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.
Today’s Coffee Spot sees us move from Brisbane to Melbourne, although technically we’re in the suburbs, in Nunawading, home to Manta Ray Coffee Roasters. I first became aware of Manta Ray when I visited Pinhole Coffee Bar in Singapore, where Manta Ray was the guest roaster. Then, when I reached Melbourne, I found that Manta Ray topped many people’s must-visit lists. Since I had a hire car for my drive along the Great Ocean Road, I decided to make a two-hour round trip to the east of Melbourne to visit Manta Ray before I set off.
Manta Ray Coffee Roasters, as the name suggests, is both roastery and coffee bar. Although Manta Ray has been roasting for a while, the coffee bar has only been open since October 2022. Despite this, it’s already become a place of pilgrimage for Melbourne’s speciality coffee community. There are two blends on espresso, along with five single-origins on pour-over and some interesting cold coffee options. Naturally, all the coffee is available to buy in retail bags, and while this is rightly the main draw, if you’re hungry, there’s a wide range of cakes and pastries, along with a smaller selection of savoury 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.
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.