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Baristas pour heart and soul into fix
Rob Mayberry in his mini-cafe Bookend. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

When it comes to popular food and drinks, coffee - like chocolate - is in a league of its own.

It isn't a trend exactly, but it has moved with the times to ensure it remains a profitable staple.

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Forget the mantra that a cup of joe is better in Melbourne - Perth's top baristas are pouring their heart and soul into the perfect cup of coffee.

Armed with a passion for coffee and a limited budget, more coffee experts are starting up their own shops on a smaller scale than the more-traditional cafes where friends sit and chat for a couple of hours over a cappuccino and a dish of the day.

Bookend Cafe, Ristretto, Maven and Standing Room Only are among a growing number of owner-operated mini-cafes popping up around Perth where the focus is on top-notch takeaway coffee.

Some of them are tiny - like Bookend, at about 3sqm.

"There has certainly been a huge increase in this style of business since we opened our first place (Little Willys) over five years ago," Bookend owner Rob Mayberry says. "In some respects there is room for expansion because there's still so much room for improvement, but I believe not everyone can survive and a number of factors will make things difficult for plenty of Perth cafes, us included."

Mr Mayberry, who admits running two businesses is a huge challenge, "even if one is the size of a milk crate", says serving a great cup of coffee is of utmost importance at his hole-in-the wall shop.

"That, and quality of service - that's what we pride ourselves on - and we maintain that by using only quality produce, experienced staff and well-maintained machinery," he says. "This is certainly not the cheap way to go about it, but we hope the extra dollars will build us a more loyal customer base."

Don't gauge the quality of a cup of coffee by its price, because there are still those serving dodgy beans to ensure a profit. Instead, it's best to let your tastebuds choose the right barista.

"I hear a lot of debate about prices, but really I feel we should compete on quality," Mr Mayberry says.

"Ethically, we aim to keep our prices reasonable and I think we do a good job. Our running costs have risen significantly, as have our produce prices, our cup price has remained the same for four years.

What about the axiom that coffee is better and cheaper in Melbourne than in Perth? "There are heaps of great places in Perth to get an amazing coffee," Mr Mayberry says.

"Like any major city, there are plenty of bad places too, so you need to know where to go.

"I don't believe the (price) gap is as big as some people might think. Perhaps an average price would be slightly higher here, but name a product that isn't more expensive in WA at the moment."

For those planning to cash in on coffee's popularity thinking it's money for jam, Mr Mayberry has this advice: "I'd never recommend anyone enter our industry without a heap of experience and passion.