It’s rare to see a Sydneysider before noon without that ubiquitous paper cup in hand. The city is fuelled by caffeine – in fact, we propose that the true tragedy for Sydney would not be a pub with no beer. Rather, it would be a café with no coffee beans, its baristas turning away befuddled businesspeople and harried parents with KeepCups empty and minds sluggish. Fortunately, with the sheer volume of coffee shops in Sydney, this dystopia will never eventuate. And for the best of the best, we recommend these cafés.
Coffee Alchemy, Marrickville
The name Hazel de los Reyes means something in coffee circles. As the owner of Coffee Alchemy (and below-mentioned Gumption), de los Reyes’ cup runneth over with accolades for her barista skills, tasting abilities and expertise as a roaster. De los Reyes’ original shopfront/roastery is located on an industrial but rapidly gentrifying stretch of Addison Road in Marrickville. The corner spot is so modest as to be almost nondescript. If it wasn’t for the aroma of freshly roasted coffee and the locals exiting its doorway clutching steaming cups, you could easily mistake it for a very different business – an upholsterer’s shop, perhaps, or a plumbing supplies store. It fit right in when de los Reyes set up her roastery in 2003. The espresso bar was added in 2008 to showcase special single-origin beans that required immediate and skilled extraction.
24 Addison Road, Marrickville
Skittle Lane, Sydney
Skittle Lane is a boutique coffee roaster and retailer with a holistic approach to the experience of stopping for a coffee – the shop’s interior, the hospitality and, of course, the brew. The beans are selected from around the world and roasted in Skittle Lane’s St Peters roastery before being transformed into lattes, flat whites and ristrettos at the sleek city café. The coffee changes seasonally – at the time of writing, the tasting notes describe chocolate, butterscotch and plum. There’s also a focus on sustainability, an ethos that infuses everything, from the ethically sourced beans to the compostable cups and lids.
40 King Street, Sydney
Single O, Surry Hills
Formerly Single Origin, this Surry Hills mainstay recently changed its name to reflect the moniker its loyal customers have bestowed upon it over the years. It now boasts CBD and Carriageworks iterations. Single O’s Reservoir Street flagship stocks a Reservoir blend that changes seasonally, as well as a weekly single-origin offering. Filter coffee is a big consideration here, too – choose from batch-brew, pour-over or Aeropress. The beans are roasted at the Botany “roastworks”. Don’t neglect the menu, either: the banana bread is served with an espresso butter created especially for Single O by the butter barons at Pepe Saya.
60-64 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills
Edition Coffee Roasters, Darlinghurst
At Edition, the baristas use only single-origin coffee. Unlike other cafés, which often have a blend of different origins that are used for coffees made with milk, Edition sticks to its beans. “We feel that only serving one origin puts the focus on the different flavour that each coffee has,” says co-founder Daniel Jackson. “We let the coffee speak for itself.” The light-filled Darlinghurst café uses a Nordic-Japanese aesthetic as its inspiration – think blond wood, polished concrete floors and umeboshi-plum-filled pastries.
Image by Alana Dimou
265 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst
Coffee & Co. at Bel & Brio, Barangaroo
Do as the Italians do and prop up the bar in the morning with a tiny espresso, today’s paper and a delicate pastry. You’ll feel positively Roman at Coffee & Co.’s gorgeous bronze bar in the Barangaroo food emporium Bel & Brio. Brothers Alessandro and Gianni Panetta, the team behind much-missed York Street café Baker Bros, serve up Will & Co. coffee. The espresso uses the 303 blend (Brazilian, Colombian and Zimbabwean beans), while milk coffee is made with the 808 blend (a sweet, medium-bodied mix of Guatemalan and Brazilian origin).
300 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo
Kingswood Coffee, Sydney
The baristas at Kingswood are fast. The office crowd that assembles outside on weekday mornings moves on swiftly, warm cup in hand. The café is little more than a window at World Square but what it lacks in size and seating, it makes up for in punchy, smooth espresso from Sensory Lab and friendly banter from the baristas – when they have a moment to pop up for air. It’s owned by the 2017 Australian Cup Tasting Champion, Yama King, whose skills as a coffee taster have been honed through years of bean selecting and roasting.
World Square, 680 George Street, Sydney
Cavalier Specialty Coffee, St Leonards
Cavalier uses coffee from Byron Bay outfit Marvell Street Coffee Roasters, choosing a range of single-origin coffees according to use: espresso, filter or cold-brew. The milk here is no slouch, either – Cavalier uses milk from Jersey cows, which is basically the Rolls Royce of dairy. The result is a creamy hit of caffeine with no rough edges. Plus, Cavalier has a menu of dishes that are almost too pretty to eat – the mackerel looks like a spring garden.
1/34 Oxley Street, St Leonards
Kwila, Surry Hills
Quietly serving some of the best coffee in Surry Hills from its nook at the bottom of Foster Street, Kwila holds its own despite the proximity to Single O on Reservoir Street. Co-owner Vic Lynch is from Papua New Guinea, the home of the kwila tree, the café’s namesake. They’re now roasting their own blends using fair-trade beans from PNG and Colombia, offering a 50-cent discount when you BYO cup.
46 Foster Street, Surry Hills
Artificer Specialty Coffee, Surry Hills
The guys behind Artificer, Dan Yee and Shoji Sasa, have backgrounds in sourcing, roasting and brewing coffee and both have been named Barista of the Year by Sydney Morning Herald publications. All these things combine in each cup of coffee served from this intensely focused coffee bar in Surry Hills. There’s no food at Artificer and you won’t find a matcha latte or a chai smoothie. The philosophy, Yee says, is: “Do one thing and do it well.” Involved in each stage of the process, from buying ethical beans to roasting, Yee and Sasa are also fastidious about their milk, which is from Warrnambool in Victoria.
547 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
The dictionary definition of gumption – shrewd, spirited initiative – most definitely applies to the coffee at this creation by Marrickville roasters Coffee Alchemy. There’s a daily queue in the Strand Arcade for coffee with Gumption: bold, exquisitely extracted and pleasingly dense. The tiny café is a caffeine oasis for busy city-goers, with ornate interiors that match the historic Strand and baristas whose focus is on exceptional coffee.
Shop 11, Strand Arcade, Sydney
At Mecca’s Alexandria “cellar door”, the crew can be seen through glass walls, going about the business of roasting coffee beans in two restored Probat roasters. It’s here that Mecca runs private tours, classes and tastings, while serving perfectly extracted coffee to a grateful public. (Mecca also has an espresso bar at 67 King Street, supplying the city with an obsessively consistent brew.)
26 Bourke Road, Alexandria
The Campos team is on the ground in some of the most remote areas of the world, sourcing the finest sustainably grown coffee and ensuring the future and livelihoods of coffee-growing communities. As well as selling topnotch beans to some of the best cafés in Sydney, Campos has a flagship store in Newtown, where the dedicated baristas have been grinding, tamping, extracting and frothing since 2002. The team works as a well-oiled machine and has been known to calmly serve more than 200 coffees within an hour.
193 Missenden Road, Newtown
Coffee Bondi Beach
It doesn’t matter how raw, fermented or organic things get in Bondi, a solid flat white will still be sought after (albeit served with mylk). Owners Cam Price and Joe Pags roast their own beans and, for them, the ideal way to take coffee is black. If you like your coffee with milk (or milk with coffee), the option here is nut milks made by local Zeitgeist Group (of Mylk Bar fame). The result is a smooth, nutty coffee that allows the beans to shine. Coffee Bondi Beach also pours a delicious sparkling cold-brew coffee from a bar tap.
135 Curlewis Street, Bondi Beach
Gypsy Espresso, Potts Point
A roastery in Alexandria (the entire suburb must be redolent of the dark stuff with the plethora of boutique roasteries occupying its former industrial warehouses) serves Gypsy’s Darlinghurst shopfront. The café, a popular hang for local pups and their humans, serves a range of single origins and a unique espresso blend using beans from Colombia, Brazil and Costa Rica and Gypsy beans can be found at other discerning cafés around the city.
6/81 Macleay Street, Potts Point