eat, drink and discuss the issues of the day,” she says.
Castlemaine’s Das Kaffeehaus seamlessly blends the grandeur of these Austrian institutions with the post-industrial chic of the 1875 woollen mill. Designed by Austrian theatre designer Ulrike Barbara von Radicevic, a friend of Elna’s it is a grand, light-filled space. The bare brick walls are lined with red leather-trimmed, semicircular booths. From the ceiling hangs a large glass chandelier decorated with festoons of cut-glass beads. Under it sits a gold leather circular lounge. The wooden frames of the floor to ceiling windows have cute little references to art nouveau – a period when some great Central European coffee houses were built. On the walls hang art depicting opera, Austrian royalty and the Islamic influence after the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683. “This is when coffee came to Vienna,” says Elna. She whispers something to a waiter and soon he is bringing back a Turkish coffee tray with coffee and a Turkish delight dusted with icing sugar and redolent of rose water.
The aroma of hot butter and cinnamon suddenly fills the large hall. “The apfelstrudel is ready,” says Elna. She leads us into the kitchen where logs of crisp, golden flaky filled with apple and dried fruit are cooling. In the kitchen are also baked traditional Austrian pastries such as shortcrust pastry croissants filled with walnuts and almonds. The savoury menu travels from smoked salmon and eggs for breakfast to four different types of Austrian sausage and Hungarian goulash with steamed bread dumplings.
But at its heart, Das Kaffeehaus is all about coffee. Its sister business, Coffee Basics, is housed to the back of the building. Set in the old boiler room are three small roasters. One Dutch Giesen and two German Probat. They only roast 10 to 15 kilograms at a time. Roaster Jared Lemon explains that he is an ‘old style’ roaster and tries to get as much Maillard reaction as possible. This makes the Coffee Basics coffee taste ‘sweet’ he explains. Customers are welcome to bring their own containers and have them filled by the roasting team. What Elna and Edmund have achieved is a brilliant blend of Austrian 19th-century sophistication and Australian post-industrial chic all based on full flavoured, freshly roasted coffee.
9 Walker St, Castlemaine; Open daily until 4pm, (03) 5470 6270, coffeebasics.com