Bikes and coffee and hipsters – seemingly unrelated things come in threes. Why? Who knows, who cares. As puzzling to me as Shirt Bar was the other week and no less delightful, Lonsdale Street Roasters (or LSR as it is known) meshes this triad of seemingly random objects (yes, hipsters are indeed objects) except to me, coffee roaster+bikes+hipsters=café, where shirts+whisky+coffee=scratching my head a bit.
I think it’s safe to say LSR in the only so-cool-it-hurts espresso bar in the ‘berra, a city renowned for it’s roundabouts, public servants and, oh hang on a sec, bicycle paths. Bicycles hang from the ceiling, yellow and white magnetic letters spell out the menus, all the staff are under 25, artfully arranged bric-a-brac adorns the walls. It ticks all the boxes, the only thing missing is the Astroturf.
LSR pretty much serve coffee, as they are predominantly a coffee roaster. But they do have a smattering of breakfast, cakes and sandwiches with fashionable fillings (slow roasted pork with chipotle, anyone?). It’s order-and-pay-at-the-counter. If there’s no room inside (and I pray if you go anytime other than Autumn, there is), perch yourself on a milk crate outside.
I order a macch and Mum orders a cap, before realising yet again that that’s not what she really wanted, but as always not caring enough to change it. As expected, they do that thing that shits me where instead of 1/3 espresso 1/3 milk 1/3 froth dusted with chocolate (let’s call it an Australian cappuccino), they latte art the hell out of it so it’s basically a flat white with chocolate. Which is fine in this case as it’s not really what was wanted anyway but surely the point of a cappuccino is the foam, micro or otherwise (please not this is a generalised rant and not aimed at LSR specifically).
Of course, swings and roundabouts, anywhere you get a flat ‘cappuccino’ like this, I get a super short and concentrated macch, just the way I like it. So really, I can’t complain. Well, I will, but only on principle, and only in the safe confines of the blogosphere, never to anyone’s face.
Lonsdale Street Roasters
3/7 Lonsdale Street
Braddon ACT 2612
‘We need to go out and have coffee,’ Senhor R said sternly one morning. I sighed. ‘Fine!’ I said ‘Let’s go!”. Oh wait, that’s right. I like coffee. But when someone tells me to do something, I straight away want to do the opposite.
Not to mention that these last couple of weekends have been like mini coffee tours as we try to drink and photograph as many coffees as possible, preferably on a Saturday. This is because I started falling behind. I got a bit busy, I got a bit lazy. I got a job. I graduated. It was my birthday. These are all good things, but let’s face it, they don’t leave much time for coffee dates. I really need to get my priorities straight.
When Senhor R and I sit down in a cafe, every single time without fail, they give me his coffee and they give him mine. This happens whether the same person who took our order brings us the coffees or not, whether I order or Senhor R orders or whether we both order. Apparently a piccolo latte is a ladies’ drink, while a macchiato is super-machismo. Ah, well. I don’t mind wearing the metaphorical pants for a while.
Crave espresso is a place I’d been meaning to revisit for a while, and Senhor R kept suggesting it. So naturally, like any good girlfriend, I put it at the bottom of my list. After all, it’s not far from home and we could go there anytime. And I do wear the pants.
The cafe part of Crave espresso is located above their warehouse in Alexandria. It’s one of those you’ve-gotta-know-where-to-look places but they do pretty good trade from the surrounding apartments. When we arrived on a Saturday morning they were relatively full, but it soon cleared out. We ordered our usuals, swapped coffees and sipped. Impressive flavour, more so than I remembered. In fact, we liked it so much that Senhor R got them to grind us a 250g bag of whatever we were drinking to take away. I know, I know. I should’ve been taking notes. But frankly I was too caffeinated to care what I was drinking. I was too busy enjoying it.
I recommend checking out crave espresso if you get a chance. The owners are friendly, the coffee is solid and you can take some home if you’re that way inclined. And don’t do what I do when someone tells me to do something. Don’t do the opposite.
Crave Espresso Bar
Unit 72, 20-28 Maddox St
(02) 9516 1217
So by now you probably know the macchiato is my current coffee of choice. I love an espresso or a ristretto, but a few too many black-coffee-on-an-empty-stomach days on a Portuguese holiday kinda cured me of the habit, as did my frugal nature; $3 or more for a shot of coffee with no additions just seems like bad value. A macchiato is also a bet-hedging drink; the milk tempers a short black which may or may not be brilliant, hiding any extra bitterness it may have. Here’s a list of 3 places I think make a great one (in no particular order).
1. Plunge Coffee, Summer Hill
This had been on my wishlist for ages and I wasn’t disappointed. Sitting on a street that real estate agents would describe as ‘funky’ and local council marketing would describe as ‘a village’, it’s a nice place to sit and there’s plenty of seating. The coffees here are beautiful and taste as good as they look. A bit steep at $3.50 but the milk is silky smooth and so is the flavour. They use coffee alchemy coffee.
48 Lackey Street,
Summer Hill NSW 2130
2. Le Grand Café, Clarence Street
The café in the foyer of Alliance Française sells scrummy looking pastries by Bécasse and does more substantial food as well, but I’m more interested in their coffee. All coffees are $3, unless you prepay and buy a bunch at a time and then the work out at $2.50 each. They use Allpress coffee which I like and their macs are not too long with a generous daub of froth. The service is good too.
Le Grand Café
257 Clarence Street,
Sydney CBD NSW 2000
(02) 9267 1755
3. Single Origin Roasters, Surry Hills
This macchiato is so ridiculously expensive I considered not recommending Single Origin on that basis. It is also hipster paradise and only open on weekdays. That said for $4 you’ll feel no qualms about returning it if it’s not to your liking. I’ve been there quite a few times and have never had to. You also get a choice of beans if you so desire. The branding of this place is such that 250g bags are sold at 15 bucks a pop. Not so rapt on the tiny stools and tables either.
Single Origin Roasters
64 Reservoir Street,
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9211 0665
I have my Mum’s family to thank for my love of coffee. When I was a little kid, I loved eating a spoonful of froth off my mum’s once-a-week cappuccino after the grocery shopping. Then later, one by one, everyone bought espresso machines. When I was 16 I started drinking coffee in earnest, careful not to overdo it. Never more than one a fortnight, I vowed. Then I got my first job of any consequence at a coffee shop and became fascinated with the process of coffee making. How could I get my cappuccinos as good as Milan, my Serbian boss? That was it; I was hooked on coffee. And now I’m traipsing all over, looking for the best coffee I can find.
So when my aunt suggested the coffee roaster for a family get-together, I was more than happy to oblige. And when the owner Dan Fitzsimmons (a friend of my aunt’s) offered us a tour of the roasterie, I was excited. Another step in the coffee-making process revealed.
The Coffee Roaster was one of the first of its kind in Sydney, pretty obvious when you see their web address, www.coffee.com.au (don’t worry; the website is going to be updated soon). We go upstairs where the unroasted beans are stored and poured into the roaster. Dan starts by explaining how the coffee is stored in hessian sacks but says that there’s an increasing trend towards plastic liners and that it’s important to get as much of the dust and dirt out of the coffee as possible prior to roasting.
The coffee roaster uses a computer-run Chinook air flow coffee roaster which basically means the beans are roasted on a cushion of air. The system is computerised, and each roast is saved as a file which has been optimised in terms of a variety of variables (temperature, length of roast etc.) for the individual blend or even the individual coffee shop they are supplying. He contrasts this with other roasters who roast each batch more by sight, saying that he prefers about his method as once each coffee profile has been established it makes no difference who is in charge of the roast, they will just download the correct file and thus the result will be consistent.
Dan pours some beans into the roaster and selects a profile, the TCR22 for Café Giulia in Chippendale, a long, slow roast. Dan explains that this will cut out the acid or caramel notes and lead to a darker finish where a faster, hotter roast would leave you with a lighter, more caramel finish.
We move downstairs to watch the roasting process, and Dan contrasts The Coffee Roaster’s method with that often employed by roasters. Usually they’ll have around 6 blends roasted 6 different ways, and will have one person roast, store and top-up as needed while another person fills orders with them. He, on the other hand is storing the unroasted beans until orders are placed. Customers like café Giulia call up the day before they need a fresh supply and Dan and the team will roast the batch the next morning and deliver it immediately. The whole process is surprisingly quick; they can roast about 4 batches an hour. As the coffee cools he shows us the dust removed via the roasting process – a whole bin full!
On storing coffee – a hotly contested topic in barista/roaster circles – Dan says that they package their beans as soon as they have cooled in a bag which lets excess gas out but does not let oxygen in. Every time you open it you are letting in microbes and yeasts which feed on the coffee and quicken its expiry, so he recommends storing coffee in a vacuum seal container where you can suck all the air out, or in the same kind of bags they use, so you can squeeze it out. Keep your coffee out of the light and don’t worry about putting it in the fridge or freezer – you will just be refrigerating/freezing stale air. And his number one storage tip? Use your coffee up as fast as possible because as soon as it’s roasted it begins to deteriorate.
What obsessions run in your family?
The Coffee Roaster
380 Botany Road,
Alexandria NSW 2015
1800 806 200
We all have that New Zealand export we’d just love to claim as our own. It may be an actress, band, TV show or recipe. It won’t surprise you that my case, it’s a coffee roaster.
Allpress Espresso started in New Zealand, now has a roastery in Zetland, Sydney, has opened a café in London and is slowly spreading its brand to cafés all over Sydney. They even have an iphone app to help you track down their brews.
Much like Flint and Steel, Allpress Espresso in Zetland is a coffee roaster as well as a café, but in the case of Allpress, it’s more than a hole-in-the-wall. It’s all slick stainless steel, marble bench tops and sheets of glass, industrial-chic with a touch of retro fitting right into its Zetland surrounds. You can see right through the cavernous space to the roasterie and watch them work their magic on the beans. Or, you know, forklift sacks of coffee around. Whatevs.
It’s one of those places where I’ve never had a bad coffee but at the same time, the last few times I’ve stopped by it’s been less than stellar. I don’t know how to explain what I mean, but the coffee tastes ‘rushed’ these days. That said, I’m a huge fan of their Carmelo and City Espresso blends which I often buy for home use.
The focus may be on the coffee but there is also quite a good menu of things like pastries, sandwiches, cakes, artisanal breads and breakfasts like soft-boiled eggs with sourdough soldiers, avocado and ricotta. It’s the kind of food I’d refer to as ‘assemblage’ rather than cooking but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty.
Allpress is one of those places where you want to time your visit carefully. Like many of my faves its closed on Sundays. Unless you’re into waiting for a table, on a weekday, the pre-work coffee rush is a bad time to go, and on Saturday it’s not so great to show up in the morning as the breakky/brunch crowd takes over. I’ve had quite good luck at 2pm, but then again, maybe I should just learn some patience.
What NZ export would you like to claim as your own?
58 Epsom Road, Zetland 2017
(02) 9662 8288
Monday-Friday 7:00am – 3:00pm
Saturday 8:00am – 2:00pm
Flint and steel in Marrickville is one of the many cafés I’ve been itching to try for ages now. It’s on Addison Road, one of those hip, up-and-coming main drags in the inner west, the kind of exposed, cracked and uneven arterial Marrickville Council road that make the City of Sydney Council look like an overbearing helicopter parent. It’s dotted sparingly with second hand furniture stores, Thai takeaways and of course, cafés.
Apart from house hunting, a few trips to Reverse Garbage and the bogus Marrickville Organic Market (not all of it is organic, not all of the prices are marked), it’s a road I’ve been down without stopping many times. This is not a criticism of the Marrickville/Enmore border; far from it. Everything you need is there, but not so much that it’s overwhelming. You’re just outside the action, just outisde of Enmore/Newtown, a few bus stops from Sydney’s Little Portugal and a half hour bus ride from the CBD. The area has a lot in common with my current home, Alexandria, with its wealth of industrial conversions, dog parks and cafés. But Alexandria is a 25 minute walk from the CBD and I’m one lazy blogger who cannot drive her boyfriend’s manual car, or any manual car for that matter, so it has always seemed quite far out to me.
I stepped off the ever-reliable 355 bus to find I was more than 10 minute early, again! As I turned the corner I could already smell the coffee roasting. I followed my nose and the smell was even more enticing inside the shop. I ordered a macchiato and sat out the front as it’s quite dark inside. The barista brought out my coffee soon afterwards with a little glass of water which I appreciated. The macchiato was very short, the way I like it, with a beautiful striation. I took a sip and the first flavour I tasted was this overwhelming caramel note, I know that sounds pretentious but there you go. I’m not well-versed in coffee tasting lexicon but it was a very singular flavour, not rich or deep but clear and sweet. I was impressed with the clarity of flavour but I have a preference for something a tad darker and richer.
Waiting for my usual coffee pal, I was a tad nervous as I wanted to take photographs. I knew that Coffee Alchemy is primarily a coffee roaster and training facility, so it only has a tiny espresso bar at the front (Flint and Steel). I was going to have to ask permission. I generally feel ok with photographing interiors of cafés without asking as café owners don’t seem to mind and I consider cafés semi-public spaces. But in a small space it was inevitable that I would end up photographing staff and/or customers so I felt the need to ask.
My friend arrived and ordered a short black. The barista offered her a choice of three single estate coffees, and she chose the Guatamalan, which promptly arrived with a glass of water and had a darker, more chocolatey flavour and a tad longer shot, as she’s specified. We ordered two more coffees for good measure, a piccolo latte for me and another espresso for her. My piccolo had a gorgeous pattern on it, very photogenic. I wasn’t actually in the mood for a milk coffee, I just wanted a point of comparison and that’s the largest coffee I can bear to drink. It was smooth and creamy but lacked the body I was after and I couldn’t finish it. I wanted a short black if I’m honest.
Flint and Steel describes itself as ‘a little café tucked away in a quaint suburb’. While this description may seem a tad corny, it is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of shopfront, if not for the massive logo on the front window. Inside there are a few benches facing the front counter and a couple of side tables, and outside are three shabby-chic stools with large arm rests, so there is always somewhere to rest your coffee. However it’s not a place to wile away the hours and they don’t serve any food whatsoever, as they are primarily a coffee roaster. It wasn’t particularly busy, but then it was 10am on a weekday in Marrickville. We were there about an hour as people popped in and out, mostly getting takeaways, beans or freshly ground coffee to take home. I popped in 15 minutes prior to closing on Saturday arvo and they were a lot busier, with about 8 customers squeezed in sipping coffees and 5-or-so more ordering coffees and beans to takeaway.
Overall, I thought it was definitely worth the $3 each coffee cost. The staff were pleasant and knowledgeable and their attention to detail was impeccable, they were clearly focused on what they were doing and knew their stuff. My friend tried two coffees, the Guatamalan and the El Salvadorean and preferred the Guatamalan as she found it to be just a little bit smoother, richer and with less of an aftertaste. When I went back on Saturday they had three completely different blends on offer, so there’s plenty to try.
At the end of our visit, I stammered out ‘Uh, do you mind if I take a couple of photos? I write a blog…’ ‘Sure!’ the cheerful barista beamed at me. Phew. No stress.
Flint and Steel (Coffee Alchemy)
24 Addison Road
(02) 9516 1997
Weekdays: 7:00am – 2:00pm
Saturdays: 8:00am – 3:00pm
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. I do not endorse the content of the comments herein.