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Where to Drink Coffee in Sydney, Australia

How a group of independent cafés have created a world caffeine capital

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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:

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Salvage Specialty Coffee

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5 Wilkes Ave, Artarmon
NSW 2064, Australia
Head over the Harbour Bridge into Sydney's moneyed north and you'll find the neighborhood of Artarmon, home to Salvage. The crew doesn't have their own roasting operation, but they channel that energy into the coffee producing side — the slow drip is a revelation.

2. Mecca Espresso

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67 King St, Sydney
NSW 2001, Australia
+61 2 9299 8828
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It's perhaps a little lofty to imply that one's café is the central point of worship for a religion, but Mecca does a solid cup of coffee. It's so good that their beans can be found in countless cafés across Sydney — but Mecca's own locations are the highlight. There are two others near downtown, and the roastery in Alexandria, to the south.

3. Gumption

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Shop 11, 412-414 George St., Sydney
NSW 2000, Australia
+61 2 9232 4199
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Arguably the best coffee in Sydney's CBD (the downtown core), Gumption's fastidious approach to coffee comes from the top. Owner Hazel de los Reyes has claimed multiple cupping, roasting, and barista titles, and that wisdom has evidently been passed down to her team, who offer a myriad of brewing approaches. Tucked in the Strand Arcade, Gumption is actually the second location to fall under Reyes's Coffee Alchemy brand — but the original spot (just named Coffee Alchemy) in Marrickvllle, to the west, closes almost unreasonably early.

A photo posted by @tomsdailygrind on

4. Pablo & Rusty’s

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161 Castlereagh St., Sydney
NSW 2000, Australia
+61 2 9283 9543
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The masterminds behind Pablo and Rusty's either care a lot about black coffee, efficiency, or both: the Sydney City location has a bar dedicated solely to milk-free coffee, so there's no waiting around for slowpokes ordering lattes and cappuccinos — although they do those, too. It's also uber-environmentally aware: the entire café is powered by a bio-generator that keeps it totally off the power grid.

5. Room 10

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10 Llankelly Pl., Potts Point
NSW 2011, Australia
+61 425 810 174
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In an almost literal hole in the wall to the east of the city, Room 10 is intimate, cozy, and it offers some excellent espresso drinks with Mecca's meticulously roasted beans.

6. Paramount Coffee Project

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80 Commonwealth St, Sydney
NSW 2010, Australia
+61 2 9211 1122
Visit Website
You never know what you're going to get at Paramount Coffee Project — but that's not a bad thing. Beans and roasters change every month or so, and coffee is dispersed to local coffee scene bigwigs for them to try new things, report back, and get it brewed for the masses at this inner Sydney location. The concept seems to work — it's been successful enough to open a Los Angeles location.

7. Single O

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60-64 Reservoir St., Surry Hills
NSW 2010, Australia
+61 2 9211 0665
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Formerly known as the Single Origin Roasters, Surry Hills' Single O also does blends, despite what the name might suggest. With an eye for detail, the team roasts in nearby Botany (at an entirely solar-powered operation) and have served excellent filter brews and more at their Surry Hills location for over a decade. They've even got milk on tap, thanks to the "Juggler," a device the Single O team helped to create.

8. Reuben Hills

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61 Albion St., Surry Hills
NSW 2010, Australia
+61 2 9211 5556
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Reuben Hills owner Russell Beard travels the world with his head roaster to form long-term relationships with coffee growers. The end result (well, after some roasting) is refined coffee with neatly demarcated flavors. The pour-overs and filters are pricey but good, or you can do the flavored coffee thing with a ginger-turmeric latte. They also do public cuppings every Saturday morning.

9. The Reformatory Caffeine Lab

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Shop 7B, 17–51 Foveaux St., Surry Hills
NSW 2010, Australia
The name might be sinister, but the coffee here isn't. Courtesy of his childhood on a coffee farm, owner Simon Jaramillo deliberately roasts, mixes, and brews to create some of the wildest coffee flavors in Sydney: Don't be surprised if you encounter something like beans with chocolate notes mixed up with tropical fruit hints. He's also excited to give customers as much information as possible about that process, too. The cold brew is the best way for optimize your Reformatory taste sensations.

10. Brewtown Newtown

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6-8 O'Connell St., Newtown
NSW 2042, Australia
+61 2 9519 2920
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Founded by a duo involved with Australian coffee OG Toby's Estate, this side-street cafe in Newtown draws endless crowds. They come not just for the espresso, but also for the on-site bakery and retail store upstairs.

11. The Little Marionette

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11 May St, Saint Peters
NSW 2044, Australia
The Little Marionette might just be Sydney's most underrated cafe: It keeps its head down, doesn't make ostentatious proclamations about saving the world with coffee, and just serves great espresso and cold brew. There's multiple other Little Marionette locations nowadays, including Balmain and Annandale in the west, and the Sydney CBD.

12. Grind Espresso

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4/15 Surf Rd, Cronulla
NSW 2230, Australia
"I'd rather be at Grind" — it's both this café's slogan, and something many Sydneysiders might think to themselves, as Grind is a long way from the inner city. Down south, near the beach in Cronulla, Grind started doing Italian coffee a decade back, and have since branched out to to great siphon and cold brew, all in a homey space decorated with kitsch to spare.

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1. Salvage Specialty Coffee

5 Wilkes Ave, Artarmon, NSW 2064, Australia
Head over the Harbour Bridge into Sydney's moneyed north and you'll find the neighborhood of Artarmon, home to Salvage. The crew doesn't have their own roasting operation, but they channel that energy into the coffee producing side — the slow drip is a revelation.
5 Wilkes Ave, Artarmon
NSW 2064, Australia

2. Mecca Espresso

67 King St, Sydney, NSW 2001, Australia
It's perhaps a little lofty to imply that one's café is the central point of worship for a religion, but Mecca does a solid cup of coffee. It's so good that their beans can be found in countless cafés across Sydney — but Mecca's own locations are the highlight. There are two others near downtown, and the roastery in Alexandria, to the south.
67 King St, Sydney
NSW 2001, Australia

3. Gumption

Shop 11, 412-414 George St., Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia
Arguably the best coffee in Sydney's CBD (the downtown core), Gumption's fastidious approach to coffee comes from the top. Owner Hazel de los Reyes has claimed multiple cupping, roasting, and barista titles, and that wisdom has evidently been passed down to her team, who offer a myriad of brewing approaches. Tucked in the Strand Arcade, Gumption is actually the second location to fall under Reyes's Coffee Alchemy brand — but the original spot (just named Coffee Alchemy) in Marrickvllle, to the west, closes almost unreasonably early.

A photo posted by @tomsdailygrind on

Shop 11, 412-414 George St., Sydney
NSW 2000, Australia

4. Pablo & Rusty’s

161 Castlereagh St., Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia
The masterminds behind Pablo and Rusty's either care a lot about black coffee, efficiency, or both: the Sydney City location has a bar dedicated solely to milk-free coffee, so there's no waiting around for slowpokes ordering lattes and cappuccinos — although they do those, too. It's also uber-environmentally aware: the entire café is powered by a bio-generator that keeps it totally off the power grid.
161 Castlereagh St., Sydney
NSW 2000, Australia

5. Room 10

10 Llankelly Pl., Potts Point, NSW 2011, Australia
In an almost literal hole in the wall to the east of the city, Room 10 is intimate, cozy, and it offers some excellent espresso drinks with Mecca's meticulously roasted beans.
10 Llankelly Pl., Potts Point
NSW 2011, Australia

6. Paramount Coffee Project

80 Commonwealth St, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia
You never know what you're going to get at Paramount Coffee Project — but that's not a bad thing. Beans and roasters change every month or so, and coffee is dispersed to local coffee scene bigwigs for them to try new things, report back, and get it brewed for the masses at this inner Sydney location. The concept seems to work — it's been successful enough to open a Los Angeles location.
80 Commonwealth St, Sydney
NSW 2010, Australia

7. Single O

60-64 Reservoir St., Surry Hills, NSW 2010, Australia
Formerly known as the Single Origin Roasters, Surry Hills' Single O also does blends, despite what the name might suggest. With an eye for detail, the team roasts in nearby Botany (at an entirely solar-powered operation) and have served excellent filter brews and more at their Surry Hills location for over a decade. They've even got milk on tap, thanks to the "Juggler," a device the Single O team helped to create.
60-64 Reservoir St., Surry Hills
NSW 2010, Australia

8. Reuben Hills

61 Albion St., Surry Hills, NSW 2010, Australia
Reuben Hills owner Russell Beard travels the world with his head roaster to form long-term relationships with coffee growers. The end result (well, after some roasting) is refined coffee with neatly demarcated flavors. The pour-overs and filters are pricey but good, or you can do the flavored coffee thing with a ginger-turmeric latte. They also do public cuppings every Saturday morning.
61 Albion St., Surry Hills
NSW 2010, Australia

9. The Reformatory Caffeine Lab

Shop 7B, 17–51 Foveaux St., Surry Hills, NSW 2010, Australia
The name might be sinister, but the coffee here isn't. Courtesy of his childhood on a coffee farm, owner Simon Jaramillo deliberately roasts, mixes, and brews to create some of the wildest coffee flavors in Sydney: Don't be surprised if you encounter something like beans with chocolate notes mixed up with tropical fruit hints. He's also excited to give customers as much information as possible about that process, too. The cold brew is the best way for optimize your Reformatory taste sensations.
Shop 7B, 17–51 Foveaux St., Surry Hills
NSW 2010, Australia

10. Brewtown Newtown

6-8 O'Connell St., Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia
Founded by a duo involved with Australian coffee OG Toby's Estate, this side-street cafe in Newtown draws endless crowds. They come not just for the espresso, but also for the on-site bakery and retail store upstairs.
6-8 O'Connell St., Newtown
NSW 2042, Australia

11. The Little Marionette

11 May St, Saint Peters, NSW 2044, Australia
The Little Marionette might just be Sydney's most underrated cafe: It keeps its head down, doesn't make ostentatious proclamations about saving the world with coffee, and just serves great espresso and cold brew. There's multiple other Little Marionette locations nowadays, including Balmain and Annandale in the west, and the Sydney CBD.
11 May St, Saint Peters
NSW 2044, Australia

12. Grind Espresso

4/15 Surf Rd, Cronulla, NSW 2230, Australia
"I'd rather be at Grind" — it's both this café's slogan, and something many Sydneysiders might think to themselves, as Grind is a long way from the inner city. Down south, near the beach in Cronulla, Grind started doing Italian coffee a decade back, and have since branched out to to great siphon and cold brew, all in a homey space decorated with kitsch to spare.
4/15 Surf Rd, Cronulla
NSW 2230, Australia

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