Sydney Coffee – 2015

A lot of new specialty coffee stores opened in the last year, so much so that I ended up making myself sick from a single coffee crawl because I hadn’t paced out my coffees and ended up dehydrating. Here are the cafes I visited in a two week run; two are specifically left out: Artificer Coffee and Single Origin Roasters because both these cafes have a special place in my caffeinated heart.

The first time I went, it was way too busy because it was a weekend. This time, I went on a weekday and it was much much better. Burundi was on their batch brew, so of course I had to have it, and a piccolo for the purposes of prettiness. I feel the latte art here is carried over from Single Origin Roasters (courtesy of Charles), as my brother has mentioned that these guys pour some amazing rosettas – in a similar fashion to how they were presented at Single O – many many thin leaves that curl all the way around. Luckily the servingware and decor are completely different, so it’s easy to tell the two cafes apart that way.

The blood orange brewnut was quite delicious indeed – the sugar had a nice tang to it that was just perfect.

Devon Cafe/Devon on Danks have similar yet different day menus. The city cafe uses watermelon red coffee cups, but I didn’t like the coffee the time I had it – a bit too dark for me, though I’m unable to identify what may have caused it to be that way. The Waterloo cafe is pretty awesome and also does a dinner menu. They rotate through roasters for some of their coffees, with Industry Beans espresso tasting quite nice, but the Ethiopia Wottona I had from Marvel Street Roasters didn’t have the sweetness and body I was seeking. It was overly acidic, though according to some reviews of Marvel Street roasted coffee, the beans themselves should be fine, so I figure it may not have been brewed properly.

Green eggs and ham was my breakfast on that visit, which included a huge fat chunk of bacon! An egg covered in green pea sauce, and a crispy thick slice of potato hash, all drizzled with green tomato sauce. The tartness of that sauce was delicious! I wish there was more of it on the plate to accompany the bacon, and overall I really liked this dish.

For me, Gumption is much more accessible than Coffee Alchemy, yet I don’t actually visit too often, and if I had to think about why that is, it’s probably because I “live” in Surry Hills; my coffee crawl almost always starts there so I end up hitting my coffee quota by the time I visit the city. Plus, it’s always busy there. Once they did have a Nicaragua – the coffee I decide that when it’s available, I will choose. Perhaps I should write up a coffee preference deduction list!

Edition Coffee Roasters is a cute little setup in Darlinghurst. They roast their own beans and have a Nordic-Japanese theme when it comes to food. I had two visits here; I was after the Oden but I got there too early the first time. Good thing too, because it meant I also managed to sample this mysterious “Elixir cold brew” that comes out such a light golden colour.

For the first two pictures, I had an Ethiopian batch brew and the black rice. I always hate taking pictures of black coffee, and this was the first time I noticed something really cool – I was sitting under a fancy light, and it made fancy circles as a reflection! Being primarily a black coffee drinker, this inspired me to take awesome pictures of black coffee. The black rice was also a pretty and tasty dish – there were fresh strawberries as well as freeze dried ones which were really nice. I love the coconut and black rice combo!

On my second visit, I managed to get both the Elixir cold brew and the oden, the two things that took my interest as they were quite novel. Having had their Ethiopia Kochere brewed really nicely by my Adelaide barista, I knew how sweet and delicious it could get, plus, I’ve had Kochere enough before that I knew I liked it. However, the cold brew wasn’t quite up to scratch. The light colour should have given it away, but since they use a secret recipe, I was hoping they’d be able to retain a bit more of the body and sweetness of the coffee. It did however, have a buttery texture to it – not sure if that was intended. Since my sense of smell is bad, I can’t say if a cold brew should also have a prominent smell. The cold brew isn’t something I’d get again unless someone can convince me that it actually does taste good. And finally, the oden! It looked very very pretty, and had a large chunk of the jelly cake! And ever since I’ve made my own dashi broth, I can now taste out dashi. The pickled egg was great,  and I loved the texture of the jelly cake, but everything else was rather bland. I’m usually happy with mild flavours, but the stuff in Japan tastes better and has more flavour. Perhaps I hyped this up too much, but I don’t feel the need to revisit Edition unless I’m in the area.

Hello Brewristas, with your fancy Hario contraptions and funky coffee aerators! I was very lucky to have visited on the day I did, because apparently the owner had just come back from Japan and brought back coffees from Onibus, Switch, and Amameria! How amazing! As I had opted to dine in the courtyard at the back of the cafe, my walk took me past the brew bar where I saw their board with these treats, so asked about them straight away. I knew then that I’d have to have at least two coffees – one Amameria since I hadn’t had the opportunity to try it in Japan, and Onibus because I saw them roast on site, and their filter was absolutely delicious. First up, Amameria Guatemala Las Tilancias. Guatemalan coffees aren’t my favourite, though some of them can be quite nice. I found this to be a little light, lacking in something like body or just… something that stands out. The Onibus Costa Rica Sin Limites, on the other hand, was prepared quite well and had that sweetness and chocolate that I associate with Costa Rican coffees. Always a safe one for me since I know how these taste. I did have different baristas make each coffee too.

The food I ordered was an avocado smash – with ricotta, corn, pomegranate, tomato. I added poached egg and bacon, and it was quite average. Sure it looked pretty, but the ricotta washed out any flavour of avocado and corn. Haloumi would be something I would have preferred, but they didn’t allow substitutions. The bacon was more towards crispy, which is probably fine for most people, but I like mine more on the ham side. However, the next day, I went to John Smith Cafe (no pictures so this is the only mention it will get this time, even though it was amazing) and had their poached eggs, with added avocado salsa and bacon (isn’t it funny how it’s essentially the same thing just priced and added differently? So amusing!), and that was so good it blew this one out of the water! I really need to go back to John Smith Cafe because just that one dish made the visit absolutely amazing. Plus, the staff there were all incredibly chilled. And I mean incredibly chilled. Lots of fun!

At the end of my Brewristas experience, I did provide feedback on my thoughts on the two coffees tasted, and mentioned one being not up to scratch. Times like that, I wish I was better at describing coffee, so I felt limited in the way I could express what I tasted. The barista mentioned that he had a pretty good idea of what could be improved, so I have faith that they will be able to prefect the brewing of the Guatelmalan coffee. I suspect it had to do with the fact that the coffees had just arrived, so they hadn’t had an opportunity to troubleshoot and refine the brewing of it, so all is forgiven.

Elbow Room Espresso, a relatively new place that serves food and coffee. Their filter coffees feature guest roasters that rotate, though I was recovering from caffeine overdose pretty much all two weeks in Sydney, so I couldn’t sample the drinks here more than twice. Their french toast was also quite nice – not too sweet, and the vanilla mascarpone was just right.

The other cute thing about this place is that they serve sparkling iced cascara in a whisky glass alongside an espresso!

I never paid too much attention to Paramount Coffee Project because I thought it was a project, not a cafe, but my brother kept recommending the place to me, and so I decided to go. On the first visit, I sampled the Ethiopia Shebel Fana as filter, roasted by Reuben Hills. I’d previously had it as an espresso at Steam Tank, and at both places, it tasted great. However, the filter wasn’t pretty enough for a picture, and I wanted to come back and sample more stuff anyway as their food menu looked interesting.

Behold, fried chicken and waffle with Japanese curry – the best chicken and waffle set I’ve had ever! It tasted so much better than a maple syrup version, and Roscoe’s in LA was pretty hard to beat! The curry was so flavoursome here and made the chicken taste even better, and the waffle acted like a sponge. I need to learn how to make this curry at home!

Haven Tailoring Coffee Joyously. Hello, VA388 Black Eagle! I dont’t actually like the look of it; I still like the sleek styles of Synesso and Slayer the best. Since the Black Eagle has recently popped up on my radar though, it was nice seeing one up close! My brother was lucky enough to attend their opening event and has some shots from behind the machine, which is super cool. This place felt like an introductory school to specialty coffee to me. Signs saying “please try without sugar first” and the coffee descriptors being “fruity” “nutty” and “chocolatey” to help people make their decisions. Since this felt a little wishy washy to me, I had to ask, at which point they presented me with the actual coffees they used. I dismissed nutty and chocolatey in favour of fruity, which was a Nicaragua Ana Maria. I find that I encounter Nicaraguan coffees way too infrequently, so I take the opportunity to taste them when I can. I remember my first one being very lemon/citrus, so I wasn’t sure how it classed as fruity as I’d place it under a more acidic profile. Anyway, it was quite nice. The beans were roasted by some barista champion in Taiwan, so the beans do have to travel a bit before reaching us.

The plum panna cotta was tasty and my favourite component was the coconut tapioca bits! I was only given a spoon to eat this dish, however it contained slices of grapefruit that I had to cut to eat, as they wouldn’t break apart with my single spoon. I kind of wish that I was given a knife and fork to eat this, but that’s also me being highly dextrous with those utensils.

I also tried an espresso since I wanted to see if the Black Eagle made awesome espresso (I don’t even know how I could have told if the machine contributed to the quality so I don’t know what I was thinking, probably just me trying to be cool), and opted for nutty – a Guatemala Antigua “La Minita La Flor”. I totally didn’t like it, it wasn’t really drinkable for me. I can only describe it as being too strong and not even nutty, I’d say borderline bitter. It wasn’t a great end to my visit, and after a discussion with Dan from Artificer, I realised that this cafe was pushing opinions on people in an effort to educate them on coffee. So, I still think this place’s main goal is to educate people on specialty coffee, and not a place I need to go to as I’d get more learning from superultraawesomebaristasinthemosthipsterestcafes (see my Artificer post).

Reformatory Caffeine Lab is a funky place full of batman and other superhero references. The lighting in here makes it a challenge to take a lot of pictures, and they have a very crazy lineup of coffees all the time!

They appear to have a lot of variety, some all year round, for example, their competition coffees such as the Ninetyplus Panama Geisha Lycello, which I opted for this time. And how else to sample this, but to let it go through the steampunk! Okay, so I got charged $16 for this and was explained that this is a competition coffee. Was it worth it? Nah, considering my Colombia CoE#1 from Single Origin Roasters was $8. This actually makes for a record I believe, unless I have previously paid $20 for a geisha, but I don’t think so. It did indeed taste nice though, and I got the flavour of lychees 3/4 in. This place is great for things like coffee degustations and sommelier tastings of coffee, but it does require several people or else there’s just too much coffee. Nice to visit simply to geek out on crazy coffee, but it’s not a place I’m eager to revisit, having been here a few times now.

I’ve visited Sample Coffee several times, but I was eager to take a trip to their relatively new roastery. The batch brew here was an Ethiopian, but for some reason tasted a little funky, as if it had a winey flavour from what I usually associated with natural processed coffees, which confused me a little. Most of the time I do like the flavour, but it was just weird in this one. Am I becoming too snobby/incorrectly overeducated? I have no idea. The espresso, on the other hand, was quite tasty indeed – this was the right way to prepare an Ethiopia Wottona Bultuma!

Steam Tank Coffee – a place that’s just over a year old, I’d say. The last time I was here was several months ago, and the owner still remembered me! That’s what happens when you start asking random questions, like “when did you open?” “what kind of single origin coffees do you use/have?” They serve up some delicious coffee, and have hilarious comments on their “one size only” coffee cup. The tastiest one I’ve had was an Ethiopia Dumerso which was just so sweet, it was amazing!

I actually also had a pretty fun adventure once when I decided to ask for their filter coffee, and they made one for me, but hadn’t told me where it was from. After they asked me how it was, I said, “I’m going to try and guess what this coffee is.” I did do a check and asked them if it was a coffee on their take-home pack shelf, because that would help me, and they said yes. So I drank the coffee and tried to analyse it the best I could, though I wasn’t sure how well I was faring. But if the experts can do it, surely there are certain things I can note, right? I decided that it wasn’t super floral as I couldn’t smell any mystical aromas, so excluded the Ethiopian coffees. Then, I felt that there wasn’t a strong juicy. fruity presence or roundedness in the mouth (is that even a phrase?), so I ruled out Kenya. That left Burundi and Rwanda. I always remembered Burundis to be quite nice, but never knew in what way, but I remember that Rwandan coffees had more of an astringent, grapefruit acidity to them from previous descriptions. I did receive some help by confirming with the baristas that it wasn’t Ethiopia and Kenya, and so I guessed Rwanda. I was right! Hooray for me! That was great and gave me more confidence in trusting my palate!

Now that I’ve started blogging, I guess every time someone asks me if I’m a blogger, I get to say I have one but that no one reads it. It technically gives me an excuse to take pictures of absolutely everything!