SMH Coffee Awards


How we rated the café and the coffee

Each café was rated out of 20. The scores don’t appear in the Guide, but were used to determine the one two and three Coffee Cup Awards ( ie a score of 15 or 16 is One Cup, 17 or 18 is Two Cups, 19 or 20 is Three Cups.). Here’s how we broke it down.


The quality: commitment to quality beans, grinding to order, consistency, care taken

The experience: aroma, temperature, crema, acidity, flavour balance, mouthfeel, body and aftertaste.


Quality, freshness, appropriateness, deliciousness. And not pre-buttering your toast so it goes all soggy.


Comfort, class, cosiness, sense of community and staff spirit. And things like wiping down the tables so you don’t get the last person’s sticky honey on your best cardie.


Special things such as art, music, loose-leaf tea, sunshine, smiles, the possibility of spontaneous conversation, remembering your regular order.


Congratulations to all award winners

So here once again are the award winners, with a couple of notes to amplify the criteria:


Best Old-Timer Café: Don Adan in Mosman

Not old-timer as in ‘past-it’, old-timer as in ‘respect, because you’re still kicking it.’

Best Kid Friendly Café: Cafe Bellagio in Waverley

It has a dedicated playpen area that gives mums and dads a break to concentrate on their much-needed coffee.

Best Café with a View: The Crabbe Hole at Bondi Beach

Ozone meets caffeine in Sydneys most magical café on the rocks.

Best Breakfast Café: Three Blue Ducks in Bronte

Great avocado and tomato on toast, great scram with black pudding and cranberry relish, great coffee, caring baristas. There’s even a girl in what was the all-boy kitchen now.

Best Chocolate Café: Cafe Lindt in the City

(also wins the unofficial gong for the most expensive piccolo latte at $4.50)

Best Bar/Café: 13b ( Safe House) in Darlinghurst

Because we like a place where you can segue from Gravity coffee to Veuve Cliquot.

Best Patisserie Café: Black Star Pastry in Newtown

Really lovely, detailed, imaginative cakes and pastries with the integrity of pure ingredients, no shortcuts, and loads of built-in richness.

Best Bakery Café: Central Baking Depot in the City

A great little café with flour on its nose. What was a trend ( the bakery/café) is now an industry standard:

Best Small Café: Toby’s Estate, Potts Point

For doing what every small café should do – looking after the neighbourhood with damn good coffee.

Best Café Life is fouratefive, Surry Hills

Because it just feels so good to be there.

Best Latte Art: Chai at Uliveto in Kings Cross,

He doesn’t do it all the time. But when he does, it’s pretty amazing.

Best Boutique Roaster: Single Origin Roasters, Surry Hills

Because Single O is on the side of the angels.

Best Barista: Alex Kum of Mecca Espresso in the City

Because he’s been doing it for 17 years and is living proof that barista-ing is a profession, not just a job.

Best Food Café: Le Monde in Surry Hills

Coffee and food for the five senses, with a right proper chef and kitchen and good ideas.

Best Bean to Cup Café: The Source Espresso Bar in Mosman

One of the most successful integrations of roast-to-toast; an important part of coffee education – when you can see it and smell it being roasted, its not just a cup of coffee any more.

Best Coffee Innovator: Campos Coffee, Newtown

For its recently installed cupping (tasting) rooms upstairs, for opening the very modern Don Campos in Alexandria, for coffee innovations such as The Long Sparkling Black, a hot/cold summer coffee that does your head in.


Best New Café: Room 10, Potts Point.

They get it right – great Mecca Espresso coffee, Black Star Pastries, rhubarb bubbling away on the stove, dogs and bikes and kids all down the laneway.

Best Café: Mecca Espresso, Ultimo

Not just as a café but because they do it from the ground up, sourcing, blending, roasting, and making the end cup taste fantastic. Good space, good food, a new brew corner for siphons, pour-overs and clovers, its all there.

Best Coffee: Coffee Alchemy, Marrickville.

Because the house blend piccolo latte is the complete package of emulsified flavour, aroma, body and acidity. It’s like drinking 80% cacao bean chocolate, bitterness running down the sides of your tongue.


Beyond the Awards

Awards such as these always skew the overall picture, elevating certain cafes above the rest.

But every café in the Good Café Guide has something special about it. To even things out a bit, here are half a dozen from the 250 cafes reviewed; with an excerpt from their review.

Three Tone Café

Shop 8, 405 Sussex Street, City Tel 9211 9881

So why would anyone open a coffee-driven café in the middle of Chinatown? ‘Because the coffee’s crap around here’ says Vietnamese/Chinese barista Tom Tran, who pulls a seriously strong and slightly bitter Belaroma in this cute caff wedged in a lane between Sussex and Dixon Streets. Even more fun can be had matching it to a top banh mi, a fresh, crusty bread roll stuffed with nem nuong (grilled pork patties), or goi cuon fresh spring rolls, instead of the usual sandwiches and salads (also available).

Three Group

199 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst Tel 9357 7797

The name refers to the number of groups (the outlets through which the hot water is delivered) on the Wega machine, run with great affection and skill by co-owner Issi. ‘My name is Israel, from Israel’ he says laughing. ‘So easy to remember’. Coffee is Genovese’s Super Brazil flagship blend out of Melbourne, ‘because it’s divine’ says Issi. Indeed it is, rich and creamy and full of flavour; and just the thing to match to a freshly baked croissant or pastry from the baker’s oven on the premises.


95 O’Sullivan Road, Bellevue Hill Tel 9326 1655

There’s a resident parrot at Sugarloaf, called Sugar (Eclectus roratus), and one regular even brings his pet lorikeet (known as Syd) on weekends for a bit of bird-on-bird gossip. Owner Kim Teeling found this green little café opposite the greens of Rose Bay Golf Course two and a half years ago. ‘I just knew it was me’ she says happily. The smooth, rich Grinders coffee pulls in a very eastern suburbs crowd – complete with their dogs – for big brekkies of free range organic eggs and bacon, fresh fruit smoothies and banana bread on the open decking.

City Edge Café

74-80 Reservoir St, Surry Hills Tel 9282 9399

The sandwiches at this otherwise unremarkable Surry Hills caff have their own Facebook page (I heart Tommy), with comments like ‘I love the T9!’ and ‘A5 is awesome!’. City Edge fans set it up in honour of owner Tommy Chen, who has such a memory for matching names to faces to sandwiches, burgers and veggo ricepaper rolls, they say, he could make gazillions as a  ‘train your memory’ guru.

Panuccio Bros

H Shed, Flemington Markets, Flemington Tel 9746 7308

If you’d spent 60 years getting up before dawn to head off to the market, you’d want your coffee short, strong and with a dash of grappa as well. We adore the old boys who gather in this atmospheric cellar-like wine store/food store/café to have a natter, pick up some spicy salsiccie for dinner, and just generally do fa niente over a caffe corretto.

Sureshot Espresso

1483 Pittwater Rd Tel 0410 035 167

If you’re limping along the northern beaches caffeine-less, then this simple little shopfront coffee stop is like a beacon in the dark. No tables or chairs – indeed, no décor to speak of – make it about as atmospheric as a Chinese take-away in Birmingham, but the three-group La Marzocco, two Mazzer grinders an Golden Cobra beans prove their claim of ‘serious coffee from 6am’. Long-time barista Ben Morgan gives even a skim latte depth of flavour, not an easy task.

Now it’s your turn.

Tell us where your favourite café or best coffee is. What do you think of the new brews (Clover, pour-over, syphon, etc)? Or maybe you’re a tea person – tell us who does the best brews and why. Is there somewhere you’d like to give a heart to? Or a barista who deserves it?

And if you get hold of a copy of the Good Café Guide and have time to go through it, don’t hold back. Tell us what we’ve missed, got wrong or hopefully got right, so that we can do a better job next year.

Follow us on Twitter

Then follow us on Twitter @SMHCafeGuide and rate your coffee tomorrow morning according to the criteria we’ve listed and give us your score. And a big hoy to the coffee industry – you should jump on Twitter as well and tell us when you’re doing a special Single Origin or if you’ve got a batch you’re really pleased with; or what your muffin is for the day. The wine industry is all over Twitter with ‘tasted this’, ‘try the 2006 that’ and coffee lovers should be out there spreading the joy as well.



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