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Brisbane Cafe Review, The Odyssey Project, Milton

Grindhouse is a longtime favourite of mine, coming in my top 10 in 2012. So I’ve been keen to check out their new Roasting HQ, the Odyssey Project, in Milton for a while.

It lives up to its name. The coffee, the South + Central blend, roasted in-house and pouring from a La Marzocco Strada, is epic. Delicious.

The roastery is a stripped back warehouse – there’s nice polished cement, wooden benches, and timber stools. The aesthetic is comfortable, the space is cozy. There’s plenty of parking around, both on and off street. It’s great.

Ordering is simple – the menu is nice and stripped back, but there’s plenty of variety in the beans on offer depending on what’s going through the probat under Roaster Bob’s keen curation.

The coffee is great. The blend is well balanced, sweet, and punchy. It’s smooth in milk, silky even. I highly recommend it – the Odyssey is worth the trip. So does my little one.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Plantation Coffee Roasters, West End

I’ve been meaning to check Plantation Coffee Roasters out for pretty much the entire 2.5 months they’ve been open. And today was our lucky day. A trip to West End for breakfast, and 15 minutes spare on our parking meter was a perfect window to jump through to check out this new addition to West End’s specialty coffee scene.

plantation

Shaf started out roasting as a wholesaler with accounts like Shucked, I reviewed a Costa Rican he roasted and it was one of my favourite coffees in 2011, he’s no longer supplying Shucked, but he’s using that experience to eke out his spot in West End, his clean little space has already drummed up a community of committed locals. The house blend is an improved version of his original Shucked blend, with the benefit of significant time refining his palette, and the blend’s dynamic. The result is, not surprisingly, refined. There’s a really nice balance, it rolls around the tongue and slides down the throat like silk.

plantation flat white

Shaf is pulling shots on a shiny La Marzocco, and offering the blend plus a rotating single origin (he’s recently featured that Costa Rican. There’s a cake cabinet filled with delicious looking bits of baked goodery, and a relatively comfortable space to hang out and watch life unfold on West End’s Boundary Street – it’s located at number 140 Boundary Street.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Southside Tea Rooms, Morningside

Very few cafes offer the experience to be genuinely served by a hospitable rock star. But rock on up to the counter at the South Side Tea Room and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be warmly welcomed by at least one member of The Grates. I’ve been meaning to get here since I heard Patience from the Grates doing an interview about their newest project – a Brisbane cafe focusing on providing the sort of tea and coffee experience they’d enjoyed while recording their last album in New York.

The South Side Tea Rooms are warm, quirky and eclectic – kind of like your grandma’s loungeroom, if your grandma was a school teacher who pinched a few classic Australian school desks to use as tables. They’re serving up Dramanti’s lovely coffee – and I’ve never seen a piccolo glass quite like this one.

The coffee was good – the menu looks fun. There’s a bar boasting some boutique beers and other goodies… it’s a fun place. By all accounts the vibe changes at night and the space hosts gigs and events pretty regularly.

It’s also incredibly kid friendly. We arrived and were offered a high chair or some chalk, for floor drawing.

Our 15 month old had lots of fun with that, while we enjoyed our coffees. They were great. Rich and smooth, with a great lingering sweet aftertaste, like a good Dramanti coffee should be – the milk was not too hot, and was well textured. I have no complaints. This place rocks.

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea – but it oozes character and hospitality. One patron was sitting on a couch reading a book while we were there, another came in for a quick coffee and a chin wag… I’ll be back.

Find the Southside Tea Room on Facebook, or check out their fun website.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Ltd Espresso + Brew Bar, Fortitude Valley

Ltd Espresso + Brew bar in Fortitude Valley lives up to its wall decal… it serves up coffee worth lining up for (and I don’t think they’re species specific…).

I’ve been meaning to check Ltd out since just about when they opened – but life gets in the way. Learn from my mistake. Get here.

Ltd is all about the coffee. Luke, the owner, has been in the coffee game for a long time, and his experience working as a consultant for other cafes around south east Queensland is coming home to roost. His vision, which he’s very passionate about, is a coffee bar where people can walk up, chat, and have a coffee experience as their beverage is produced to order in front of them. He’s also one of the nicest guys I’ve met, and was incredibly keen to get feedback not just from me, but from every customer who came through the doors.

They’re a Cleanskin account, and are regularly rotating their way through Cleanskin’s assortment of sensational blends, and single origins. The menu is simple. Black. White. Brewed. You can ask for your own variations in terms of size, milk, extra shots and sugar.

Today Luke was serving up Cleanskin’s Blend 13, and an Ethiopian Karote as his single origin espresso, and the brew bar had just ticked over from a Kenyan to a Guatemalan (I think). I’m a sucker for over-caffeination, so I tried them all.

The Strada, replete with wooden handled portafilters and customised tamper handle steam wands, is beautiful. The whole black+white+wood tones look is so hot right now. There’s a lot to love about a simple fitout with an assortment of eclectic odds and ends to make it a bit personable.

Luke is also the first Brisbane barista I’ve talked to who is really getting into the pressure profiling thing with the Strada, and the fruit of his experimentation is in the cup – his coffees using a blend I’m reasonably familiar with tastes like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and the two espressos he served up on the Karote tasted remarkably different as a 10 gram single with a 50 second extraction and a long, soft, pre-infusion, and as the standard offering. The single basket was silky and balanced, the standard fare was really fruity and delicious, but probably not quite so well rounded. I prefered the fruity one. But it was marginal.

Luke’s excited about the potential that pressure profiling is bringing to the coffee game, and after this morning, I am too.

Hit Ltd up on Facebook – but more importantly, head in to the valley, check out Reverends a couple of doors up, and have a nice little journey for the tastebuds.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Fort Specialty Coffee, North Lakes

If I was a little boy again my fort would definitely have a coffee machine.

It’s never too young to start appreciating good coffee. The guys at Fort Specialty Coffee have gone in the other direction, their comic page encrusted set up features a bunch of boy’s toys including nerf guns, figurines, a collection of base/basketball caps, and some seriously good coffee.


Look up. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman…

I brought a crew of people from a college getaway we were having around the corner and even with so many people arriving at once, the service was sharp (in a good way) and the coffee was flawless. We were all very happy.

They’re pouring shots out of a matte black La Marzocco, and featuring a purpose built house blend from Cleanskin and at the moment a single origin from Cup (interestingly, Josh from Cup has a nice little piece on his blog about the challenges presented by and for multi-roaster cafes).

The absolute standout was the Ethiopian Koke (the house blend was pretty special too). As a flat white. It knocked my socks off. I haven’t had a mouthful of berries like that since eating actual berries. It was amazing. Seriously. There’s also bottled cold brew in the fridge.

Who can complain about boys and their toys when they’re being used to create the sort of vibe that Fort has going for it, or when the more expensive toys are being used to produce flavours like this.

Brisbane Cafe Review: The Single Guys, Kenmore

Do you believe in love at first sight? Then The Single Guys might be for you.

It’s a pretty deer place.

I’d been on an awkward coffee date in Kenmore – not because of the company – but because of the venue, when an old friend, a Kenmore local, offered to buy me a coffee his local cafe a few months ago. It wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t call them back. So even though I knew I’d be in pretty safe hands this time around, I was hoping that something was going to substantially raise the bar in Kenmore, just in case history repeated itself on this front…

The Single Guys is pretty much what you get when you mix a passion for quality, small lot, passionately roasted fine coffee, a no-fuss aesthetic, the experience of co-operating one of the best cafes in Brisbane, and the lessons one learns from strong connections to other successful people in the coffee scene.

That’s the recipe for the kind of dating profile that scores you a second date in the world of online romance – or the specialty coffee merry-go-round.

Ben Graham is one of the men behind The Single Guys – and you’ll probably find him behind the machine, a shiny La Marzocoo, pouring shots using beans he has sourced, blended, and roasted. Ben was one of the men behind One Drop, still capably producing delicious coffee in Fortitude Valley – which for a long time rated as my wife’s favourite coffee stop.

He’s also a big fan of Dandelion and Driftwood and like many other people in the Brisbane industry seems to have benefited from both observing and conversing with team Wolff. Suburban coffee is where it’s at. And if you want to wow a crowd – and the crowd gathered in the Single Guys Kenmore spot after just two weeks is testimony to this – you’ve got to deliver an experience.

From coffee, to fit out, to the simple, but tasty, breakfast menu – The Single Guys is an experience to travel for – there are plenty of car parks handy, both a small lot in front of the store, and in the shopping centre and gym car parks on either side of the corner block.

I loved it. It’s a big contender for number one slot on my top 10 for 2013 and it’s only the 14th of January. I’ll have to keep going back just to make sure I don’t forget how good this first experience was. It helps that Ben and his staff are just lovely people, and the customer service was excellent. There really wasn’t anything to complain about.

I had a flat white on the house blend (it was so good I bought a bag of beans to take home), and a ‘spro on the featured Costa Rican single origin (where the name comes from, I’d guess). The shot came after my tasty bacon and egg breakfast burger with a zippy relish, so I couldn’t quite split the flavour of the delicious breakfast from the smooth espresso, but it clearly wasn’t bitter or stringent, because it went down a treat.

My flat white and Robyn’s picolo were just sensational. The first sip had us both making happy noises – the blend, which Ben said may contain traces of peanuts (flavour – not actual nuts), delivered a smooth, creamy and delicious coffee experience. It was so nicely balanced, in my humble opinion, and had a charming butterscotchy sort of caramel sweetness and a little bit of a fruity taste towards the finish. It’s a great coffee for milky drinks.

The food was fresh, tasty, and featured really delightful mixes of flavours at a great cafe breakfast price, most items on the menu seemed to be within $3 (higher or lower) of the $10 mark. I had, as I mentioned, the brioche burger, Robyn went for the mushrooms…

I like to think, at times, that part of the process of writing reviews for cafes is providing some sort of constructive feedback about things that I thought could be improved… if you’re too effusive as a reviewer your credibility gets shot a little. I’m willing to put my credibility on the line here – although I did make one suggestion to Ben – open up a store on the south side…

The Single Guys is open 7 days, across the road from the Kenmore Village Shopping centre on Moggil Road. You can, and should, hit them up on Facebook.

TheBeanstalker.com’s Top Ten Cafes in Brisbane from 2012

This was an incredibly hard list to put together. Initially I was going to draw from the pool of every cafe in Brisbane – and I’ll still probably make a universal top ten as a page here – but I decided, instead, to put together a list of the top ten cafes I experienced for the first time in 2012. This means perennial favourites Dandelion and Driftwood aren’t being pitted against new favourites like Uncle Joe’s and Grindhouse – there’s a decidedly south side flavour to this list – as there was a north side flavour in 2011 – and this is undoubtably a result of our new geographic situation – but I’d say there has been a little bit more growth on this side of town this year.

One of the cafes doesn’t have an existing review here – because I forgot – but I’m a big fan of cafe number 10 (and its various iterations) – so will head back in in the next couple of weeks so that the review is based on a fresh experience.

Sadly, there’s been some shrinkage too – and the list became harder to put together because one of my favourites – Igloo – is no longer, and another little gem, Five Sugars, also closed its doors.

The top five was the hardest to split – in the end Grindhouse edged out Cleanskin and Dramanti because I went there more frequently, and I found Cleanskin and Dramanti incredibly difficult to split – but gave Cleanskin the nod in part as a homage to Igloo, and in part because I’ve enjoyed using their beans in our coffee cart at church. So it’s a product of a little bias – and shouldn’t be seen as indicative of superior quality.

These ten cafes are all doing great stuff – whether they’re roasting for themselves and others (Cup has had a stellar year on that front, according to this list…), or setting up shop where shops needed to be set up. I heartily recommend all of them.

I predict that a couple of places whose doors I didn’t darken this year, or who have just opened – LTD, and the new boys The Single Guys, in Kenmore, will make the list next year.

But now, without further ado, the 2012 top ten…

IMG_0330

1. Uncle Joe’s Coffee House, Coorparoo
2. Cup Coffee’s Woolloongabba Roastery, Woolloongabba
3. Grindhouse Specialty Coffee, Stones Corner
4. Cleanskin Coffee Co, Brendale
5. Dramanti Artisan Roasters, Wynnum
6. Reverends Fine Coffee, Fortitude Valley
7. Black Sheep Coffee, Rocklea8. The Rogue Rennard, Paddington
9. The Little Prince, Woolloongabba
10. Brother Espresso, Bulimba

Here are some posters made using Phoster

Gold Coast Cafe Review: Canteen, Burleigh Heads

If you judge a cafe by a very steady patronage then Canteen is on a winner – we stopped in for a morning brew on the way back from a trip to New South Wales, and in the hour we were there a steady stream of customers joined us for a morning cuppa.

I don’t judge a cafe by patronage – but by the coffee – and Canteen is on a winner there too.

Sadly, they were all out of single origins today, so I settled for two double shot flat whites made on their house blend – which is roasted by Deluxe Coffee Roasters. My wife enjoyed the Cold Press Iced Latte – I had a little taste of that, and it was pretty special.

Canteen is a bit of a hole in the wall, with great lighting and a beautiful La Marzocco Strada, manned by a team of baristas who seem to know their way around the machine.

They’ve got a small retail section, some nibblies, and a great team of service staff – all designed to keep the customers – who spill out into a pretty large outdoor alley seating area – satisfied. They’ve also got a bunch of “how to cards” for a range of brew methods – so they’re serious about helping their customers improve their mad coffee skillz.

We were pretty satisfied. My flat whites were strong, smooth, and full bodied – the milk was perfect. The flavour was rich and mellow. Like velvet. The best bit was the beautiful back of mouth sweetness that lingered well and truly after the cup was finished.

Between Canteen, Blackboard, and Canvas – there aren’t many places on the Gold Coast that require you to go without great coffee if you’re taking in a bit of sunshine for a few days.

Check them out. Either in the real world, virtually, or on Facebook

Where you can get your (specialty) coffee fix in Brisbane over Christmas 2012

The Christmas break is a horrible time to be a coffee fan in Brisbane. You’re off work – but everything is shut. Well. Almost.

Here’s your guide to surviving the Christmas break. I’ll update this post as more info comes in.

The following cafes are keeping the doors open, and the lights on, with just a day or two shut, but modified hours…

Uncle Joes Coffee House – Open every day except New Years.
Cup (Wooloongabba) – Open Tues-Sat, excluding public holidays.
LTD Espresso (Valley) – Closed Christmas and Boxing Day, possibly open 1 Jan.
Blackstar (West End) – Closed Public holidays only.
Belaroma (Wooloongabba) – Closed public holidays only.
Divisione Tecnica (Newstead) – Closed public holidays only.
Fort Specialty Coffee – Closed 24-26 Dec.

These cafes are closed between the following dates (inclusive):

Dramanti (CBD) – Closed 21 Dec – 2 Jan
Dramanti (Wynnum) – Closed 25 Dec – 2 Jan
Cup (West End) – Closed 25 Dec – 2 Jan
Grindhouse – Closed 25 Dec – 2 Jan
Bunker – closed 25 Dec – 2 Jan
Campos Coffee – Closed 25 Dec – 2 Jan
Veneziano First Pour – closed 25 Dec – 2 Jan
Cleanskin – closed 23 Dec – 7 Jan
One Drop – closed 21 Dec – 7 Jan
Dandelion and Driftwood – closed 23 Dec – 14 Jan

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