My introduction to speciality coffee in Melbourne came via Coffee Black Coffee’s container on Queensbridge Square on the south bank of the Yarra River, opposite Flinders Street Station and the Central Business District. Each of my first four days in Melbourne began with the five-minute walk from our hotel to the open spaces of Queensbridge Square where I had a flat white, as well as picking up a coffee for Amanda, which I took back to the hotel.
Code Black Coffee occupies a converted shipping container, appropriately painted black, on the western edge of Queensbridge Square, its back to Queens Bridge Street. Six round tables are arranged in two rows in front of the container should you want to stay, although everything is served in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own. All the coffee is roasted in-house, with a blend and single-origin available (either hot or cold) through a simple espresso-based menu, while another single-origin is on batch-brew filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, Code Black has a small range of cakes/pastries.
Sydney was my final stop on this year’s Australia trip and, in many ways, I’d saved the best until last. Good coffee abounds in Sydney and top of my list was one of the city’s pioneers, Single O, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. And where better to start than Single O’s flagship café in Surry Hills, the place where it all began 20 years ago? Except, of course, my first introduction to Single O came five years earlier at its Tasting Bar in the Single O Roastery in Tokyo. Oh well…
The Surry Hills café is long and thin, split into separate sit-in and takeaway sections either side of the central counter. There’s also plenty of seating outside. Originally the back of the café was home to the roastery. This is long since gone, but Single O still roasts all its coffee, with two blends and a rotating single-origin on espresso, two single-origins on batch-brew filter (both on tap!), plus cold brew and two tasting flights, with all the beans available to buy in retail bags. There are also juices, beer and wine, while the large all-day brunch menu means you’re equally well catered for when it comes to food.
Although no longer a resident, I’m still very interested in Guildford’s speciality coffee scene. I was therefore sad to learn in March that an old favourite, Koja Coffee, had closed after a tumultuous year which saw it move from its original home on Jeffries Passage to New House, a recently-opened space for artists and creatives. However, every cloud has a silver lining and in May I was delighted to learn from Ben Barker that Frida’s Coffee House had opened in Koja’s place. Naturally, I visited the next time I was in Guildford.
If you were familiar with Koja, the set up is very similar, Frida’s occupying a counter inside the lobby to New House. There’s a similar offering too, with the Nom Nom blend from Hundred House along with Perky Blenders’ decaf on espresso, while Hundred House also supplies two single-origins, available as pour-overs through the V60. One change is that Frida’s offers a small range of toasted panini and savoury croissants, plus vegan sausage rolls and the usual selection of cakes/pastries.
Moving on from 3 Little Birds Espresso, Airlie Beach and the Queensland Coast, Amanda and I headed south to Brisbane for a few days. This was mostly spent catching up with friends, but we did find time for one Coffee Spot. Foster & Black was a new name to me, a chance discovery when I spotted its kiosk in The Myer Centre in Brisbane’s Central Business District. Although we only had time for a quick flat white, the barista told us about the coffee shop/roastery in Fortitude Valley, so we made time to pay it a visit on Saturday morning.
A relatively new addition to Brisbane’s speciality coffee scene, the minimalist coffee bar only opened in 2021, fronting a large, open warehouse-like space. This is home to Foster & Black’s Loring coffee roaster, its green bean storage and its production area, all separated from the coffee bar by a wall of windows running the full width of the building. There’s a range of seating options, but the real draw is the coffee, with a house-blend on espresso, plus three single-origins available on espresso, batch brew and pour-over. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes and pastries.
Returning to the theme of speciality coffee in the centre of Amsterdam, another newcomer is Priesthood, which opened in 2021 and occupies a prime spot directly opposite Amsterdam’s central station. Even better for me, it was around the corner from where I was working, which made it a regular haunt during afternoon coffee break, along with a variety of my colleagues.
Priesthood is unusual amongst speciality coffee shops in that it is run by volunteers, part of a non-profit, Christian-led community space which is part bookshop (ground floor), art gallery (first floor) and, of course, coffee shop. Although the counter is next to the door, you’re welcome to take a seat on the nearby sofa or head upstairs, where you’ll find various chairs, tables and a bench along the window at the front, offering views of the station.
Priesthood uses local Amsterdam roasters, with Uncommon providing a single-origin espresso and a choice of beans on pour-over from either Friedhats or Rum Baba Coffee Roasters. Even the milk is special, coming from ElkeMelk, a local dairy where each bottle is from a single cow, while the oat milk is also locally produced by ROA. Finally, there’s a small selection of cakes/pastries.
Other than a brief visit to old friends Black Gold, the first stop on my return to Amsterdam last month was Sango. Located in the heart of Amsterdam’s historic city centre on Stromarkt, a stone’s throw from the station, Sango is a relatively new addition, having opened since my previous visit in 2018. Spread over three floors of a beautiful building, dating from 1670, there’s a roastery and equipment showroom in the basement, with the counter and limited seating on the ground floor and more seating upstairs, all connected via a tight, winding spiral staircase. You’ll probably also meet Mocha, the resident coffee shop dog, who has her own spot at the front by the espresso machine.
While the building is worth a visit in its own right, the coffee is just as big a draw. Everything is roasted on the 1.5 kg roaster in the basement, which you can see through a glass panel in the floor, or (more typically) on a 15 kg Giesen in a dedicated off-site roastery. Serving only single-origins, there’s a choice of espresso, batch brew filter or two options on pour-over using the Origami filter. There’s also cake, pastries and a range of toasted sandwiches.
For the Good of the People is part of the Real Food Market on Euston Station forecourt, directly opposite the station’s main entrance, an excellent spot for a pre-/post-train coffee (except for Mondays, when it’s closed). The set up is pretty simple, just a stall at the left-hand end of the Real Food Market stalls, serving espresso-based drinks along with a selection of retail bags of coffee. Unsurprisingly, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
For the Good of the People uses its bespoke Canopy blend, its standard espresso-based menu having a commendably simple pricing policy (one price for with milk, another for black). There’s also tea, a range of iced coffees (all at one price) and, for a small supplement, alternative milks. Although there’s no seating at the stall, you can take a seat at any of the approximately 20 picnic-style tables on the forecourt.
I came across Bellwood Coffee, a West Atlanta roaster, at Tuesday Coffee + Shoppe in Marietta over the summer. That led me to discover that Bellwood also had a coffee shop inside a plant shop in East Atlanta Village. Even better, from my point of view, Bellwood had opened a second shop in June 2021, inside the lobby of the 1776 Peachtree office building just a few blocks from Atlanta’s Peachtree Station, where I would be arriving by train from New York City on Monday morning.
1776 Peachtree is a large, modern office building, towering over its neighbours on the west side of Peachtree Road NW. It’s hard to miss, although at first sight it’s not obvious that it houses a speciality coffee shop. I knew where I was going, but had to go up to the main doors before spotting a small sign for Bellwood Coffee. You could easily walk past without ever knowing it was there, which would be a shame, since you would be missing a gem. Bellwood serves its signature espresso, The Reservoir, from a standard menu with its seasonal decaf as an alternative, while there’s also batch brew and cold brew, plus cakes and sandwiches for breakfast/lunch.
Although the setting is very different, Koja occupying a counter inside the entry lobby to New House, there’s the same basic offering, with a house blend on espresso (roasted for Koja by friends in Suffolk) plus single-origins from NewGround on batch brew and pour-over through the V60. If you’re hungry, Koja has the usual array and cakes and pastries, while fans of the Scandi market which was such a favourite on Jeffries Passage will not be disappointed, since it’s survived the move. The main difference (for now) is that Koja is only serving in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters opened just after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, temporarily closed in September last year, then re-opened following a makeover in May 2022, since when it’s been going from strength to strength. On Meadow Place, a very short walk from Shrewsbury Station, there’s not a lot to The Colonel’s Son, just a small shop with a window-bar at the front, the counter in the middle and the roaster at the back. Oh, and a bench outside, in case the four seats inside are taken.
The Colonel’s Son is run by Patch, who is indeed the son of a Colonel, his father having served with the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars. It’s very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of place, with a standard espresso-based menu (served in proper cups, I’m pleased to say) and a choice of a medium or dark roast blend. There’s a wider selection of coffee for sale in retail bags, including some lighter roasted single-origins, roasted fresh each Monday, along with a small range of cakes.