Coffee so good it should be illegal…

Nestled out the back of a café on Fitzroy’s infamously cool Brunswick Street, something special is brewing. And we mean that quite literally. This month we’re taking Three Thousand Thieves members on a journey to the dark side, to experience coffee so good, it should be illegal.

Contraband Roastery is a labor of love for founder Chris Legge. The small, boutique roastery operates out the back of Newtown Specialty Coffee & Roastery - aka the “front” for Contraband. Upon entry you’re greeted by a Red Gum wall (constructed from slices of Australian Eucalyptus trees) and mid-century inspired furniture. The overall feeling is warm, minimalistic and tasteful.

It’s no surprise that Contraband also incorporates tasteful design into every bag of coffee. Utilising stunning artwork designed by Chris himself, each bag is a visual reference for the flavour and character of the coffee inside. “Images are a nicer way to communicate than a chunk of text,” says Chris. And we couldn’t agree more. We especially love the shady contraband dealer logo (a character Chris came up with to represent the brand) holding a group handle as the tool of his trade.

A true artisan of his craft, Chris is all about the passionate, artistic side of coffee. “You have to love it to get the best out of it,” he says. He first started working as a part-time barista as a means to pay rent while studying design at university, which later lead to work within the specialty coffee field. At the end of his design degree, Chris realised that coffee was his passion over a desk job. A few years later, Contraband was born. 

Always trying to come up with something new, interesting and different to what people can get elsewhere, Contraband is all about embracing change: by exploring the seasonality of coffee, Chris changes the entire suite of his offering every six months.“You don’t eat the same food every time you go out, so why do it with coffee? It’s exciting to try new things,” says Chris. 

“The first thing I do on my day off is go out to another café and drink their coffee. It’s just something I really love. I’m a massive coffee nerd.”

Placing an emphasis on the characteristics and qualities of each individual coffee, Chris has come up with a stunning offering for Three Thousand Thieves members in September. For the espresso we have “The Thief” - a blend with origins from Colombia, Ethiopia and Mexico, giving an overall flavour of stone fruit and brown sugar, with a hazelnut and vanilla finish. For the filter, we have two offerings. The San Cristobal, from Terruno Nayarita, Mexico - showcasing a clean, crazy sweet pallet of apricot, berries and malt. We also have the Cafe Diamond Matagalpa, a microlot from Jinotega, Nicaragua. It features a floral aroma with juicy sweet hits of black tea, honey and raspberry.

So what can we expect from Contraband in the future? In the short term, Chris hopes to open an espresso bar in Melbourne. In the longer term, he hopes to get into direct-trade partnerships with farmers that will help benefit the communities where our coffee comes from. “I think the focus will continue to shift to the process involved from the farmer through to the finished product,” says Chris. “It’d be great to feed Melbourne’s coffee success back into communities that are less fortunate”.

These are some amazing coffees that we know you’ll love as much as we do. And if Contraband is so good it’s criminal, then lock us up and throw away the key, because we want another cup.

Keep in touch with them on Instagram @contrabandcoffeetraders

Photos by Pia Hambour for Three Thousand Thieves