The Harbour Bridge. The Opera House. Sydney has always been Australia's premier city when it comes to sweeping views and iconic monuments. But for coffee? This huge part of the Australian identity has long been associated not with Sydney, but primarily with Melbourne, a city that's home base to a host of internationally known coffee roasters and cafes, including Seven Seeds, Patricia Coffee Brewers, St. Ali, and many more.
Sydneysiders are hardly content to let this slide, and today the city is home to an impressive collection of boutique coffee roasters, many located within the city's inner-west suburbs. You can see it every day walking around the city, but it's especially evident during the weekend brunch hours, where lines snake outside and the city comes out to see and be seen.
Growth attracts growth, and now homegrown Sydney brands like Mecca and Single O have been joined by roasters from, yes, Melbourne, as well as Canberra. Syndey's coffee scene has never had it so good. This is not our first guide to Sydney, and you can visit our Sydney archives for much more coverage from the sunny city. But for now, let's go exploring.
Single O Surry Hills
Single O has an outsized role in the growth and development of quality coffee in Sydney, and it all started at their Surry Hills location.
This was originally where Single O ran its roastworks, but those operations have since moved offsite. Instead, the space was converted to make way for this lovely and recently remodeled cafe. The latest version of the Surry Hills cafe includes a self-serve brew bar where those who want their coffees to go can fill up their cups with the choice of one of four batch brew coffee options, and then tap to pay at the card machine. This joins a host of single-origin pour-over, cold brew, or espresso of the week options. Feel free to geek out on coffee with the baristas, and check out the shelves for current roasts and take-home kits.
Their all-day menu is just as appealing, showcasing sustainable Australian ingredients with Japanese flavors, as a nod to Single Origin’s first Japanese outpost in Tokyo. Try dishes such as the “croc-ettes”: croquettes made with crocodile, potato, and corn croquettes with Japanese curry sauce.
Mecca Alexandria Cafe and Roastery
Set in an industrial part of Sydney, Mecca’s headquarters in Alexandria serves as both a cafe and roastery. The grand space was given a makeover back in 2017 to take advantage of the venue’s high ceilings, split-level open floor plan, and garden out in the back.
Coffee is the main star here. Mecca has long been one of Australia's best roasters, and that's on full display here at this cafe, from pour-over bar to a keenly dialed in batch brew service, alongside ever-changing espresso options.
Beyond coffee, the venue is also licensed to serve natural wines, beer on tap, and cocktails. Try a bagel with ricotta and tomatoes, a bowl of house-made granola, or maybe some coffee-cured salmon. The space is also big enough to offer cupping classes on-site, which can help with those looking to learn a thing or two about coffee beyond simply enjoying it.
Ona Coffee Marrickville
Ona Coffee hails originally from Canberra, and at their Sydney cafe they specialize in brewing coffees by the cup. The ever-evolving list of coffee offerings is showcased in a bounded leather menu, similarly to how a wine list would be presented at a restaurant. Reading through it, you’ll find descriptions about coffees that have been roasted, aged, and then vacuum-sealed into individual servings until they’re required for brewing. It's an impressive operation, and more or less completely unlike anything you'll find in Sydney.
Unlike most cafes, the Ona Coffee Marrickville is set up similarly to a bar. There’s an island table that doubles as counter seating to allow for complete interaction with the baristas, who make each cup of coffee with great consideration. Food here is not the main focus, although there are lovely doughnuts delivered daily from Shortstop Donuts that are delivered daily to the cafe, and a small menu of breakfast savories.
Edition Coffee Roasters
The vibe is dark and moody. The design fuses Japan and Scandinavia. This is the new home of Edition Coffee Roasters.
Edition's original (and very popular) store in Darlinghurst closed in October 2018, and their new space in Darling Square could not be more different. That space was all about soaking in the natural light; this new space takes on an all-black charcoal palette, inspired by an antique Japanese farmhouse aesthetic. Just like its first cafe, the team offers a range of single-origin coffees roasted in-house, giving coffee drinkers the option to have them as a batch brew, pour-over, AeroPress, Japanese drip, or cold brew.
The food menu leans on Japanese influences, with dishes ranging from bento boxes, to pork katsu burgers, to 12-hour roasted lamb glazed with miso. There are also the unmissable Japanese pancakes, so outrageously fluffy and light. Come Friday evenings, and the day-time eatery transforms into a natural wine bar along with an ever-changing set menu.
An unassuming brick corner shop sits behind drawn blinds and tinted windows. You'd hardly know it was a cafe at all if it weren't for the line filling out the door.
This is Coffee Alchemy, whose coffee bar occupies a small space at the front of its roastery. The two areas are divided by a drawn curtain, which suggests an “order to go” decision encouraged sparse bench seating inside and out.
But people don’t come to Coffee Alchemy for the decor. Here, it’s about the coffee, overseen by owner Hazel de Los Reyes, whose local profile includes winning the Australian Cup Tasters and NSW Barista Championships. Coffee Alchemy was her first cafe; she also owns the excellent Gumption by Coffee Alchemy and Micro Coffee, both located in the CBD.
Double Tap Coffee
There’s nothing quite like a neighborhood cafe. A place serving locals with high-quality coffee, no-fuss food, and friendly service—that’s what Double Tap is all about.
On most days here you’ll find owner Daniel Karaconji running the front of the house, serving up coffee using beans from a local roaster, Panorama Coffee Roasters. He draws on his experience as being the former head barista of Coffee Alchemy. Meanwhile, his parents and wife can be found in the kitchen making generously sized sandwiches, such as poached chicken with avocado and chipotle or wraps of lamb mince with hummus, tabouli, and chili.
Karaconji’s mum is also responsible for the mouth-watering cakes that are on display daily, alongside other sweet treats including croissants and pastries. Cake choices can range from an orange and poppy seed to Persian almond and rose water.
The cafe is hidden in between industrial warehouses of the inner-west suburb of Marrickville. It sticks with a black and white theme, with hints of greenery and wood from the tabletops and matching chairs.
Aimee Chanthadavong is a freelance journalist based in Sydney. Read more Aimee Chanthadavong for Sprudge.
Photos by author unless otherwise noted.
Top image via Adobe Stock/Javen