WAFFEE, the latest addition to Melbourne’s inner-suburban cafe scene, pairs authentic Belgian waffles with divine coffee. Reporter Sarah Soh chats with the siblings behind the store to find out how two Singaporean international students ended up making delicious European treats.
You could say chance played a big part in the creation of Waffee.
It was chance that brought the Liuw brothers into contact with Maître de gaufres (waffle master) from Belgium. But more on that later.
In reality, Waffee’s beginnings were quite humble.
Yongcheng Liuw, 29, was at a crossroads in life. Forced to weigh up his options – return to Singapore to develop his IT career or stay in Melbourne to do, well…something.
It was by sheer chance that he came across waffle stalls while travelling through Japan. These waffle stands sold the humble waffle in various incarnations, but Yongcheng hit upon an idea: why not travel to the waffle’s source? And perhaps start a cafe in Melbourne that sold authentic Belgium waffles and great coffee.
Armed with newfound enthusiasm, he enlisted his brother, Shane, 26 – a commerce graduate from the University of Melbourne – and the pair created Waffee: Waffles + Coffee.
Muscles in Brussels
After months of research and planning, the intrepid siblings arrived in Belgium to find that though waffles were available on every street corner, they weren’t all the same.
The ones from Brussels were different from the ones in Antwerp. The ones on this street corner tasted better than the ones over there. The brothers soon realised it was hard work locating quality waffles that tasted good, and not the bland mass-produced types Melburnians were accustomed to.
“When we were in Belgium, we didn’t eat breakfast or lunch. Just waffles. Waffles all day. Now that’s dedication,” Yongcheng tells Meld.
Even after cutting the list of potential waffles types down to a handful, the boys struggled to convince Belgian waffle makers to part with their family recipes, which are often handed down through generations and closely guarded as secrets.
Things looked bleak, until chance brought the boys their salvation, a waffle maker who wasn’t on their original list of people to visit.
This master of desserts was from the Liège province and about to retire with no one to take over his family business.
“He saw that we would continue his legacy, and decided to pass his recipe on to us,” Yongcheng says.
“We called him up on the second-last day of our trip and we chatted and just bonded straight away. And he spoke English.”
“Though,” adds Shane, “not very fluently!”
After their initial serendipitous meeting, the boys spent weeks learning the trade from the Belgian waffle maker, who later flew to Melbourne to oversee Waffee’s grand opening and keep an eye on quality control.
Special machines and ingredients had to be imported from Belgium, but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Waffee’s waffles are crisp, (thanks to the caramelised pearl sugar, imported from Belgium) thick, (they’re made from dough, not a liquid batter, and left to prove for an hour) and delicious, especially when accompanied by a latte made by their talented barista, Jerome.
The cafe is already a hit with the high school crowd in its neighbourhood. Though the store is located in Altona, the brothers have plans to expand into the city next year, bringing their affordable treats to the city’s masses.
“I think the most important part is to maintain the quality of our product. We’ll take it one step at a time – the potential is limitless,” Yongcheng says.
And that’s something the boys insist they’re not leaving to chance.
Waffie’s waffles cost $3 or less, and come in original, blueberry, cinnamon, chocolate glaze, chocolate stick and coffee and sultana flavours.
Waffee: Waffles + Coffee is located at 25 Harrington Square, Altona and is open Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 4.30pm and Saturday 9.30am to 3.30pm. Phone: 9398 1689