Five café trends that keep the industry growing

Whether you’re looking to wile away the hours lingering over an aeropress on a sunny stoop or stop to quickly slurp down a ristretto, there’s no denying that we Sydneysiders are pretty bloody spoiled when it comes to café choice. This year, I had a the chance to pen a few reviews for The Sydney Morning Herald Good Café Guide 2013, which I more than jumped at. Here are 5 trends that’ll keep the Sydney café scene growing for the next 12 months.

  1. Migration south-westwards - despite what some of us may believe, coffee doesn’t begin and end with Surry Hills. Unsurprisingly, Marrickville did fantastically well at this years’ Good Café Guide Awards; although Surry Hills Cafés took out 3 of the 10 awards on offer, Marrickville’s Coffee Alchemy won ‘Best Coffee’, and 3 of the 13 coffees awarded 3 cups (a score of 18-20 out of 20) are located in Marrickville, a result unrivalled by any other Sydney suburb. ‘Best Café’ went to Circa in Parramatta, ‘Best New Café’ to inner-westie Excelsior Jones and a bunch of new cafés were added to the guide in other south west suburbs.
  2. Green bean obsession - whether is be microlots, single origin, home roasting or becoming bffs with the dude that harvests your beans, our coffee houses are fast filling up with coffee bean obsessives. What’s more, cafés without a knowledge of the raw materials look like they lack knowledge full stop, and knowing what’s what bean-wise is only going to become more important as time goes by.
  3. ‘Your local’ - this phrase still applies to our local watering hole, it’s just the beverages we’re consuming these days are of the stimulating variety. The barista is fast replacing the barkeep as the one we tell our troubles to, and multiple trips to grab that picollo each day mean we may spend more time at the espresso machine than having post-work beers with our work-mates.
  4. Alterna-brews just keep growing – From aeropress to syphon, cold drip to pourover, non-espresso black coffee methods with freshly ground beans gives new meaning to the phrase ‘hand-crafted coffee’. To cultivate any kind of rep for coffee geekery, step away from the espresso machine and get back to basics.
  5. Pop-ups, co-labs and add-ons – Last night at the SMH Good Café Guide Awards, Editor Jill Dupleix mentioned the rise and rise of what she called ‘the café plus’; the café-and-bakery, the café-and-bar, the café-and-barber, the café-and-kitchen-garden. I’d like to add to this the growing trend of pop-ups within cafés, collaborations between different food and non-food businesses, and things like beer tastings or late-night dinners after hours, not to mention coffee carts, vans and food trucks. Café patrons are more than happy to think, eat and drink outside the box, quite literally.

What makes a good café is relatively subjective, but it’s always fun I think to grab the guide and pore over it (perhaps over a café brekky?) and argue over why your fave coffee joint was hard done by, whereas that snooty place down the road doesn’t know its arse from its elbow. With 347 cafés reviewed, almost one for each day of the year, it’s really just the beginning as far as getting yourself caffeinated and brunched-up is concerned.

The Guide is available today in bookshops and online for $9.99. It will also be sold for $5 this Saturday with The Sydney Morning Herald.

What do you think are the big café trends right now?

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Every year I make a pilgrimage to our nation’s capital for The National Multicultural Festival, and every year I am oh so glad I did. This year it ran from the 8th to the 10th of February, and with 50 new stalls added to the lineup, I was curious to see where they’d fit them all…

Our first stop was LSR 23, Lonsdale Street Roasters’ second café. 23 Lonsdale Street houses their roastery, has a reduced menu and an order and pay at the counter policy. They also do something I will never for the life of me understand- make you collect your own have-in coffees. In the time it takes them to yell ‘Fabio’ eleventeen times, they really coulda just brought you the damn coffee. But hey, whatever gets you caffeinated, right?

My assembled companions for our initial Multicultural feast included, from left to right, my bro+chum, fake Sis-in-Law+chum, and partner+chum, as per usual, all stylishly attired and with grimaces (and forks) in hand.

At the Multicultural Festival, it’s always a tough call as to where to start, because you know there’s only so much room in your belly to eat your way around the globe. As it was noonish, we were more than peckish, and hit up the Peruvian stall post haste. Thank god we did. A new addition to the festival, they were serving up mashed potato, stuffed with chicken, boiled eggs and spices (similar to a tamale) deep fried and slathered in salsa. Just incredible- crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, with a mild vinegar-and-chilli zing from the salsa. This was my favourite dish of the festival.

We were severly tempted by the yeeros (pictured), considered joining the miles-long queue at the Gloria’s stall for grilled sardinhas (sardines), an, as always, lingered longingly at the Ethiopian stall watching people mop up their stew with pillowy injera. But we passed them all by, meeting up with Canberra coffeehead Barrista Barrister to try something new.

I’d never had Samoan food until this plate. I have to say that although it looks ugly as sin, it is also delicious as sin. Roast pork with plenty of crackling, gravy, samoan chop suey (stir-fried noodles), taro cooked in coconut milk and mashed purple kumara make for a veritable starch-fest. I think we were all glad we shared this between three.

We were intrigued by the pickles on sticks on offer at the German stall, but as we were going easy on the alcohol and the pickles came with beer, sadly, it wasn’t to be.

OK so I have to admit we hit up the famed loukoumades stall twice, but in my defense, it was because the first lot weren’t dark and crispy enough. The second lot, we shared with my mum, so I guess we had parental permission. Yeasty puffs of deep-fried dough squirted with honey and dusted with cinnamon and crushed walnuts, that second plate really hit the spot.

Another favourite of ours is the Bhutanese stall. We grabbed some momo, cheese-laden veggies, meat curry, rice and chilli sauce and scoffed away like there was no tomorrow. Their combo plate is one of the best value dishes on offer, and the people manning the store are lovely to boot.

If you’ve never been to The National Multicultural Festival (or even if you have), I highly recommend it, if only for the food. My year of eating just wouldn’t be complete without it.

Past posts:
The National Multicultural Festival 2012
The National Multicultural Festival 2011

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