When Amanda and I began our trip to Australia, we didn’t head for the coffee hotspots of Melbourne or Sydney, but instead found ourselves in Airlie Beach on the Queensland coast, 1,000 km north of Brisbane. Known as the gateway to the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef, we’d come for the natural beauty rather than the coffee, so you can imagine my surprise when, strolling along the main street on our first evening there, I spotted a Slayer espresso machine in a window.
The Slayer in question belongs to 3 Little Birds Espresso, which combines coffee, art and gifts. Opened in November 2021 by Tracey, Joan and Pauline, it’s a friendly spot which showcases locally made products and produce across two linked spaces. 3 Little Birds offers a simple, espresso-based menu with the coffee coming from Queensland roaster, Ground Control. There’s also a selection of tea and hot chocolate, along with various shakes and smoothies. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there are toasties and wraps, plus cakes, muffins and tarts for those with a sweet tooth.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
3 Little Birds Espresso is on the southern (inland) side of Shute Harbour Road, which runs through the heart of Airlie Beach. On the ground floor of Pacific Place, a modern, three-storey building at the eastern end of the main drag, 3 Little Birds has two units either side of the door to Fish D’Vine, a seafood restaurant and rum bar. The right-hand unit is an arts studio, which runs workshops and the like, while the coffee shop, which also acts as a gift shop (and a whole lot more), is to the left.
Continuing a theme from Singapore, 3 Little Birds Espresso is long and thin, with the door in the middle of the short side, flanked by windows on either side. These offer great views across the harbour to the wooded peninsula, although they are threatened by proposed high rise developments along the Airlie Beach foreshore. There’s limited seating outside, where three stools and two chairs shelter from the sun under a canopy projecting from the side of the building. There’s not much more seating in the cosy interior, where you can expect an enthusiastic welcome from the staff.
The front part of 3 Little Birds is, in effect, the coffee shop, with the counter on the right, set back from the window. The Slayer espresso machine is on the short side of the counter, facing the front, where it’s clearly visible through the window. If you like getting up close and personal with espresso machines, then I recommend grabbing a seat on the stool at the tall, round wooden table in the window to the right of the door.
The majority of the seating, however, is on the left, starting with a pair of chairs to the left of the door, their backs to the window. Next comes a wooden two-person sofa bench in the corner, along with a low stool (like those outside), all five seats sharing an old wooden cable drum which has been repurposed as a table.
You order down the side of the counter, while if you’re hungry, the various toasties, wraps, cakes, muffins and tarts, are displayed in a glass cabinet at the counter’s far end. By now, however, you’re very much into the other half of 3 Little Birds, with various items from local artists and producers arrayed on the counter top. Behind you, more items line the left-hand wall, while right at the back, a corridor-like extension runs back on the left-hand side, an Aladdin’s cave of locally-produced goodies. These include, but are not limited to, various paintings and other works of art, jewellery, cards and clothes.
Turning to the coffee, 3 Little Birds serves a standard espresso-based menu using Ground Control Roasters. On our first visit, we had a pair of flat whites, while on our return, during our last day in Airlie Beach, Amanda had another flat white, while I had an espresso. The Easy Rider blend is a touch darker than I’m used to, but combines very well with milk to produce a rich flat white, with classic chocolate notes. Meanwhile, as an espresso, it again exhibited a classic profile, rich, smooth and well-balanced. As good as the coffee was, however, the real draw is the friendly welcome, 3 Little Birds feeling like another home from home.
|2/402 SHUTE HARBOUR ROAD • AIRLIE BEACH • QLD 4802 • AUSTRALIA|
|www.3littlebirdsespresso.com.au||+61 (0) 403 187 408|
|Monday||06:30 – 15:00||Roaster||Ground Control (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||06:30 – 15:00||Seating||Sofa, Chairs, Table; Stools & Chairs (outside)|
|Wednesday||06:30 – 15:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cake|
|Thursday||06:30 – 15:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||06:30 – 15:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||07:00 – 12:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||24th, 26th April 2023|
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