Brisbane has grown an appetite for matcha, and B+C Lab Cafe has opened in Kelvin Grove to help feed that hunger. Nestled into the urban village student hub of Musk Avenue, it is quite inconspicuously located at the base of an apartment block, handwritten lettering in white paint pen on the glass door at the front the only clue that it is what it is.
As you come through the ground floor entrance, you first see the white marble service counter and coffee machine perched on it. Around the side of that, the glass cabinet of cakes and pastries awaits. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived, and staff explained that they usually had an even larger range, but a number of items had sold out through the day. Still, we spied a few things that caught our fancy..
You place your order at the counter before either finding a seat or getting your goods to take away. There is a menu of hot and cold coffees, fresh juices, smoothies, and premium Japanese tea by the pot. You can also get either a hot matcha latte, or an iced matcha latte. We went with the matcha options, of course. We placed our orders for those and a couple of the cakes, and headed upstairs to the main seating area.
The Japanese-meets-Scandinavian-meets-industrial style continues upstairs, the polished concrete floor downstairs giving way to dark floor tiles, but bare concrete continuing on the walls. Shiny white tiles brighten the space, covering the tabletops, part of the floor under what must be more stairs, and bench-type seats. There is a risk of those tiles being cold on the bottom with the chilly air conditioning though. The tiling certainly called to mind the tiled surfaces of so many of the buildings we saw in Japan. They have cleverly maximised space under that little under-stair area, with small geometric block tables and cushions making it a cosy hideaway. Small pots of greenery here and there add some tempering colour so it isn’t too distantly clinical.
Just as you reach the top of the stairs, you will find a side table with bottles of water, glasses, and serviettes that you can help yourself to. Beside that is a chair on which is stacked an assortment of reading material that will put you in a more pensive or reflective state of mind, depending on what your leaning is. R&B music was playing at a volume that was alright for the space, but perhaps just a touch loud, as the concrete and tiles bounced sound back instead of absorbing it. Only one other table was occupied at the off-peak time we were there, but the acoustics are likely to be different again with more people and more chatter.
The iced matcha latte came out in a squat, thin-walled glass, a promisingly rich, mossy green. It was nicely icy, and delivered on earthy flavour. It was only faintly sweetened, so the matcha flavour was not buried.
The staff apologised as they brought the hot matcha latte to the table, for the latte art being not so good, as soy is harder to work with. While the laminated lines might have been a bit blurry, we could see where they would have been. It had a beautifully vibrant colour, as opposed to the dull shade you get from low quality matcha. It delivered good strong matcha flavour without bitterness, and again was only mildly sweetened.
The matcha crepe cake was brought to the table on a black plate, setting off the colour of the cake well, and matching the seating and cushions. It was accompanied by gold-coloured cutlery, the warm hues of that complimenting the otherwise black, white, and green colour scheme. The crepe cake was composed of many layers of very thin matcha crepe, and equally thin layers of matcha cream. It was hard to separate them to taste the crepe on its own, but it seemed that the matcha flavour came mostly from the matcha cream. If you don’t regularly have dairy though, you will taste the heavy cream through the matcha and be aware of that slightly gamey funk. The crepe cake was well done for what it was, but it was a bit rich for us.
The other dessert we ordered was the matcha Paris Brest. It was brought out on a white plate, to show off its charcoal black choux pastry. The pastry wasn’t soggy from the matcha cream, as can be a risk otherwise. While not crispy (choux is not a cracker or a wafer), it had a good bite. The cream was a smooth custard, apart from a couple of lumps, and it had a good matcha flavour under the light sweetness. Of the two, we preferred this, as it had more texture variation, and wasn’t quite as heavy.
We would certainly say B+C Lab Cafe should be added to the destination list for matcha lovers in Brisbane. As the staff explained to us, the B+C stands for Bakery + Coffee. There is certainly a focus on coffee and patisserie cakes. While they don’t have quite the variety of matcha drinks our longtime favourite Sonder has, they do a mean matcha latte, hot or cold. Their desserts are also a different style, and their range continues to expand (they told us more cakes were coming soon..). So, visit and decide for yourself.
Price point: Cakes $6.80 to $7.50. Coffees $3 to $5. Matchas $6 to $6.50.
Value: Pretty good for what you get, considering the amount of matcha in everything.
Address: 31 Musk Ave, Kelvin Grove
Phone: 0498 055 555
Website: B+C Lab Cafe