Sydney: Home to the world's biggest coffee snobs?
Syndeysiders are a sunny lot on the whole, friendly and helpful.
Unless you screw up their cappuccino.
Sydney doesn't have a coffee culture -- it has a coffee cult.
If dueling were still acceptable in the city, I have no doubt that most pistols drawn at dawn would be to defend the honor of a venerated barista.
My first experience with Sydney's finicky coffee drinkers came when, still fresh off the boat from London, I met a seemingly charming magazine contributor for a coffee in Surry Hills.
He ordered a ristretto from the young barista.
“What’s that?” she asked echoing, more politely, my own thoughts.
“Really,” he said, completely crushing the poor girl. “If you are a barista you should know what a ristretto is -– it’s half an espresso.”
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Half an espresso? She did her best, but compounded her ignorance by serving it in "the wrong cup." Presumably she should have raided a doll's house for a suitably sized drinking vessel.
I later found out from a barista friend of mine that a ristretto is the sweetest part of the crema -– a concentrated shot with less bitterness than an espresso. Not exactly half an espresso then.
Stories like this abound in Sydney, a city where people will walk out of coffee shops without ordering if they see the grinder looks full or dirty. You see them craning to make sure the steam pipe has been wiped down properly after each insertion.
One barista was caught out because, while using a different jug for soy milk, they didn’t use a different cloth to wipe the steam pipe.
Everyone, it appears, is a coffee expert.
Wrest them away from the aroma of their own favored coffee chapel and noses wrinkle with muttered comments about burnt beans and blasphemous brewing techniques.
Even the Sydneysiders who don’t tolerate caffeine have allied with the city's coffee snobs. When a woman came in asking for LSD, the barista naturally asked what she meant.
“Latte soy dandelion coffee, of course,” the customer sneered. “Everyone is drinking them in Newtown.”
A city full of beans
Sydney is a multicultural city that draws residents from all over the world. Clearly there are different customs and rituals with coffees in other parts of the planet.
A barista was sweeping up a broken biscuit near two ladies, one of whom erupted in fury.
“Turkey may be a third world country,” she shouted, “but even in Turkey we don’t disturb someone’s coffee by sweeping up while they are drinking.”
She then proceeded to march up to the barista, turn her back to her, lift up her buttocks and violently pass wind.
After two years living in Sydney I now find myself more than mildly disappointed when I’m served a below average coffee. I’ve become a devotee of the Campos beans.
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Of course it’s not just the quality of the coffee but how fast the water is pushed through and how it's ground. The dynamic duo of Tom and Yipso in Taste on Foveaux Street in Surry Hills make a Campos long black like no one else in the city -- and anyone who disagrees can see me outside.
If you want haute caffeine in Sydney, you have a wander outside of the main tourist areas. Here are some superior coffee shops to watch the locals getting their fix.
In the alleyways of Surry Hills are some of the best cups of coffee in the city. Once fortified you can zip up to Crown Street and enjoy the eclectic mix of boutique shops.
Über-urban and industrial with cool garage roller doors at the back -- the beans are roasted in the loft space.
Rueben Hills doesn't just serve killer coffee, it makes a mean plate of food inspired by the Latin American countries from which the coffee beans are imported.
The Tradies Breakfast (aimed at such rough sorts as architects and ad execs) is the best breakfast you’ve ever eaten in a brioche.
61 Albion St., Surry Hills; Reubenhills.com.au
Single Origin Roasters/Sideshow
Here you'll find your cup of joe brewed by Shoki Sasa, who won best barista in the 2012 Good Café Guide Awards.
Anything you need to know about coffee, just ask the knowledgeable staff.
60-64 Reservoir St., Surry Hills; www.singleoriginroasters.com.au
The buzz about The Grounds doesn’t just come from the coffee.
This new venture is a mega-café, totally to be avoided on the weekend when you'd have to get up before you go to bed to avoid the queues.
Naturally, they roast their own beans and the coffee is excellent.
So is the food, served in a friendly atmosphere with a huge kitchen garden complete with chickens and a place for kids to play.
Building 7, 2 Huntley St., Alexandria; Groundsroasters.com
Bondi and Bronte
The Crabbe Hole
If you're looking for some frothy waves to go with your coffee froth, consider the Crabbe Hole at Bondi Beach.
This compact, laid-back café has a million dollar view by the entrance to the ocean-side pool at Bondi Icebergs.
It’s a great place to put fuel in your tank before tackling the lovely Bondi to Coogee walk, or to enjoy an ice cream sandwich on the way back.
1 Notts Ave., Bondi Beach; Icebergs.com.au
Three Blue Ducks
Café by day, restaurant by night, the Three Blue Ducks serves up the ultimate Aussie breakfast.
Avocado on toast with herb salad and oven-roasted tomatoes provide a simple but effective demonstration of the superb quality of raw ingredients Australia produces.
Afterward, we recommend wandering down to the beach to watch the surfers battle tricky Bronte beach.
143 Macpherson St.; www.threeblueducks.com