Happy Birthday D&D…

This is a beautiful thing.

Dandelion & Driftwood from Liquid Light Film Works on Vimeo.

One of the things I miss most about the north side of Brisbane is our weekly staff meetings at Dandelion & Driftwood.

Owners Peter and Penny Wolff are coffee dynamos, pushing the Brisbane cafe scene to really exciting new places. One of the things I love, as an interested observer of the coffee industry, is the way they champion the idea of quality coffee across the board – training and helping others, not just their own staff – though they do push their team pretty hard to develop through competitions and training, in a way that makes sure they attract and develop passionate people. Some time last year another cafe – who in another industry might be thought of as “the competition” had a machine break down, and these guys lent them a spare. They’re really impressive – and they make a delicious cuppa.

Dandelion and Driftwood clean up at the Queensland Barista Championships

As if everybody’s favourite Brisbane cafe needed something to bolster their glowing reputation… the Queensland Barista Championships were on in Brisbane over the weekend. There were a few categories on offer – a brewers cup, a cupping comp, a latte art throwdown, and the big one – the Queensland Barista Championship.

Thebeanstalker.com was there on Saturday for a few of the heats – but the heat in the Di Bella warehouse was too much for his pregnant wife to bear…

The Queensland Barista Championship is part of the regional rounds of the AustralAsian Specialty Coffee Association (AASCA) national championship – the winners face off for the chance to represent Australia at the World championships. It follows the World Barista Championship format, you can check the judging cards here. Each competitor is judged on their preparation of three rounds of drinks, and their mad Barista skillz… The first round is espresso, the second a cappuccino, and the third is a signature drink that captures the essence of the coffee. These are typically really creative (and the D&D competitors have their drinks on the menu in store this week).

One of the competitors, a Brazilian guy using a Brazilian coffee, prepared his signature drink using oranges, peanut butter, honey, corn, and coffee. It had an interesting aroma.

D&D took out first, second and third in the Brewers Cup. Third in the latte art comp. And First and Second in the Queensland Barista Championships. Matt Troughton took out first place. Unfortunately I wasn’t there for his performance. I was, however, there for the second place winner – Janelle Kingsley’s routine – and her signature drink was amazing.

Her coffee, from memory, was a natural processed Costa Rica Las Lajas, which grows at the foot of a volcano. So here signature drink, served in oil burners, was a coffee lava.

She whipped up a caramel sauce, using butter, cream, and brown sugar, and a chocolate ganache (cream and dark chocolate), and added some freeze dried strawberry to the mix for texture and to create a visual sense of molten lava. It’ll be on sale on Thursday at Dandelion & Driftwood – and I’ll be there to check it out.

Training for these championships is hard work – and requires a bit of investment on the competitors’ part. The table settings they come up with for the judges are usually pretty elaborate – theming, from the way the competitor talks about their coffee, to the tasting cards, to the table settings, to the signature drink, requires a fair bit of thought and practice – and the fifteen minutes allowed for each competitor seems to fly by.

It was fun checking out the competition. The coffee industry really does seem to have a real sense of camaraderie. And it seems there are plenty of people working to lift the bar when it comes to coffee in Brisbane – and we can thank the competitors and companies who are investing in these competitions for that. So well done to Dandelion and Driftwood. I’ll post a link to the full results and all the competitors when the AASCA report goes up.

Coffee Shots: A bag of goodness…

Dandelion and Driftwood is my regular haunt. Their attention to detail is amazing, and includes a cool lolly cart. This is one of their bags of sugary goodness.

I’ve taken lots of coffee shots over the last couple of years, it would be a shame not to share them. That’s what this little featurette is for.

Brisbane Coffee Crawl: Reviewing crawl #1

On Saturday I drank 11 shots of espresso (with milk) and one amazing chemex. I was on a coffee crawl. Lets call it a thebeanstalker.com Coffee Crawl. Accompanying me on the trip were two of my fellow coffee lovers, and my wife (also a coffee lover).

We hit five cafes – starting with Campos in the valley (which I will review in coming days) for breakfast – and there were plenty of good options we didn’t get to. Enough for another coffee crawl.

I think five cafes is about my limit – especially if I’m drinking double shots. Which I like to. Fair is fair. And I want to be comparing the same product in different locations for my reviews.

The highlight of the day, for a couple of reasons, was our stop at Veneziano’s First Pour cafe on Montague St West End (which I’ll also review in coming days). Firstly – we walked through the door and as I was talking to the girl behind the counter I noticed a familiar name on the business cards sitting there. And sure enough, a second later, Jia Brooks, formerly of Coffee Dominion in Townsville, walked out into the shop. Jia ran the barista course I went through in Townsville – and he’s running similar courses at Veneziano. You should check them out. He toured the globe to learn about coffee.

Here’s Jia showing Robyn the ropes in Townsville.

The second reason Veneziano stood out was the chemex Jia recommended, and made for us. He was probably the warmest barista we met – though that’s not casting any aspersions on the others, the ones we talked to were great, the others were busy. And it helped that we knew him already. The chemex was just sensational. Jia promised strawberries in the cup – and the promise delivered, it was a little like drinking a strawberry tea with a soft coffee undertone. Just amazing. It was some sort of Ethiopian bean.

Here’s the chemex in the preparation process.

Just delicious.

We started at 9am and finished at around 2pm, the shakes wore off about three hours later.

All the cafes we visited offered something a little different in the cup – and something different in terms of ambience. I’d happily, and cheerfully, recommend each stop. Though for different reasons.

A list:

Campos – Strong, dark chocolatey coffee which packed an initial punch, a sweet middle, and a long tail. The aftertaste was pretty nice. Good balance. Amazing food, and a pretty cool atmosphere – I love the ceiling fans. More coming in a review.

Cup – Still one of my absolute favourite places – they are sans Slayer at the moment (and their replacement machine fried itself yesterday). The coffee on Saturday had a great balance, fruity and spicy. I got traces of cinnamon, and a bit of berry. So I’m going with “jam donut” as a label for the flavours involved. Sensational stuff. I would have had two if I could have. But I was being disciplined. This was stop number 2.

BlackStar – Dark chocolate flavours, packed a punch. Just what I’ve come to expect from BlackStar. I still never feel quite well dressed enough to sit around with the hipsters and hippies.

Veneziano – Wow. Just wow. The chemex was great, but we’re not judging these places by their obscure single origins, but rather, their run of the mill espresso drinks. In this case the coffee was velvety smooth, sweet, and nutty. Hazlenut to be exact. Like a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. Delicious.

Dandelion and Driftwood – you know what I think of these guys. Just sensational. They sweat the details. The delicious orange and poppyseed cake was almost worth the $6 it cost. The Nicaraguan Cup of Excellence they had in the grinder on the weekend was simply amazing. I can’t recommend these guys highly enough. If you haven’t been there yet – check it out.

Here’s a slideshow of my pictures from the day. I’m hoping to get a hold of some of my friend Steven’s because he’s a professional.

If you want to come next time drop me a line – or comment on this post. It’s a bit of a thrill to see so many good cafes around.

Coffee Bean Review: Dandelion, and Driftwood

Last Saturday, given a spare couple of hours and a hankering for breakfast/brunch outside the house, my wife and I decided to head over to Dandelion and Driftwood to try out their food menu. On previous visits we’d stuck squarely to the coffee. That’s what Dandelion and Driftwood are building their reputation on (contrary to some reviews you may have read in the Courier Mail today – seriously, I know Alison Cotes, I spent a few days with her, spread over a few visits, in Townsville. She’s nice. But this review is a little ridiculous. Why would you not start off at a place that prides itself on tea and coffee by drinking the tea and coffee? And why go for the fancy and expensive stuff if you’re just going to bag it for being fancy and expensive).

Anyway. Here are some obligatory photos of the food – because this is ancillary at best to what we’re talking about here.

That’s my toasted man-wich – bacon, egg, cheese, man sauce and potato chips.

Robyn chose the toad-in-the-hole. A triumph of hyphens.

Both were pleasant. But really, like I said. The coffee is the star attraction.

The latte art on this coffee lasted all the way to the bottom of the cup:

This Kenyan was particularly good.

And Robyn tried the tea – which came served in this sensational tea set. Tea isn’t my cup of, well, tea. But it was pleasant enough to drink.

That’s a really long prelude to the actual point of this post (especially at 1,000 words per picture). We left the cafe with two little brown paper bags in hand (and one, empty bag in my pocket – I highly recommend hitting up the lolly cart while you’re at D&D).

The coffee bags, like everything else these guys do, came with a unique touch of class. Bags are sewn shut with an old school cotton spooled sewing machine. At least that’s how I’d describe it. This isn’t even their preferred method of selling beans, because storage is important they suggest what is essentially the coffee bean equivalent of a grab and go system – with specially designed coffee storage jars.

Here are the bags on my kitchen table and ready for testing. I’ve just finished off the Driftwood – having polished off the Dandelion in a couple of days. I’d say the Dandelion is definitely my favourite. It works heaps better in milk.

The Driftwood packs a punch – and when I gave a cup to my mum today she said “it is very rounded and reaches the back of the mouth nicely.” But the Dandelion. Oh. The Dandelion. It’s apparently the more feminine of the two – but wow, as an espresso it’s pleasant, but somehow, when you add milk, it’s magical.


I took this shot from down low because I stuffed up my attempt at latte art…

I whipped up a batch of syphon for each of them – and while I know it’s meant to be a tool for playing with single origins – I’d have to say the Dandelion was the standout syphon option too. The Driftwood was great as a slow poured espresso, and sadly, my last shot (just then) was a little bit of a failure – I think my machine, which had sat turned on all day, was a little too hot. It was tasty and full bodied, but it didn’t have the pizazz that its counterpart offers. So you’d have to choose between flair and substance.

The Dandelion, which was almost as good at home as it is in store. The way it works with milk is a little like alchemy. I can’t stop raving about the coffee from this place – and I’ll continue to send my friends there knowing they’ll be looked after despite what some so called “coffee snobs” might write in the newspaper.

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:

* * * * *

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