Elixir of Melbourne- Carlton’s Market Lane Coffee

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The trio strolls down the streets of Carlton. Sunday flats, draped knits, gloves, leather and wool- we are dressed for the wintery Melbourne Sunday air. I’m carrying a little paper bag that emits its delicate citrus and yeast aroma. We are saving this brioche to dip in paper coffee cups, once we retrieve the golden brew.



We lean into the coffee window at Market Lane, Carlton. A cheery barista greets us. Latte. Latte. Cappuccino.

Under what name?


Cue eruption of guffaws from Barista.


The brioche meets our lips before the coffee. It tastes like clouds- yeasty, citrus infused clouds. The chewy and waxy orange rind buffs my teeth, fragrant and sharp.

We play with the camera. The take out window slot  enthralls us. The black and white checker square tiles frame our background like a grand chessboard. Are we the pawns? Where coffee is concerned, I’m afraid so.

Blocking the window we chat and exclaim and one of us blends in with the cafe’s typography.


We declare the bricks are smashing. We smile smugly at the cup etiquette and more so at the brew.


The crema glows on the surface of our cups and leaves a gilded slick on the inner lining as the last sips of Melbourne elixir are drained.  This is our elixir.

A customer with dashing manners and spectacles to boot, swans by, long legged and articulate.

– Want a photo of the 3 of you?

– Oh, please!

He directs the little intercontinental menagerie:  Colombian, Australian, Singaporean.

Our trio

I’m a director

he declares.

It seems he directs the Singaporean more.

Cue the opera singer.

Can I be directed too? I feel left out of all this directing business. 

He frames the shot, camera in hand. Then, jerkily, he interrupts his directorial posturing. With one quick sweep, he pounces on a tissue littering the pathway.


Smiles widen.

The trio is a quartet. Even a lane way can be rendered and beautified. Ahem. The Aesthetic Universals are in his ken. As I admire my cup and ponder the litter removal gesture I am reminded of these universals identified by philosopher Denis Dutton and I conclude this little cafe perfectly exists as a fulfillment of the aesthetic universals. And so do we. It’s Sunday after all. Why not chase beauty or even just simply the elixir of life?

Market Lane Coffee, Carlton. Melbourne
Market Lane Coffee, Carlton. Melbourne

Six Universal Signatures of human aesthetics;

  1. Expertise or virtuosity. Humans cultivate, recognize, and admire technical artistic skills.
  2. Non-utilitarian pleasure. People enjoy art [sic coffee] for art’s sake, and don’t demand that it keep them warm or put food on the table.
  3. Style. Artistic objects and performances satisfy rules of composition that place them in a recognizable style.
  4. Criticism. People make a point of judging, appreciating, and interpreting works of art.
  5. Imitation. With a few important exceptions like abstract painting, works of art simulate experiences of the world.
  6. Special focus. Art is set aside from ordinary life and made a dramatic focus of experience

( Denis Dutton’s  Aesthetic Universals summarized by Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate)


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