Brisbane Cafe Review: Five Sugars, Woolloongabba

Five Sugars is a little gourmet coffee and chocolate bar tucked inside Lavish, a pretty eclectic little homewares shop on a pretty little and eclectic strip on Logan Road in Woolloongabba. It’s a street filled with antique shops and cafes – so Five Sugars is like the overlapping area of a venn diagram of what you’d expect to find on the street.

It’s a cute set up with nooks and crannies, and books, and grannies – at least if you’re looking for an outing for your grandmother, which I always am. Really that was just to finish the rhyme. It’s a really trendy little boutique shop, and the chairs, while a little sparse, are quaint wooden stools and benches with a found furniture vibe.

The shiny La Marzocco is paired with a Mazzer, which is grinding up the delicious Saint blend from Cleanskin Roasters. The milk is from Maleny Dairies – and I love the way Five Sugars talks about their product as a partnership between them, and their suppliers. Quality ingredients going in maximises the chances of quality output. And both the coffees, which were packed with texture and oozing with rich flavour, and the little chocolate accompaniment, were thoughtfully and carefully prepared. The chocolate perfectly complemented, and complimented, the flavour of the coffee, which was terrific as both a piccolo and a flat white.

Food tidbits were tasty (in the case of an Anzac styled Oatmeal biscuit) and morsel sized – so pretty much guilt free. Right? And it’s definitely another little joint to add to a coffee jaunt itinerary on Brisbane’s south side.

Hit up Five Senses on Facebook and check out some of the gloriously colourful photos of their lolly range.

[google-map]’s Top 10 Brisbane Cafes for 2011

Finding good coffee in Brisbane isn’t hard. Choosing the best ten cafes in Brisbane is… But after a year of hard coffee drinking in the name of “research”… here are my results.

They’re decisions made on “vibe” and gut feel – but also using a range of categories including number of visits, average quality (ie consistency), wife approval factor, desirability, availability of parking, whether I’d take friends there, how readily I’d recommend said place to friends in the neighbourhood… etc. Applying my year’s coffee drinking to those categories has left me with the following results. The Corner Store gets an honourable mention – but some of my favourite staff have left, and I confess I haven’t been back since. Pourboy should also feel a bit ripped off, but their inner city location and non-weekend opening hours just don’t work for me.

Anyway. Here are the “winners”… links go to review.

Number 1: Dandelion and Driftwood: Dandelion and Driftwood has been my “local” all year. And it’s not all that close. Quality, consistency, and a rotating batch of amazing single origins get these guys over the line with room to spare.

Dandelion and Driftwood

Number 2: One Drop Specialty Coffee: One Drop is narrowly in second place. My wife would put their house blend ahead of Dandelion and Driftwood’s stock coffees. Personally I reckon it’s a coin toss between these guys and cafe number 3. Either way, it’s close competition at the top…

One Drop Specialty Coffee

Number 3: Cup Specialty Coffee: Cup do things in style. They probably have an aesthetic closest to my heart of all the cafes on the scene. West End gets three slots of the top five – and Cup is the best of that bunch.

Cup Coffee West End

Number 4: Veneziano’s First Pour: Veneziano doesn’t do a bad coffee, and two of the best single origins I’ve ever had were from here. Again, I reckon you could flip a coin to split these guys and Cup.

Veneziano First Pour

Number 5: BlackStar, West End: To be honest there are a couple of cafes I prefer to BlackStar. But they happen to use BlackStar’s beans – and I reckon the roastery should get the kudos for that.


Number 6: Campos: Campos does great food and good coffee. But it lacks some of the personal touch that the cafes above it exhibit (except maybe First Pour). Parking is also a pain.


Number 7: Fifth Battery Roasters: Fifth Battery has a cool menu, is set up in an old air hangar, and the coffee is consistently good. I had a cracker of an Ethiopian coffee here that made me go back twice in one day. It was that good.

Fifth Battery

Number 8: Shucked Espresso: I’ve only been to Shucked once. And it was last week. Had I been more, and been more able to speak of consistency, these guys could have placed much higher. The single origin I had on my single visit was the single best coffee I had in Brisbane all year.


Number 9: Bunker: Bunker loses out a little because its just a hole in the wall in Milton. On coffee alone they’re a hair’s breadth away from any of the places above them on this list. Their coffee, supplied by BlackStar and Cup, is sensational. But sitting barely works, parking is a pain, and its not a cafe so much as an espresso bar. But the coffee is grand. EDIT/UPDATE – Bunker tells me they’ll be open on Saturdays in 2012 – which is fantastic. And that they’ll have more seats – which is also fantastic. I also failed to mention that Bunker is a good coffee option at both the Kelvin Grove and West End markets.


Elixir: This slot was hardest to fill, and had I not been to Elixir a couple of times in the last few weeks it would have remained a write off. I feel a bit guilty for my initial review – because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed subsequent visits, and their seems to be more soul about the place than I might first have suggested.


Brisbane Cafe Review: Espressohead, West End

West End is where it’s at in terms of good coffee per square metre. Cup, BlackStar, and Veneziano are all within cooee of each other – and they’re all pretty special… the main drag in West End is littered with cafes offering breakfast and a morning hit of coffee. So we decided to branch out from our old reliable favourites (well, we went to Veneziano as well…).

The nice shiny white La Marzocco on the bench at Espressohead was enough to pique my interest – I spied it as we drove down Boundary Street looking for a parking spot, and a breakfast option.

The breakfast menu was pretty good. Not fancy pants. But I went with the pork belly, poached egg, and beans…

My wife always orders the Eggs Benedict. And she wasn’t disappointed with this one.

The food was ok. There are better breakfasts out there. It’s a nice little hole in the wall, and the staff were friendly. But this, afterall, is a coffee blog.

Espressohead uses Two Seasons Coffee – which has a nice rotating blend conceptual approach to curating and roasting, and a nice colourful logo.

The coffee, to be frank, was good, but not great. It was an El Salvadorian Finca Miravalles. The temperature was passable, the milk was well textured, though not the velvet you might get from a purveyor of specialty coffee. The lack of latte art was a problem – because it was pretty much solid crema for the first few mouthfuls.

So up front it was pretty bitter. When I’d stirred it and after a few sips, it was well rounded – but nothing extraordinary. It had a slightly nutty aftertaste, but there was none of the caramel, the dark chocolate, the citrus, or the berry notes that really special coffee packs in. It was just coffee.

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: [five-star-rating]

Brisbane Cafe Review: Raw Space Cafe

I’ve enjoyed a couple of lunches at South Brisbane’s Raw Space Cafe. A nice little cafe/art gallery set up on Melbourne Street. There isn’t any signage advertising exactly what sort of coffee they’re churning out – but they do have a La Cimbali machine with a coffex sticker on the side. So I’m going to assume that’s what it is until I hear otherwise.

Their burgers are amazing. Well worth the price of admission. Especially the lamb kofta burger. The chips are just sensational. And the coffee? Well. It is interesting. It’s not bad. The milk texturing leaves a little to be desired – a little too much bubble and not enough silk. The coffee is served in these massive soup bowl like cups. I’m not sure if that only happens with a double shot. They may equate double shot with large.

They do provide a water chaser with each drink, which is a plus. The flavour of the coffee itself (in the guise of a double shot flat white) is not unpleasant. I’ve had a couple. There’s this odd banana like taste that was there both times. It’s not bad. But it’s distinct. I’d say the coffee beans are a little stale. But I’ve had worse. Much worse. And the food really is divine, plus the atmosphere is kind of funky and hip.

I wouldn’t go just for the coffee. But I’ll happily return for one of those burgers (though not for the $8.50 pie I had on my first visit).

I can’t tell what

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

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