Address: 39 The Esplanade, Torquay, Victoria 3228, Australia
Review by: The Weekly Review
As the bright pink of daybreak begins to illuminate the horizon and toss a shimmering gloss across the sea off Torquay's front beach, barista Tom Sereika is nowhere to be seen at his picture windows that frame this glorious light show.
Perhaps he's used to it. Nature's pyrotechnics might vary but, let's face it, they happen like clockwork every morning.
Instead, Sereika, a self-confessed disciple of logistics, has his head down behind his coffee shop counter – calibrating, adjusting, tweaking and tasting.
The La Marzocco Linea espresso machine pushes thin streams of coffee into tasting cups, the dose weight, shot length time, yield and temperature are all fastidiously calibrated to set the coffee-making parameters for the day.
Later, adjustments are made to grind and dose weight to retain the flavour consistency of each shot.
By this time, the whole eastern sky is aglow, orange now silhouetting the shoreline pines, tradies' trucks occupying the parking spaces outside and the queue beginning to form at the counter.
This is the first wave of customers. The fitness team and early risers follow and mums call in after the school drop-off.
"Coffee is unique. Try to think of anything else that is brewed on-site directly in front of the customer," Sereika says. "There are so many variables involved in making the perfect cup.
"The job of the barista is to get consistency in every cup you create."
Sereika describes himself and his La Marzocco as workhorses. Together, they seem to function as one. "I love logistics, bringing this whole process together, where I can put my hands on all of this equipment and move from A to B. We can operate extremely smoothly on this machine and do hundreds of coffees in a day."
Of course, he had the best mentors – Mark Dundon and Bridget Amor, the duo behind Melbourne's leading café and roasting business Seven Seeds.
"Mark is the guru. He helped me a lot and Bridget enthused me to move on in the industry," says Sereika.
"I started in Byron Bay as a waiter. I pulled a few coffees. I then went overseas for an extended holiday."
The former carpenter says that when he returned he decided to ditch the building game and pursue coffee.
"I worked in a Torquay café and was amazed at the variables in making coffee," he explains. "I decided to go to Melbourne and ended up at Seven Seeds. I started on the floor. It took me 18 months to work myself up to the coffee machine.
"I did that by moonlighting at other cafés. What's daunting about Melbourne is the enormous coffee scene and how it's such a serious part of everybody's life.
"The customer, the staff and the boss all have demands. People who thrive in this kind of situation are a strange group to work with but I love that kind of pressure."
Sereika opened Pond last December in partnership with his parents. It's his passion. During our discussion he arranges a house blend macchiato and then a stunning filter coffee before jumping on to the La Marzocco to produce four tastings from a single 30-second extraction to illustrate how coffee flavour, in the hands of a barista, can change so radically.
Naturally, he serves Seven Seeds coffee. The seasonal house blend contains 60 per cent San José Poaquil from Guatemala and 40 per cent Kochere from Ethiopia. They are sourced directly from origin. The blend is exceptionally smooth with subtleties of comforting chocolate and molasses.
His filter coffee is a Karatu from the Gatundu region in Kenya. It's one of the best filters I've tasted. The consistency, when the water settles into a fine glass jug, closely resembles tea.
There's no hint at all of the brewing process in the taste. The black currants, prunes and especially the cola, come through distinctly.
"I'm a powerful advocate of filter," says Sereika. "It has a light and drinkable quality to it. This is where Seven Seeds shines. It showcases just how good the beans are that they are sourcing from overseas."
Sereika remains close to his mentors at Seven Seeds and is in regular contact with their roastery.
"As much as I love coffee, the interaction with my customers makes my day. Of course I run a business but the customer and the enjoyment is the key to me.
"They demand quality at a faster pace. I like being pushed."
Pond offers a small but fresh breakfast and lunch menu.