Airport coffee doesn’t actually have to be good coffee. In fact the bar is set very low for food and coffee in airports. I suspect it has a lot to do with access to a captive audience waiting for a flight. When you are boarding in 30 minutes, you are unlikely to shop around much.
Gourmet Cellars in the Sydney Domestic Terminal is actually not too bad. The cafe is located just near a bookshop tucked away from the main concourse. As the name implies, they had a surprisingly substantial wine list, even if they were light on food.
The cafe uses Vittoria coffee and does a reasonable job with it. My long black was more or less OK, and was only slightly too bitter. Considering what some cafes do to Vittoria coffee, this was better than I was expecting. Unfortunately for me, their cake selection was poor to nonexistent and their food selection was just as slim. They did stock some biscuits and a few other nibbles, but nothing that appealed to me.
The seating was OK, but like so many other places in an airport, they were short on power points. The day a franchise makes power points available at the table for their airport locations, they will make a killing. Unfortunately for my phone’s battery, Gourmet Cellar was not going to be the one to start this.
OK coffee, not like you have much choice
Very light on food
I am sure their wines are lovely
Why don’t airport cafes offer patrons power points at the table?
Racecourse Road is not a good place to go for coffee; there are not many places that can do a passable long black. You can find dining, a Coles Metro and occasionally even large numbers of drunk people with a temporary interest in horses, but finding a good coffee is harder. Unless you go to a small espresso bar called Fonzie Abbott, just next to Vagelis.
Fonzie Abbott is named for the first pet and first street that one of the owners lived on, just like the pornstar name meme. I can only assume that this is somehow related to the rooster in their logo.
The cafe is more of an espresso bar, with a small footprint and not too many seats. The coffee they serve is not just the best on Racecourse Road, but compares well against cafes in other areas too.
Fonzie Abbott uses both blends and single origin beans, with the single origin beans changing regularly. There are a few light meals and a selection of beers available as well, and apparently they also do Espresso Martinis on Fridays.
There are not many places on Racecourse Road that can do good coffee, and fortunately Fonzie Abbott is an exception. The decor tends towards hipster, with its second-hand aesthetic and the mix of blends and single origin beans. It is my pick of the street if you want a good coffee, long black or otherwise.
Better than the other cafes on Racecourse Road, because…
After weeks of being told about the place, I finally visited a great cafe/coffee lounge in Wooloowin called CoffeeGuy. It was not until a friend and I arranged to catch up on the weekend there that I finally got around to checking the place out.
The cafe is near Rhubarb Rhubarb, a resturant that at least two other guys told me is a great way to apologise to an aggrieved partner, and when you walk in, the first thing you notice is the space. The place is large, and the tables, chairs and couches are spread out, creating a completely different experience from most other cafes. It did not take long for one of the staff to notice my confusion, and with their assistance I ordered a pair of long blacks and found somewhere to sit until Chris arrived.
Once Chris arrived, I found out that I had ordered the wrong coffee. According to Daniel, the owner, I should have ordered one of the single origins, because that is what Chris usually got, and not their regular blend. Fortunately he saved me and brought out another pair of long blacks to replace the ones I had chosen. It was a dry prepared Brazilian bean they roasted themselves.
In fact they have a small roaster off to the side of the cafe. The owner was more than happy to talk about the coffee he had, including some Yellow Bourbon Camocim Organic he had just got in. Like the other exceptional baristas and cafe owners in Brisbane, Daniel clearly loves coffee, and even has his own cafe recommendations he is willing to share.
The cafe is a great place, the coffee is exceptional and the cafe itself is unique, though a Finnish friend of mine did say they had coffee lounges like it in Europe. There is really only one thing that I can find to pick on, and that is the lack of a kitchen. There are cold snacks and biscuits available though, and that is more than enough to make CoffeeGuy a great place to spend a Saturday morning.
Open floor plan and a lot of space between customers
CoffeeGuy is purely about coffee, there is no kitchen
There is a roaster in the corner
They know coffee and have a changing range of single origins
It is hard to find a good coffee in the city outside of normal work hours. After 4pm, almost all of the cafes close, leaving just a handful huddling around the mall, nothing like the number of options available during the workday.
Bar Moda is an office hours cafe. Sitting in the foyer at 307 Queen Street and surounded by other office blocks, it is not likely to get much foot traffic on the weekend. During the week is another matter entirely though.
Bar Moda has two counters, one facing out of the building and another inside. There is seating near both, but most importantly, the two counters keep the takeaway orders turning over fast. The coffee is strong and good, though the latest one I had was pretty hot for black coffee. I imagine it would have been fine as a milk coffee.
There is one more thing: they have free WiFi via CafeScreen. The service looked interesting and it ran an image insert/replace in some RSS feeds within Flipboard. Twitter and email were fine, but I did not stay long enough to try it out properly.
I only know of two dedicated cupping rooms in Australia, one in Sydney and another in Brisbane. And both are in Campos cafes. The one in Brisbane has been open for a few months now, and at least from what I’ve heard, has been popular. There isn’t much about it on their website, and I only found out because I saw the cupping room at the cafe, and some discussion on Twitter.
I had never been to a cupping session, and I had no idea of what ‘cupping’ even was. Dandelion and Driftwood sell cupping journals. When I first saw them, I had absolutely no idea what they were for. However, as this session was being held at one of my favourite cafes, which is also a local roaster, a group of friends and myself booked a Saturday session.
The Cupping Room
On the day, the five of us were shown to the meeting room out the back, where we were given aprons (apparently spills are not uncommon) before heading into Campos’ dedicated cupping room. It was very cool. The light fittings were made from coffee cups. The lights were low and the room seemed full of coffee paraphernalia, though no more so than the rest of the cafe.
Cupping is a very specific coffee tasting technique, removing as many variables as possible to make it easier to compare different beans.
I learned that it makes it possible to compare coffee beans on their own merits. The tightly controlled preparation method means the tasters know they are experiencing exactly the same thing as the next taster, be they in the same room or in another country. It makes it a lot easier to talk about the coffee if you can remove all other variables.
The Coffee We Tried
Campos had six different coffees for us to try: five single origin varieties from Kenya, India, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Ethiopia, and a commodity coffee for comparison. Each bean was served in a small bowl, with water heated to a specific temperature, left to brew, and then stirred, and then brewed some more, before the grounds were scraped off the top. It seemed to be a fairly involved process.
The whole time the coffee was being prepared, and during the tasting itself, everything about the beans was explained. They covered how each of the beans were processed, where they came from, who grew them, and a lot more.
The highlight of the whole session was being able to compare so many different varieties of coffee. Each was distinctive and had its own qualities, with the Indian Malabar Monsooned beans being the most unique. The only comparison more striking than the Malabar and the rest was between the single origins and the commodity coffee.
Why it was Cool
At just $11 it is cheap, and if you pay $20, you walk away with 250 grams of the coffee you liked best. If you like coffee but did not even know what a cupping session was until you read this, then go and do one. It is a great experience, and Campos has taken a commercial activity and turned it into a great customer experience. If you already knew what cupping was, you are probably already interested in booking a session.