We drank the coffee in six cities this year, from Australia’s west coast to New Zealand’s North Island. Here are 10 coffee things we really liked.
1. The short black revisited at Grossi Florentino
Small Batch Roasting Co’s Territory blend for Grossi Florentino mixed specialty sourcing and roasting of seasonal coffee with old-school espresso style. The result is a short black that’s bright and clean but still nods towards traditional espresso texture and nutty sweetness. Think of the comparison between a cool-climate pinot noir and a big, jammy shiraz.
2. New roasters: Maker Fine Coffee and Rich Coffee Roasters
Maker Fine Coffee opened a brew bar in their Richmond roastery in September. It’s a pleasant space in which to try their seasonal microlot coffee: maybe a floral Guatemala Las Mercedes geisha or a Colombia Bruselas with burnt toffee, dried cherry and a savoury finish.
In Wellington, Cameron McClure (of Flat White in London) and Richie Russell (who roasted at Monmouth Coffee) launched Rich Coffee Roasters. They’re small, but they’re doing classic Wellington-style espresso and delicious filter roasts with great green coffee.
3. Panama geisha* at Seven Seeds
Not all geisha is great, whatever the cost and reputation. But Seven Seeds’ Boquete Panama geisha had delicate floral aromas, clean, juicy flavours and an elusive stone fruit sweetness. Customers were lining up to try the best $8 cup of coffee in Melbourne this year. Also good: Guatemala Las Mercedes geisha at Maker Fine Coffee in Richmond.
4. Bottomless cups at Queensberry Pour House
The batch-brew at this city-edge coffeehouse comes in hand-thrown ceramic cups – with as many refills as you like. It’s roasted on the premises by co-owner Ben Stronach, who says he draws the line at refills for take-away (two of Melbourne’s biggest universities are in the neighbourhood).
5. Filter coffee in Sydney
The filter coffee at Single Origin and Edition Coffee Roasters was delicious, but best of all was a batch brew of Ethiopia Guji Shakiso at Reuben Hills: it was heavily perfumed with jasmine, clean and rich with stewed fruit sweetness and juicy citrus acidity. A close second was the sparkling cup of Kenya Nyeri Kamwangi at Mecca Coffee in Alexandria.
6. Batch brews in ceramic cups
Robots should make the coffee and humans should serve it (in ceramic cups ). Fetco brewers don’t get distracted in the middle of a pour, black filter coffee tastes better in a cup than a glass, and drinking coffee from a wine tumbler makes you feel more pretentious than ever.
7. Flat whites in Wellington
Whoever invented it, Wellington has perfected the flat white: a double shot of the local espresso with plenty of body and flavour that’s nutty, sweet and delicious in beautifully textured New Zealand milk. Wellington cafes even use custom flat white-sized takeaway cups to keep the milk-to-coffee ratio just right.
8. Cold coffee mixer at St Ali
A double shot of dark-roast espresso in a glass of tonic water: yikes – double bitter. A mixed coffee drink has to be better than that. St Ali in South Melbourne mixes pickled black cherry juice, a pourover of Ethiopia Sidamo and a spritz of tonic water. The tangy sour cherry offsets the bitterness of the tonic, with the sweet and subtle flavours of filter coffee in the background. A tasty summer analcolico with a caffeine kick.
9. The Aeropress brews at Red Rabbit Coffee Co
The combination of washed coffee and an Aeropress at Red Rabbit Coffee Co in Wellington made rich, crisp brews of a delicious Roi Kenya AA and a funky Mexican Finca Muxbal: the best filter coffee we tasted in Wellington.
10. Specialty coffee in user-friendly amounts
The 100-gram canisters at Assembly hold enough beans for seven or eight cups, so the coffee is as fresh at the end of the tin as it was at the beginning. Assembly’s coffee selection is spot-on, bringing beans from some of Australia’s best filter roasters to their boutique Carlton shop, including Small Batch, Reuben Hills, Single Origin and Mecca. They also feature less well-known roasters who have great coffee like Barrio Collective in Canberra.
*Why “geisha” and not “gesha”? Because Google Trends.