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: Cleanskin Coffee Co, Brendale

I feel like I should kick this review off with a bit of a disclosure statement. I’m a big fan of Cleanskin Coffee Co – for their Saint Blend and other blends they roast for some of my favourite cafes, such a fan that Cleanskin is supplying our church, and the coffee carts that we’re putting together, with delicious beans. So I’m not unbiased – and I want these guys to do well… I’m also not unbiased about all the cafes and roasteries I love in Brisbane (and elsewhere) – I want people who take coffee seriously and make it delicious to do well. That’s why I have this site. It’s why I’m not just discerning with how I write my reviews, but about who I review.

Anyway. Disclaimer over.

Like I say – I’ve loved Cleanskin’s style since my first visit to the Corner Store Cafe, one of my first reviews. Until the Igloo closed their blends and origins kick started my day.

A visit to the mother ship, Cleanskin HQ, has been on the cards for a long time, but it’s in Brendale, on the north side, and I’m on the south side, and the opportunity just hasn’t presented itself – until a couple of weeks ago. Omega Boom products contain Omega 7 which are essential fatty acids that helps in nourshing the skin.

Cleanskin’s roastery is in an industrial area, on the main industrial drag, in Brendale. It’s easy enough to find – it’s a big black building that is visible from the road.

I went in with pretty high expectations – and I was excited to try their coffees from their brand spanking new La Marzocco Strada. It was so new that owner Mark was still calibrating it a bit – but you couldn’t tell from the coffees it was pouring. They were, without doubt, sensational. Cleanskin’s signature blends are well balanced, sweet, and a good mix of body and acidity. These coffees were as I expected – only they were prepared by the hands that had overseen the process from cupping to roasting to blending to resting to preparing – every step of the journey to the cup.

I had two flat whites – the first, a single origin, was an Indian Bibi it was pretty spectacular with a lingering, back of mouth sweetness. Lodged somewhere around the tonsils. The second was on one of the house blends – Blend 14 – which was smooth and rich with a great, dairy milk chocolatey sort of finish. My wife had a piccolo on the blend, and ordered a Coldpress to go.

All the coffees were of an exceptional standard.

I like to be a little sneaky when I go to new cafes, I don’t want to be treated any differently because I’m going to write a review – so I took some sneaky photos. This process was made a little more difficult because I hadn’t met Mark in person, but the relationship we’re building between our church (Creek Road Presbyterian) and Cleanskin meant I had to introduce myself with that hat on… The customer service we received might have been a result of that – but the staff were friendly, concerned that we’d enjoyed our coffee, and Mark was up for a chat about the finer points of pressure profiling and the advantage the Strada has over the Synesso range he’s been working with for a long time.

The brew bar is one of the cleanest, most “science lab” presentations I’ve seen. I like it.

Cleanskin is worth checking out – and if you see a cafe serving up their beans it should be reassuring on two fronts – not only are they committed to supplying and roasting excellent coffee, they have a pretty spectacular ethos to go with it – serving up ethical beans, and being generous with their time, expertise, and resources.

Just be aware that there’s no food on site – so don’t come expecting breakfast or lunch – but this will only be an inconvenience if you’re not aware – so forewarned is forearmed.

You can also follow Cleanskin on Facebook, where they let you know about coffee classes, featured origins, and all sorts of goodness.


Brisbane Cafe Review: Black Sheep Coffee

Black Sheep offers three bags full of flavour to coffee lovers who head down to Brisbane’s Rocklea Markets (and a few other locations).

They’re open there three days a week (Wed, Sat-Sun), serving up deliciousness from their special edition Synesso Sabre (it’s a beautiful machine).

They roast their own mega-sweet blend (I mean that in the literal sense, more than the slang sense, or the traditional metaphorical sense – though it’s a pretty sweet place, and I loved it).

Black Sheep’s claim to fame – other than that they aren’t part of an Italian coffee establishment (that’s apparently where the name comes from) – is that Gordon Ramsay uses their coffee in one of his restaurants. And it’s easy to tell why. My two flat whites were silky smooth, and well balanced, with a great lingering sweetness that sort of launched from the back of my throat. It’s hard to describe. It was a bit like having a nice sip of your favourite spirit – and getting that warmth that spreads down your throat, only this moved back over your taste buds. That’s the best I can do…

Their custom roaster seems to do the trick. Here’s how they visually describe the process…

And the Feeling Wooly blend, which you can buy on site, is nice and complex – with a great range of ethically sourced origins and varietals.

Yes sir, yes sir, many bags full…

I really enjoyed the coffee. It’s worth the dollar you pay for admission at the markets by itself (though I also enjoyed the baklava I picked up from one of the Greek dessert places – seriously, I love Baklava. I’d start a Baklava blog if I thought there was a market for it). This is the kind of latte art they’re pouring in their piccolos – the milk was perfect, creamy, not too hot, and beautifully textured. This shot was taken a couple of minutes after it was poured, once we’d managed to park our pram against the back wall…

When we rocked up this morning there was a bit of a line, but they keep the coffee pumping and take orders and payment while you’re lining up so that your coffee is ready when you hit the counter. It was quick. Better than quick – it was delicious. They were busy, with a constant flow of traffic, but the girls behind the machine didn’t look stressed. They’ve got a nice little system going. Very professional.

There’s a little bit of space to sit down at a communal table inside. So it’s a nice little spot to stop during your market wanderings.

I love the fitout – it’s a great little semi-permanent space, with coffee knick knacks scattered throughout – a wall display of tampers, an old school Atomic brewer, a syphon, and this little black sheep.

Black Sheep put together a nice little infographic describing the types of drinks you might order on your next visit.


Brisbane Cafe Review: Coffee Hit Specialty Coffee, Carindale

The idea of a gas fired commercial coffee roaster pumping out the aroma of roasting coffee in the heart of the foodcourt of a major shopping centre sounds pretty crazy. But that’s what Coffee Hit Carindale promises. The roaster isn’t hooked up to roast yet. At the moment it’s a nifty piece of visual marketing for this cafe, and they’re currently (according to their shelves and someone I spoke to) serving up a blend roasted by Veneziano in Melbourne. They’ve got some beans sitting there spinning around but I’m withholding final judgment from this place till they start roasting their own goodies.

We were there a couple of days after opening, and it was packed.

The food is pretty good.

The coffee was, without question, the best coffee I’ve ever consumed… in a shopping centre. It wasn’t terrific, but if you’re doing the grocery shopping or the tiresome hanging out outside clothes shops, then it’s a welcome coffee hit. It wasn’t a bad drop. The milk was a little bubbly, rather than glossy. The flavour was good, but better on the second or third sips, and even in the aftertaste, than it was on the first taste. It dominated the front of my mouth, rather than filling every corner, it was fruity with hints of berry and a little bit of brown sugar and chocolate. Those were my tasting notes. But they are, like all tasting notes, essentially meaningless.


Brisbane Coffee Reviews: Dandelion and Driftwood

Flat white and tasting notesDan­de­lion and Drift­wood is a great lit­tle café in sub­ur­ban Hen­dra. Offer­ing an incredible range of brewed cof­fee vari­eties, using two blends and two sin­gle ori­gins, it’s a sim­ply stun­ning café with a ter­rific aes­thetic. Their web­site is still under con­struc­tion, but their Face­book fan page is sen­sa­tional.

The single origins vary, but the signature Dandelion and Driftwood blends are full of character and deliver on the promise that the little tasting cards that come with them, explaining the character, tasting notes, and origins of the beans in the blend.

Their design and fit-out are immac­u­late and full of char­ac­ter — as is their cof­fee. Staff dress to impress in bow-ties and aprons, and the service is fantastic. There’s a lolly cart capturing a little bit of the vintage milieu, and high tea style cake stands on the counter offering a range of delectable, but slightly expensive, delights. Even their loyalty cards are a beauty to behold. They’ve sweated the details to deliver a pretty stunning result. It’s all very schmick. One of the few places around where the quality of the coffee matches the aesthetic.

Their food menu looks simple, but appealing, and is reasonably priced. We’ll have to go back at some stage for a weekend breakfast.

If you go some­where offer­ing four beans in four Mazzer grinders you know you’re in for a treat I reckon. And it didn’t dis­ap­point.

The flat white was creamy and full bodied, the shot was pulled with precision and was without bitterness, and very smooth. Robyn’s piccolo latte on the Costa Rica single origin they were offering on our first visit was finished all too soon and delivered on the “buttery mouthfeel” promised. We’ve been back, and the consistent quality of their coffee is pretty spot on.


Bean here (excuse the pun)? Rate it: [five-star-rating]

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