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.

Sunshine Coast Cafe Review: Clandestino Roasters, Noosa

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a specialty coffee shop in a semi-industrial estate in Noosa. Tucked into the back corner of a pretty well stocked deli, Clandestino is as undercover as a cafe can be while not truly being undercover – they’ve got a growing reputation amongst people who love coffee. And it’s deserved.

They’ve put a fair bit of effort into the little things – and – the bigger things, with this life sized plane flying over the bar area.

It’s a fantastic atmosphere – and if it wasn’t so cliched, I’d compare it to something you might find in Melbourne. It’s like nothing I’ve ever been to before – and the relationship with the deli makes it a knock out spot to spend a few lazy hours sipping and reading while you’re on a Sunshine Coast stopover.

They’ve also paid attention to their coffees – four grinders on the bench next to a rich, orange, La Marzocco, are stocked with rotating single origins, a seasonal blend, and, if you’re into that thing – decaf.

My first coffee was a Costa Rican Don Jose Micromill, a honey processed bean that was, as the tasting notes promised, full of cherry and chocolate notes.

My second was on their seasonal blend – which was a little bitter up front, but had a really nice finish and a lingering, sweet, aftertaste.

There are specialty coffee knick knacks, and shiny machines, all over the place – there’s a nice little brew bar, featuring a variety of pourover, clover, or siphon coffee, and a couple of cold drips sitting on the counter. They roast in house – right behind the bench. And the place oozes with atmosphere.

The vintage teaspoons are another nice touch.

It seems they’re pretty committed to educating the consumer – the tasting notes that are standard fare for good cafes these days, are supported by a huge map of the globe, marking the origins of the beans they source, and they offer cupping courses on site, but will also take them on the road for corporate events. Their beans are available for retail – and they wholesale, at least to another Noosa Cafe, Cafe La Monde.
 

There’s food available from the deli – and you pay for anything you consume when you exit, so you could potentially spend all day, and get three square meals, in the comfortably appointed cafe area.

You can check them out on Facebook.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Cup Specialty Coffee Roastery, Woolloongabba

I love Cup.

If I’m meeting anybody in West End, that’s where I go (even if a megafranchise has tried to coin the idea that you meet somewhere that has horribly overroasted coffee).

But the problem with Cup at West End is that it’s so popular that sometimes seating (and parking nearby) isn’t so readily available.

This is the price you pay for consistently serving up amazing coffee, both the changing (based on season, taste, and goodness), but consistently grand Five Star Day blend, and a range of single origin delights. Produced on some of Brisbane’s nicest coffee kit, or served up as meticulously prepared filter coffee.

It’s easy to see why Cup is popular. They’ve been picking up some pretty nice little cafe accounts too – including Blackboard Specialty Coffee on the Gold Coast, The Little Prince in Woolloongabba, and the Rogue Rennard in Paddington.

The lack of space, and the amount of roasting that must be required to service these classy outlets, has produced something beautiful. A new roastery/cafe in Woolloongabba. As I was driving home from this new warehouse space today I was thinking that with Cup, Grindhouse, and Uncle Joe’s on my route to or from the city there’s a nice little coffee crawl itinerary just waiting for a lazy Saturday morning. I’m feeling a little bit spoilt for choice in my corner of Brisbane’s south side at the moment. My Brisbane top ten is going to be even harder to come up with this year, especially given I haven’t even managed to get to some of my old favourites.

I mentioned the “cafe as fourth place” thing in my review of Reverends the other day, and in my opinion, Cup’s new warehouse has nailed it. It’s big. Open. And is, as far as I know, the only cafe in Brisbane boasting both a Slayer and a Mistral on their benches (I want to say “in the world”). While it’s the new home of Cup’s roasting operations, there’s also a nice Coffee menu on offer (Josh, the owner and genius behind Cup, says there’ll be very limited food in the future). And did I mention there’s space. And seats. And tables. And music. And coffee.

I’m a big fan of Cup’s aesthetic – from font choice, to the black/timber fitout at this place, to the big roasting robot painted on the wall in West End, to the choice of some of the most beautiful and technologically amazing machines available – so I like this place a lot. The machines and the roaster are the visual heroes. The coffee is the real hero (and according to latte art smackdowns, and the recent Queensland Barista Championships – they still boast Brisbane’s best latte artists). Everything else is functional and understated. Like it should be.

It’s still in the very early days. But I like it. Very much. You can buy their beans online too.

(there’ll be a map here one day – but for now, the roastery is tucked into 43 Balaclava St, Wooloongabba).

Brisbane Cafe Review: Reverends Fine Coffee, Fortitude Valley

This morning’s coffee outing was a coin toss. I was in the Valley for a 10am meeting. We’d paid for 20 minutes of parking (we made the mistake of entering a parking station before seeing how much it cost. Ouch). And I was armed with a “to do list” of two – Reverends Fine Coffee, and Ltd Espresso – a new Cleanskin account two doors down.

Reverends (it feels like there should be an apostrophe there, but there’s not) won out. The stark, clean lines of Ltd will have to wait for my next inner-city jaunt.

Reverend is pouring shots from one of the most beautiful machines known to man – the Spirit – I didn’t get a photo of it, because I’m all about the undercover review – but it produces some pretty stellar results in the right hands. And clearly the guy making the coffees this morning had such a set of hands. They roast their own gear, and offer up a blend, and rotating single origins – today, an Ethiopian Sidamo.

My flat white on the Sidamo was creamy and fruity.

My wife had the blend, and it was so good our daughter wanted to get her hands on it right away…

My great disappointment was that the impending start of my meeting, and the exponentially rising cost of our parking, meant I couldn’t linger.

I love the ideas that cafes are a “third place” – neither your home, nor your office, but somewhere to linger and mix with people, somewhere to spend time. There are a few specialty cafes in Brisbane that give off that vibe – some of my favourites are Uncle Joe’s, Veneziano, Cup (and the new Cup which opens tomorrow sounds even more like it’ll tick that box), and Dandelion and Driftwood – though it feels more like a bustling spot that’s geared towards experiencing decadent morsels, especially for women. Most cafes that make great coffee in Brisbane are, as a rule, dedicated to producing consistently good coffee, rather than keeping people comfortable all day (though none of these places are inhospitable). I love the vibe that a good fit out, and friendly staff, can create, but I’m hard pushed to pick a cafe I’d want to sit in all day to study or read a book. Reverend’s is a comfy couch a way from being that sort of place. I love the grungy fitout, the “distressed brick” look, the fairly open space with relatively sparse seating… It was great.

Their attention to detail on some of the little things – like the pew out the front, and the branded serviettes, made it a bit of a standout.

The raspberry muffin I had was delicious too. So it was a thumbs up all round from me.
Reverend’s has a Facebook page.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Fonzie Abbott Espresso, Hamilton

Micro-roasteries are popping up all over Brisbane, but until Fonzie Abbott opened its doors on Racecourse Road, one of Brisbane’s glamour strips was largely devoid of a decent cup. We spent a couple of years living on Brisbane’s northside, and working in Clayfield, and there was no way we were going to drive past Dandelion and Driftwood at Hendra, or the Coffeeguy at Wooloowin to one of the cafes in Hamilton.

Enter Fonzie Abbott, a roastery that operates as an annex to popular breakfast institution Vagelis.

We stopped by for a coffee and croissant earlier this week. And weren’t disappointed.

The fit out is pretty funky – and I was a big fan of the antique scales.

The white Wega didn’t fill me with confidence – it’s not my favourite type of machine, and the art on my flat white left a little to be desired. But it was tasty. Very sweet. Especially the single origin which I kicked off with, a Nicaragua La Bastilla, which was an absolute cracker. So rich.

The picolo and the flat white on the house blend were sweet and tasty.

The croissant was tasty. The staff were friendly. The beans I took home (well, to my parents), a Guatemalan, were great… It was a nice little stop, and if you’re looking for a coffee when you’re in the neighbourhood – I’d definitely endorse Fonzie Abbott.

You can find Fonzie Abbott on Facebook.

Cafe Review: Findos, Toowoomba

I’ve been to Findos a few times. Not for a few weeks. But I was looking through my photos and my little iPhone record of tasting notes and realised that a review was in the offing. And long overdue.

Toowoomba has an amazing coffee scene, for its size, and Findos is the pick of the bunch. It wouldn’t be out of place in any capital city in Australia. It’s quality. And they’re serious about their coffee. I should disclose, I guess, at this point that I know the guy the cafe is named after pretty well. I’ve known him for 9 years or something, and I met Tim, Findos owner, through him. And I like them both. This, I guess, is a case of declaring my bias. I’m not going to slam them because, hey, I like the guys. But thankfully my blogging ethics aren’t being put to the test because the product truly stands up to scrutiny. It’s amazing.

Findos uses its own house blend. And has a regular rotation of featured blends and single origins. Roasted not in house (but I believe, in a house). Tim is always up for a chat – I know it’s not special treatment because there have been times that I’ve been there (I stop in whenever we’re driving through Toowoomba to visit my in-laws) and only managed a courteous tip of the hat in his direction because he has been so engrossed in a conversation about coffee. He loves it. And it shows.

Findos was also the first place I ever tried syphon coffee. About a year ago. If anything the quality has gone up since then. Which is nice, plenty of regional cafes don’t maintain the rage.


The menu is simple, but tasty. We had a cracker Pumpkin soup on one stop there this winter.

When I was in there in June the house blend featured Brazilian, Indian, and Indonesian beans, and it was sensational. My notes say it was sweet and delicious like a Caramello Koala. They were running a “Berry Bomb” blend too, with some Yemen Sanani and Some Ethiopian Harrar Mao Blue Horse. That didn’t work very well in milk – but it was their recommended espresso and brewed blend (so I was basically using it for a purpose other than that which it was intended for). That blend changed after the Toowoomba floods. And, while I don’t have notes on the new blend – it was good enough that I had two of them in the one visit.

So if you’re in Toowoomba and hanging out for something more than a caffeine hit, you could do worse than Findos. You can also “Like” them on Facebook.

There. I feel like I’ve restored the balance somewhat or something.

Sydney Cafe Review: Coffee Alchemy, Marickville

Coffee Alchemy is closed on Sundays. This is very important information. Important information that I forgot to look up before walking the 1.4km from where we were staying, desperately seeking caffeine, on Sunday morning. They also don’t do food. It’s a coffee bar. Attached to a roastery.

What they do do is mighty fine coffee. I counted 10 different single origin coffee varieties on offer, as espresso (with or without milk), cold drip (with or without sparkling mineral water), and pourover. And there were blends. None in the hopper today, but plenty available to take home.

A beautiful La Marzocco machine. Very shiny. Is the first thing that catches the eye on the way in the door. The fitout is elegant, and simple, and lets you know this is a place where the focus is on the coffee. And the focus pays off.

First up was the double shot flat white on the Brasil Canta Galo. Delicious up front, it was incredibly chocolaty and smooth with an odd aftertaste. One of the tasting notes at Bean Drinking yesterday suggested “leather” was a possible taste – and I’d say this was the closest thing to leather I’ve tasted short of chewing on a belt. It wasn’t unpleasant. That’s just the only description I can come up with. And it was only in the aftertaste, which pretty quickly disappeared.

My wife had a picolo on a Bolivia Caranavi Eleuteria Villca. In milk some of its acidity was lost and in its place was a smooth, thick, deliciously balanced drop with a hint of nuttiness. It’s at times like this that I start to question whether I should be tasting coffee in milk, because the milk masks some of the different flavours.

And I finished my trip off with a Tanzanian Blackburn Estate “Pick of the Harvest”, as a picolo – the same I enjoyed yesterday as a sparkling cold press at Bean Drinking. This bean packs a punch. It was earthy up front, with a touch of caramel, or maybe even burnt sugar, and then, as I sat savouring the aftertaste – a hint of strong red wine, or port, or something. It was fruity, but very fleeting.

These guys take their coffee seriously and it reaps benefits. I’d go there again in an instant.

 

You can follow Coffee Alchemy on Twitter.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Blue Sky Coffee, Newstead

If Iron Man’s Tony Stark owned a cafe it would look and feel a lot like Blue Sky Coffee. The place is cool. It’s an open plan warehouse fitted out with all the bells and whistles – and to my knowledge is the only cafe in Brisbane fitted out with a three group lever machine. Some would say having three machines running behind the counter is excessive. But excess seems to be the name of the game here, and that’s not a bad thing.

As if to reinforce the Iron Man feel – the movie is playing on the big screen mounted on the wall, I assume this is intentional, if not it’s a happy coincidence. Red classic sports cars (the real deal, not toys) are scattered liberally around the warehouse.

The roaster is tucked in the back corner. This place is a visual treat. And worth a stop for the ambience alone. I can imagine a lot of blokes feeling like they’ve found a spiritual home at this place. There’s even a suit of armour. By the door. Sporting Charlie Sheen’s face.

According to local coffee lore, the owners of this place are doctors whose passion for home roasting spawned this little enterprise that now supplies beans to cafes around the city. This is home base.

The coffee is a mixed bag – with the investment of time, energy, and cold hard cash that has gone into the setup you expect to be blown away. And I wasn’t. It wasn’t bad, in fact it was mostly good. But it wasn’t “write home about the experience” good. And it could have been. You can tell Blue Sky Coffee cares about the details. Everything in the shop says so – from the range of blends available through the week, to the range of items on the menu – including the quite palatable lever shot from the Athena Leva, and the flat white made on their limited range replica Venus Century. A stunning machine, made (as are the other two) by Victoria Arduino.

First up we ordered our standard drinks, mine a double shot flat white, my wife’s a Piccolo. With breakfast pastries on the side.

The attention to detail is evident even down to the choice of cup and saucer. And the delicious biscuit, which brought out a range of flavours in the coffee and made it almost impossible to distinguish what was coffee and what was biscuit. In a good way.

Our food came quickly, our coffees slowly – service was hampered by the sole barista’s need to be serving, taking orders, taking payment, and preparing one of the other in house specialties – a Turkish coffee (the process pictured below) – single handedly (he eventually called in a little bit of assistance from the roastery). No mean feat. He was friendly, knowledgeable, and happy to chat about the machines.

Plus he pulled off this pretty amazing triple rosetta.

He mentioned, as he delivered this one, that they would eventually have a board of latte art options available for customers to choose from. Which is a fantastic idea that brings a pretty unique level of interactivity into the process.

I loved the art in the place too – including this classic petrol bowser loaded with coffee beans.

So the coffee… which according to the a-frame board in store was the “Green Caffeine” blend… My first double shot flat white was a little on the hot side, not excessively so, it was acceptable, and it was a little watery (though again, within the acceptable range of flat white standards). It was delicious with the biscuit, but a little bland without it. The initial flavour was a little bit bitter, not unpleasant, but not sweet. Not fruity. Not rich and mellow. Just dead centre. Balanced. The aftertaste was the real kicker. It was sweet and long. And mingled in a really nice way with the vanilla flavour of the biscuit. Don’t get me wrong. It was definitely at the “specialty coffee” end of the spectrum, and it’s a luxury having other options to compare it to within Brisbane.

The lever shot was bright, and acidic, it was a bit hollow, body wise, but it was very drinkable. And fruity, though I’m not sure what sort.

The Century flat white (the board advertises a “Century Latte” but I was allowed to choose my preferred option) was odd. And I blame the milk, the barista showed me the shot (and I grabbed a surreptitious smell of it) while he was making the coffee. And everything appeared in order. But sometimes milk just gets a sort of grassy stale funky taste, I’ve bought some that did similar things when steamed, and this had it. My wife’s description of the taste was a little less generous than mine, and you could ignore it enough for the drinking to not be entirely unpleasant. I decided the coffee smelt and tasted a little like Rum and Raisin, and at that point could ignore the funk. Just to be clear, I’m not blaming the barista, I’m not suggesting there was anything they could do about the taste, or that they should even be aware of it – it was, however, part of the experience.

I’d go again (and I will) – but not because the coffee was any better than others in the neighbourhood, simply because I want to feel like Iron Man.

You can order Blue Sky’s beans from their website (it’s flash – literally), follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.

Bean here (excuse the pun)? Rate it:

* * *    

Brisbane Cafe Review: Fifth Battery Roasters, Fortitude Valley

Another day, another Synesso. That’s how it feels wandering around Brisbane’s specialty coffee institutions. Fifth Battery Roasters is one such institution.

Part of the Brother Espresso family that has outlets around the city – Fifth Battery doesn’t disappoint. Plastic Soldiers line the counter, which feels appropriate given you’re sitting in what feels like a military hanger, albeit lined with colourful glass panes.

It’s a nice space. Open and airy. It has a great little garden space out the back. It feels like you could ride the bike hanging behind the counter around inside the cafe. There’s that much space. Which is tops.

The food isn’t expensive. You can see a menu here. It was tasty. I had the brioche toast with poached pears. The downside was that it took a little while to come out – my wife had just about finished her meal before mine arrived. But it was worth the wait. Just.

The coffee is good without being spectacular. It’s incredibly well rounded. So well rounded it’s hard to describe a distinguishing feature. The milk didn’t help, most of the flavours the signature blend promises were lost. But in their place was a solid, nutty, cup that didn’t change much from start to finish, there was no bitterness, and the temperature was perfect.

The single origin, a Guatemala Sierra Azul, as a piccolo, was tasty. A very front of mouth experience. It had a touch of brown sugar, a hint of buttery popcorn in the aftertaste, it was a little bit like a caramel popcorn where the sugar hasn’t dissolved completely so the flavours aren’t fully mixed. It was very mellow. And worth a try. So I bought a bag of the beans, so stay tuned for a review of those.

I grabbed a bottle of their cold brew coffee too, which I’ve enjoyed at home. And they sell coffee bags for a gold coin donation – which is perfect if you’re looking to do a little bit of coffee inspired art and craft.

Fifth Battery has a great aesthetic, the atmosphere is friendly and casual, the tunes were good. It’s everything you’d expect from a little gem tucked away in the back streets of Fortitude Valley. A worthy breakfast stop.

Follow Fifth Battery on Twitter.

Bean here (excuse the pun)? Rate it:

* * * *  

Brisbane Cafe Review: Elixir Cafe and Roastery, Stafford

Ahh, Saturday breakfast, how I love you. Breakfast is better with friends. So we bundled into one car early (8am) on Saturday morning and drove to Stafford to check out this place I’d heard good things about. Elixir Coffee.

This place talks the specialty coffee talk – but the real question in my mind – can they walk the walk. They have all the elements of a top shelf cafe. A roaster, in house, a La Marzocco on the bench, house blends, a bevy of grinders, single origins, tasting cards, and cheap meals.

We walked through the doors (after scoring a lucky car park pretty close to the doors) and wow. Packed. Full of energy. Heaps of staff, who were all very friendly. A good shelf full of coffee bits and bobs – including the Pullman Tamper, and a few other higher end specialty knick knacks. I was feeling at home.

The coffees in the grinders on Saturday were a Zambia Terranova (one of my favourites) and the Fratelli Blend. Both were excellent. So good I ordered a couple. And one of our dinepanions, a non-coffee drinker, enjoyed the third coffee she has ever had in her life. A white chocolate mocha. Baby steps. It’s early days. But she liked it.

The coffees were impressive.

I love it when a piccolo comes with latte art.

The food was great too. Very cheap, for a cafe, it came out quickly, and it was tasty.

The tasting cards are an impressive touch, of all the other places I’ve reviewed, only Dandelion and Driftwood offer them in store (as far as I’m aware).

So, in all, an impressive little institution in Stafford’s industrial back streets. A good variety of blends, a good selection of single origin coffees, and all taste as they should (according to the description). The first round of coffees was perfect. My second was a little too hot.

Their Fratelli blend was interesting, well rounded, but not knock your socks off in any particular category. It was almost perfectly blended – but maybe really spectacular coffee experiences have to have a major. An emphatic flavour that you remember.

But, on the whole, a solid effort and a place I’m happy to recommend.

Bean here (excuse the pun)? Rate it:

* * * ½  

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