As an American abroad, small talk in a foreign country typically consists of blathering about weather and sports. Sometimes, when the suds are fresh, there’s even some jiving about geopolitik and the fairer sex. But when java’s on the menu the otherwise merry residents of Sydney shed the pleasantries and get down to business. Coffee is business for Sydneysiders. And business is good.
Unlike the passion of a San Francisco barista or the morning ritual of a New York commuter, good coffee in Sydney is more like piety. You can date the punch-drunk fervor back to when coffee was first planted in 1889 in the hinterlands of Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, but really it’s the fault of the Italians (of course). The city’s rich Italian community has built a foundation of espresso appreciation and with it an assembly of espresso-based essential drinks: the short black, the latte and the beloved flat white. Or, in the heat of summer, an iced coffee — which, to Australians, is coffee with ice cream and whipped cream. Yes, please. Here’s a hard-earned tip: if you want an iced coffee ‘Murica style in the land Down Under, ask for a long black over ice. If they didn’t spot your accent, they’ll spot your Dunkin’ Donut-sipping Yankee ass pronto.
Today, Sydney’s burgeoning pan-Pacifica culture continues to rise, but the city shows no sign of relenting its buzzy coffee culture. With top-notch shops — many of which seem like a case study of “world’s best coffee shop” — materializing each week, here are five shops we’d consider making the 22-hour flight back for. The common thread? Exceptionally tasty coffee.
The Grounds of Alexandria
If you go to The Grounds you will use Instagram. The coffee shop is home to a market, a florist, an Italian providore, a research facility for roasting and blending and a petting zoo. It all works.
2 Huntley Street, Alexandria | Learn More
For the serious drinker and the serious eater alike, the good food of Reuben Hills is second only to their first-class coffee. Make it on a Friday morning for the free cupping sessions. Look for the ice cream sandwich with salted caramel.
61 Albion St, Surry Hills | Learn More
Gumption by Coffee Alchemy
At Gumption you won’t find a lot of secondary matter. It’s coffee on the menu, and if you want anything else you can take your business elsewhere. Owner and roaster Hazel de los Reyes keeps a vigilant eye on the entire operation and the incredible craft coffee they serve is a testament to their focus. The long (but brisk) lines of coffee snobs are further proof of its place in Sydney’s coffee annals.
Shop 11, The Strand Arcade, Sydney | Learn More
Brewtown serves delicious coffee. It also has cold drip on draft. But Brewtown also proves that for many, coffee is a larger entree into a lifestyle. A shop on the first floor is stocked with various hard goods and they host various small-batch roasting sessions.
6-9 O’Connell Street, Newtown | Learn More
The Reformatory Caffeine Lab
Prefer a bit of mixology with your coffee? How about cold-drip mixed with cognac? Then the Reformatory Caffeine Lab is for you. Based in an old garage in Sydney’s Surry Hills, The Reformatory makes coffee front and center. The Reformatory’s roaster, Simon Jaramillo was even born on a Colombian coffee farm. Instant coffee cred.