Archive for the ‘coffee’ Category

Cup Fever – Campos Coffee Cupping Room, Newtown

For all of Sydney’s talk about serious coffee, the city has never had a cupping room before. We’re talking the same kind of smelling, sucking, spitting and other ill-mannered gestures that have previously accompanied wine snobbery… and party pashes. Heck, even all of those Americans that Aussie like to take the piss out of for having crap coffee have cupping rooms in plenty of their newfangled Third Wave coffee houses. We better put the medal to the ristretto lest we get left behind.

Thankfully, serious coffee dudes Campos unveiled their shiny new cupping room – the city’s first – two weeks ago, and I was invited along today for a looksee. The room is upstairs from the barista-bustling Newtown flagship. Three of us were led up the dark, narrow staircase. We knocked on the door, upon which a slit in the door flew open, with eyes peering through like a Depression-era speakeasy. Nifty.

We entered the spacious, dark room, with all eyes drawn to the brightly lit cupping table, glowing with a halo effect – coffee heaven, I presume. I’ve been to other cuppings in New York, and in comparison, there are some serious pluses to the Campos version. Firstly, there’s lots of personal attention and education. Secondly, everyone gets their own cups and spoons, which is a nice hygienic approach compared to the NY method, with its shared cups between dozens of spoons kinda washed in mugs of boiled water that hopefully kill anything picked up from that taster’s ex-boyfriend. On the other hand, the NYC sessions were free, but I’ll pay $8.80 for piece of mind.

The cupping consisted of seven types of coffee beans, with grinds ranging from naturally dried Honduran to PNG, Kenyan, Indian ‘monsoon’ and even one from an unlabelled mass-producer. To start, we shook each cup of grinds to get a sense of their smell in their dried state. The characteristics varied widely: one was full of lime and citrus, another chocolately and yet another aromatic. The Indian monsoon – named because the beans are exposed to rains and winds so that they emulate the monsoon conditions when the beans used to be exported on clipper ships, which makes them pale and swell, and gain a unique, strong flavour – reminded me of leather and earth. The mass-market beans barely smelt of anything at all.

Next, the grinds were covered in 93-degree water, upon which a crust formed and floated on top. We were instructed to delicately break through the crust with our spoons, and each of us took note of the changes in the smell characteristics. Finally, the crusts were removed by Campos barista Todd McCarthy, who’s been charged with running the cupping room sessions. Lastly, we tasted the infused coffee water in each cup. I fall in love with the delicate, fruity Kenyan, but such purist thoughts aren’t so simple, as we’re taught about how roasters blend different beans to enhance flavours and create complexity.

We stumble out of the room, infused with a greater appreciation of how a specialty roaster like Campos controls its quality and builds intricate blends like a fine apothecary.

Each session runs 45 minutes, holds about four to six people, and costs a measly $8.80 “for now”, we’re told. Get in while it’s a no-brainer. And there’s good news for other Aussie capital cities: Brisvegas is getting its own cupping room at Campos’ two-year-old outpost there, and Melbourne will see its first Campos coffee house open later this week, popping up along Carlton’s Elgin Street. How good is it that you’ll be able to score Seven Seeds and Campos in a single coffee stroll?

Campos Coffee Cupping Room, 193 Missendon Rd, Newtown, NSW
Sessions: Tues to Fri at 7.30am, 9am & 1pm; Sat 8.30am, 1pm & 3pm
Campos Melbourne, 144 Elgin St, Carlton, Vic
Campos Brisbane,11 Wandoo St, Fortitude Valley, Qld

Campos Coffee on Urbanspoon


The Robots Are Coming! – Robo Cog cafe

It’s been a disastrous month for breakfast in Sydney, with two of my favourite new cafes closing their brekkie business. First there was Redfern’s Moose General Store, which got rolled by Sydney City Council over its sidewalk seating, then Chalmers Street’s Eat House decided serving breakfast and lunch was too much and started focusing on dinners only.

So it is with great pleasure that I announce a week-old newcomer in Surry Hills called Robo Cog – as in robots and bicycle cogs. A natural combination, no? Well, the robots appear to be a bit of a fascination by the Bangkok boys (with unfairly cool names like “House” and “Jet”) who run this new café, with toy robots invading the shelving and various robot motifs on display, from the walls to the bathrooms.

Then there’s the cycling element, which is equally inspired. The operators are bike geeks who have been running a neighbourhood bike repair and maintenance service just down the road. In a beautiful, blatant lack of commercial viability, they work on bikes or help people service their own two-wheelers and charge – wait for it – a$3 donation for the honour. In a materialistic city like Sydney, such a transaction may cause people to feel like they’ve woken up in Bizarro World. In the café, there are bicycles hung along the brick walls, a weekly feature that rotates bikes by customers who want to store and show off their pedallers.

Many locals might not have even noticed Robo Cog’s arrival, as it subtly took over a cottage on Riley Street that has long operated as one the city’s worst cafés in one of the city’s best café spaces. No longer. Not only do the Thai barrisas pour a sweet cappuccino, but they’re also roasting their own coffee on premise, using North Ryde’s Green Bean beans. The house blend is a mix of Ethiopian and… erm, something else that I can’t remember, with a fruity, nutty taste that’s solid, although I get the sense that they’re still working out the best roasting process. With such passion about, it feels like it’s just a matter of time. The crew also showed me a bag of coffee beans grown in Chang Rai, in Thailand’s north, which they’re experiment with for a unique espresso option.

The other clincher with Robo Cog is the price. Food starts here a gold-coin prices and then tops out at $9. At most Surry Hills cafes, that will buy you toast, but here it gets you a full-fledged breakfast. I started with a bacon-egg roll that cost little more than my coffee – decent, if a bit pedestrian – and at these prices, I should be able to get through the rest of the menu in about a week. See you there tomorrow, and don’t forget to bring some change.

Robo Cog, 249 Riley St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9281 2880

Robocog Cafe on Urbanspoon