When Australians argue that coffee is "just so much better" in their country, what they really mean is that coffee is consistent. Consistently good, that is. With a relative absence of chains such as Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks (who tried to get into the Australian market, tanked, and mostly withdrew), independent cafés have built up a solid coffee culture, and it can almost be tough to find really awful coffee.
Of course, there are also excellent coffee shops that rise above. In Sydney, you'll find many of those clustered in the inner city — well-established spots such as Mecca Espresso and Gumption serve up buckets of coffee to the 9 to 5 crowd in the city's Central Business District (known more informally as the CBD). Head a little to the south, and you'll find Surry Hills, another major pocket for cafés, including some that are willing to get a little more experimental with their roasts, like the Reformatory Caffeine Lab and Paramount Coffee Project. There is also destination-worthy coffee beyond these zones — Salvage, to the north of Sydney Harbour, and Grind Espresso, far to the south in Cronulla, are highlights. (Of course, this tremendous coffee culture extends to Melbourne, too.)
A few notes on Australian coffee: lattes and cappuccinos are different from what you would expect at a North American third-wave shop. Both are around eight ounces; a latte comes in a glass with a little foam on top while a cappuccino has a little less milk, a solid cap of foam, and is often sprinkled with chocolate. Americanos are called "long blacks" and have a little less hot water; flat whites are usually the milkiest beverage on offer, and iced coffees are usually sweeter and loaded with milk or even ice cream, not merely ice-plus-coffee (that said, cold brew is making inroads).
Beyond those semantic differences, cafés typically serve full breakfast or brunch meals, not just pastries and muffins. Due to that full meal service, most cafes don't have wifi, and camping out for hours with a laptop isn't always smiled upon. With that out of the way, the Eater guide to coffee in Sydney:Read More