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Espresso Room’s new Civic face

Emma Macdonald

Michael Rose and his team never want a Canberran to have to drink a chain-store coffee again.

Six years ago Michael took on what many called a fool’s mission. He opened up his first specialty coffee shop, the Espresso Room, in Woden – right next to a national coffee conglomerate.

Turns out, the good people of Canberra appreciated that they could buy a brew made with care, by specially-trained baristas, using Project Origin beans expertly roasted at ONA coffee.

Michael and ONA founder, Canberra’s “The Coffee Man” Sasa Sestic, have been mates since Sasa arrived in Canberra in the late 1990s.

The pair share a passion for all aspects of the coffee industry – from the workers harvesting the plantations, to the treatment of the beans, brew production and, ultimately, the customer experience.


With Michael handling the commercial and retail side and using ONA’s coffee and barista training, Espresso Room in Woden thrived – and in fact, was forced to expand while the chain store next door closed.

Since then, Espresso Rooms have popped up in Tuggeranong and then not long after, at Belconnen.

It has been a coffee boon for mall-goers and nearby office workers and Michael says his model of going into the mass market shows how happy Canberrans are to seek out, and embrace, a quality coffee and quality service. Now Civic has its own Espresso Room, with Michael grabbing some well-placed frontage off the Canberra Centre’s new Monaro Mall and beauty precinct.

Both he and Sasa have been heartened by the way in which Canberra Centre customers have flocked to their other recently-opened venture, Greenhouse Coffee Co. But while Greenhouse is bringing a substantial menu to the otherwise food hall territory, Espresso Room serves a specific purpose.

It is about getting a great coffee. In short time. With only a small offering of sandwiches, and a few bespoke baked treats to soak up the coffee with.

The space itself is small and intimate, but with a glamorous feel thanks to marble bars and brass trim.

You can hang out on a stool at the at the window to watch the passing trade and wait for your caffeine to hit. Or just grab it and go.

In keeping with his own obsessional approach to coffee, Michael wants people to come in and try a new way of imbibing their caffeine. Have you tried a filter coffee? A cold brew, a batch brew, or a pour-over?

“Our staff are as passionate as we are about coffee and for me this is all about the customer experience. I would love people to be able to ask questions, try something new – take a chance on a different way of enjoying their coffee.”

He also promises that his staff will always be approachable – and not aloof – when it comes to people not yet confident around the city’s booming coffee culture.


“My guys are not too coffee nerdy, I promise! We want people to come in and ask questions, and we can advise them on all aspects of the coffee.”

The success of the Espresso Room model is such that Michael has set up in Sydney at Circular Quay, and is negotiating terms on numerous other sites in Sydney, Queensland and Melbourne.

“I love that Canberra is a really supportive city, and they are positive and always friendly. Selling them coffee is always a pleasant experience.”

Meanwhile, Michael is using his Canberra fame to springboard into the China market with terms secured in Beijing and Shanghai.

“Sasa has helped put Canberra coffee on the map and now is the time to take that leap and spread our wings and share our passion.”

What started as a punt on quality coffee out of a shopping mall has reaped rewards. Espresso Room has beaten the established coffee franchise competition for the Golden Bean for Best Franchise/Chain and also took out the 2016 World’s Richest Barista Competition.

Michael says his success is a tribute to his team – and his staff are considered family.

the essentials

What: Espresso Room Canberra Centre
Where: Ground level, shop DG38, on the Bunda Street side of Canberra Centre
When: Monday – Friday 6:30am – 4pm, Saturday 7am – 5pm, Sunday 7:30am – 4pm

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author