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Pacific Coast coffee

edited January 1970 in Cafe reviews
Hi guys - did a bit of a cafe crawl through the 'pacific coast' - northern rivers area, including Byron down to Coffs Harbour.

Ended up having some pretty good coffee - will put some comments up over the next few days...



  • Hi, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm looking forward to hearing about the Pacific Coast coffee crawl!
  • You're right Journeyman, have been a bit slow to get off the mark on this; will do this in several instalments, begining with Byron Bay itself! My trip started at Ballina, but I didn't get time to sample the coffee wares there - it was straight on to Byron, and have to say, this turned out to be a pretty disappointing experience... both from the coffee point-of-view and from a 'tourist' point of view.   Byron is supposed to be laid back and friendly, yet sophisticated, all at once. Unfortunately it was a hodge podge of shops from the sixties, seventies and eighties, with a few historic pubs thrown in and as for the cafes - with a couple of exceptions, they were crap. The worst was 'The Byronian' - don't want to say too much, other than I wouldn't recommend it. Twisted Sista was interesting, more on account of the beautiful cakes than the coffee. The exception was the Byron Beach Cafe, nestled in the trees, perched right on the dunes above the beach. Ben, a former local restaurant owner has converted the place from a relaxed take-away spot with picnic tables, into a relaxed fine-dining cafe! Great food with stunning views, and the coffee was good too - from memory, am pretty sure it was Zentfeld's [local grower and roaster] but will need to check - anyway a great cafe experience! Next - on to historic Bangalow... -A
  • Day 2 of the trip was [after a late start] the historic township of Bangalow. I say township, because it really is very small - pretty much a main street, and that's all. We couldn't stop long as we had a few things planned in our next destination [Yamba] so really it was just a short stop. However, the standout cafe had to be a place called Utopia - great food and good coffee!. It was extremely modern. light and airy, and wouldn't have been out of place in Sydney or Melbourne. Great reading [magazines], great space and great vibe. Menu was excellent and the coffee was well-made. On to Yamba and from a coffee point-of-view, probably would have been best to stay in Bangalow! The cafes at Yamba are very much of the Mum & Dad cake-shop variety. The only place that seemed any good [& I tried three] was the cafe at the bottom of the YHA hostel. They use a new local brand of coffee called Botello [I think!]. It was actually pretty good and freshly roasted - you could also tell they had trained up the staff reasonably well, so may be a brand worth watching out for. Anyway, have to say that apart from Utopia in Bangalow, it was a pretty dry stretch on the coffee front! On to Coffs Harbour/Bellingen next! -A
  • on to Coffs Harbour, except that I have to admit, apart from one exception I tried cafes in the surrounding areas, without being tempted by any cafes in Coffs township itself! Sawtell was recently voted NSW's most popular 'seachange' destination and while 6 km south, it's still considered a suburb of the City of Coffs. It has an amazingly vibrant cafe scene for such a small place - it's actually only a main street with shops, restaurants and cafes lining both sides of the street. Out of around 7 cafes, including Shimmers, New Day Cafe, Cafe Annabel, the scarily named Oolala, and the Sawtell Surf Club Caf
  • Ok Bellingen: historic town, with a little laneway at right angles to main street with about 3 cafes/restaurants, and a number of others on main street also. Didn't get to try them all, but have to say, this is a great place, and great for cafes lovers also. There were two of special note from my point-of-view: a modern one on one side of the main street called Tuckshop; Campos Coffee and a modern city feel. Coffee was great - really impressed and coffees I had there were as good as any Cafe serving Campos in Sydney. The other one was much different in tone/ambience: Vintage, on the other side of the street from Tuckshop and was much more a food/cakes sort of cafe, with an old-fashioned comfortable ambience [nice sofas in the front window] and yet, surprisingly good coffee. It's almost as if the two were chalk and cheese, but both great in their own way. There were several others, including one which served Toby's in the little lane I mentioned, but it was very 'mum & pop' with quality of coffee to match, and yet another big-city brand [Paul Basset] at a cafe at the top of the main street, but I didn't get a chance to go in. However, for my money, both Tuckshop and Vintage were definitely worth checking out, and Belligen's a beautiful spot! -A
  • PS Journeyman - understand you're heading up that way shortly - if you do get the chance to give your comments and hopefully [if you have time] add a bit on some of the cafes I missed, it would be great to have your updates! -A
  • Yes, I have a Gold Coast/Sydney 11 day coffee road trip coming up on 20th Sept. I know the coffee scene pretty well between G.C. and Ballina but haven't driven south of Ballina since I was a coffee punter (stopping only at Maccas) decades ago and so am looking forward to this one. I agree with you on Bangalow....a must stop for all coffee quaffers( this is what the Bribane Courier Mail calls us!). It's a pity you missed Evolution at Ballina-it's a gem and one of my Aussie top 10 cafes. Finally met the main barista there last weekend and he serves my style of coffee....'trythisone'. Had planned a coffee break in Yamba but will juggle this with Sawtell which sounds good. You mention a local coffee, Botelli, and I'm wondering whether this is the one which was served from a booth opposite to the stage entrance at the Australian Barista Champs at Jupiters earlier this year. I thought they compared well with the big players there but can't remember the name so maybe someone can help.                                  Cheers, CJM.
  • Hi CJM - I was at AB Champs and yes, it was Botelli near the stage - that's when i first noticed them. Disappointed I missed Evolution - as you can probably guess from my comments above, I ended up getting really short on time and not getting the time to try all the places I had intended... look forward to your updates on the ones I missed! -A
  • Hi CJM - hope you're trip's going well; if yoiu get the chance, make sure to post up progress reports of cafe stops along the way! -A PS just a footnote to the post about 4 posts up - the Yamba Youth Hostel that I mentioned at Yamba has just been voted Australia's top youth hostel by Australian Traveller Magazine - might be interesting for budget travellers!
  • You know, I've driven that Gold Coast/Sydney route more times than I care to remember but only a few as a leisurely road trip. The first was the mid-60's schoolies/surfing road trip and I can only remember one's still there, half-way along the beachfont at Lennox Head with a new facade now and of course the prices and fare have changed somewhat. In those days a two course evening meal with coffee was two shillings (20 cents) but there was only one table, one booking time and one choice of ate with the owners family! The second road trip was in the 80's with kids in know the one....Big Banana, Fantasy Glades, Leyland Brothers World etc. This time it's the Pacific Coast coffee road trip  (G.C. to Sydney's nortern beaches) and what better place to start than at Yamba's Pacific Hotel. Perched high above the ocean, I'd heard about the view but didn't realise it was this good. This hotel has a basic Wega/Botero combo and a kitchen hand will pop out to make you a coffee ... I also tried the Stone and Wood hand-crafted Byron Bay beer....a fruity lager. You will appreciate that in an 11 day/53 cafe experience that my views are often formed on the basis of a single coffee and that I always try to engage the barista with questions like: "How do you find that 3 group ECM?", or "What machine is that?", otherwise you may not get to meet other forum members and on this trip I had the bonus of meeting two members......both following the Pacific coffee thread and both waiting for me to arrive!...(one waiting for his moment of redemption and we will meet him a little later). Tucked away in a little sidestreet at Yamba is the Beechwood Cafe (Wega/Allpress) and with good patronage and coffee is probably the pick of the cafe's here. Sweet Vintage (main street), LaMarzocco/Botero was also a good coffee and the barista, Mat, gave me the tip that the Botero roasting house was active that day across in Maclean. By the way, Mat is not the first trilby wearing barista on the cherry red LaMarzocco that I've noticed.....maybe it's mandatory? And yes, there are a few mum and dad cafes in Yamba so I dropped into one which was using the Dunno/Segafredo combo. Now I dunno about you but it seems to me that these dunno machines are quite common and are always accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders, perhaps mandatory like the trilby/LaMarzocco combo. I'm guessing that these machines come from Brazil as a coffee machine guy once told me that if the name ends in an 'a' then likely it's Italian or ending in an 'o' then Brazilian. Across in Maclean, it's the local footie grand final Sunday and the town is empty....that is except for the Botero roasting house where Danny and his sidekick (the professor) are busy in the lab, working on their new blend and CJM is only too happy to provide his limited expertise to assist them! They have their priorities right and by the time I left, I think we had nailed it. Watch out for the new 'CJM' blend, out soon! Footnote: Yes, these were the guys with a booth at the Australian Barista Champs.               Next episode, Coffs, Sawtell, Bellingen.
  • I'd have to say that this particular coffee road trip is a piece of cake compared to our long service/European coffee rail odyssey last year. The 7 country/41 day/ 76 cafe experience was sometimes marred with confusion and misunderstanding and it's only recently that I can appreciate the funny side of it! I've dubbed it Arthur and Martha's European Tour but that's not to say we still don't have our Arthur and Martha moments on this trip e.g. at the Opal Cove Resort in Coffs, we decided to have a game of snooker, placing our coins on the 'plunger device', but the coins wouldn't go in. Not even a bus ticket would fit through that gap! Solution: find a Gen-Y, who showed us that the coins fit into a vertical grille and now the coins go in and the balls drop through. Next find the cues which used to be in racks around the walls but none can be seen! Solution: find another Gen-Y who shows us that the cues fold out from underneath the table. Thank goodness for Gen-Y's! Now I've always found Coffs a difficult place to get around spread out and with it's perpetual 'peak hour' traffic it wasn't easy to find places researched in BestCafes. Amongst others, my better half chose Jamaica Blue to try their tea but found she couldn't get even one whole cup from the teapot and my coffee, although well presented was a trifle disappointing. Next stop was Sawtell and what a great streetscape in the little shopping centre....giant shady fig trees down the median strip gave it a tropical feel. As admin has said, two coffee venues, almost adjacent on the eastern side, Zest and Split are the focal points of the village and compete for the discerning coffee this is more like it! Inside Zest (LaMarzocco/Botero), forum member Zesty Barista has been expecting me......he's after redemption and makes my coffee as if his life depends on it's success! I give him the thumbs up and now he can head off to the U.K. to ply his expertise with my contact details on his C.V.  Split (LaMarzocco/Allpress) also gets my seal of approval....nice coffee and a nice feel about the place. Bellingen is a short trip from Sawtell and it has more cafes than any town I've seen of similar size. Hence, for a cafe to survive, the coffee must be good. Inside Tuckshop (LaMarzocco/Campos), I ask the barista whether Bellingen is a timber town, a dairy town or both but a customer joins the debate suggesting that it's a 'hippie town' but thankfully they eventually settle on a 'coffee town'. At Sis De Lane cafe (Toby's Estate-Timor Leste), I meet a fairly blokey guy who gives his name as Alison....but then explains that the owner is Alison, his daughter. He gives me a rundown of 'the beast', an ECM 3 group. Other cafes with good coffee are Hearthfire Sourdough Bakery (ECM double/ single origin), Infusions (LaMarzocco/Paul Bassett) and Vintage Espresso (LaMarzocco/Caffe d'Gabriel). But five coffees was enough for me and I will have to try the others another time. Bellingen is a must visit for all coffee nomads! Next: Nambucca Heads/ Port Macquarie.
  • Now you've heard of the caption 'the town that time forgot', but I'd call Nambucca Heads 'the town that coffee forgot'. In the 60's, the highway passed through the township and sometime later a bypass was constructed and in the meantime, while the the town has grown considerably, coffee's third wave took the bypass! Thus, in the mainstreet, in mum and dad cafes, the citizens of Nambucca sip their coffee...enjoying a coffee experience from a bygone era. So I say to all Nambuccans, rise up, the ultimate coffee experience awaits you! ( In all fairness, I did try coffee in only one of the six cafes I visited and I hope that this thread gets a little debate going....maybe I'll return sometime. I also heard that Peak coffee is around but a little way out of the township) In Port Macquarie, I decided to investigate something different....what I call that 6.30am cafe buzz or vibe that you get in big cities. Yes there is a buzz here but it's more like a 7.30am one in Port. Where else would you start than Buzz Cafe (ECM/ own blend sourced from Byron Bay)? This cafe had a steady stream of early-morners and the coffee was good. Just across the way are two adjacent cafes, Milking Wolf and Cows..(if there was a pun intended in this pair of names then I didn't get it!) Milking Wolf (DiBella's Felici) and Cows (Wega/Aroma) are so close that the patrons could armwrestle to settle any arguments on which has the best coffee. Milking Wolf was well patronised on both of my visits. The Corner(LaMarzocco/Campos) seemed to attract most early-morners but by the time I arrived, the flat-out staff had lost their buzz and as we all know, lively baristas are integral to that early morning vibe. The coffee, as in all Campos cafes I've been to is of a high standard. One other mention is for the Peloton espresso bar....yes, attached to a cycle shop....Peak coffee, locally roasted and those lycra clad guys usually know a good coffee! All cafes are central and Port is easy to get around in. Next: Port Stephens, Central Coast and coffee at the Hunter Vineyards.
  • Back in the 80's, I lived in Nelson Bay  (Port Stephens), for a time and love the place but I have to admit that it's a coffee backwater. On this trip we visited Fingal Bay, Shoal Bay, Nelson Bay and Salamander, walking the main streets, searching down side streets but could only recommend one cafe for it's coffee. Even old friends we looked up were apololgetic....little to no coffee culture here. Of course we didn't tell them that this was a coffee road trip, rather a nostalgic road trip lest they thought that we were odd. But it would be odd for us to now live in a place where we couldn't get out and about at the weekends on a crawl of our local coffee hot-spots. At Essence (ECM 2 group/Peak), the owner/barista is on first name terms with all of her regulars and on each of my visits, she tinkers with my coffee, asking questions to find out what I like. Now this is the essence(excuse the pun) of a rewarding coffee experience! I should also mention the cafe at the Nelson Bay inner-light which has an awesome view over Shoal Bay and out through the Heads to Broughton Island. At this point point I'd have to apologise to Novocastrians as I know they (and the Hunter) have some good coffee venues but I'm headed for Kooindah Waters Golf Resort on the Central Coast and manage to pop into Wyong to check out the scene. The first cafe there has a Coffee Tech/Harris combo, but I suspect it's a Brugnetti and since the Coast is so spread-out, it's time for some divine help! Thus I contact the guy at Eternity Espresso (now closed). Cafe Pennoz (ECM 3 group/Crave), he tells me is the current hot-spot and I find it just east of the Westfield Centre in a business park....a thriving cafe and a good coffee. Across then to the Hunter Valley Vineyards and, in between a little wine tasting, I find Bliss Coffee Roasters at the Hunter Valley Gardens. Twin Wega's, just like the Merlo Torrefazione and a choice of roasts. I try the Wild Bliss, a rich, full-bodied coffee but just as I'm settling in, my better half is impatient for the next stop...Peterson's House of Champagne (she still hasn't got her priorities right!). However at the trendy Roche's Vineyard, I manage to slip away for a Merlo....without the 't' of course! Next: Final episode, Sydney's Northern Beaches.
  • On Sydney's northern beaches, we checked from Harbord all the way out to Palm Beach and decided that Dee Why/Dee Why Beach was the place for coffee. Now Dee Why township is showing it's age and some might consider it a trifle grubby, but within a stones-throw around Oaks Avenue are Danes Coffee House (Etnica/Danes), RocPod (Ruggero 3 group/own blend) and Hit (LaMarzocco/Mecca). I enjoyed multiple coffees at these venues and should mention that Hit is situated in an accessway next to Woolworths which leads to a fruitmarket and hence local coffee punters stopping there for a shopping break have hit the 'coffee jackpot'. A minute away is Dee Why Beach with it's wall-to-wall cafes where I was able to try coffee at Bacino Bar and Wildwater (LaMarzocco/Campos). At Wildwater, I discussed coffee machinery and Campos coffee with the barista who asked where I was sitting. It's always a highlight when a barista asks that question....maybe they slip into a higher gear for their more discerning customers? Well that's it, the Pacific Coast coffee road trip. Just an excuse for a leisurely holiday? Yes, but without coffee as a focus, we'd never have visited all those places we have bypassed over the decades nor met a whole bunch of fellow coffee lovers. And now my favourites for the trip, Coffee: can't spit between Hit, Danes, and the Botero roasting house. Ambience: not quite like the layout of Utopia or Evolution but a highly commended to Bliss. Barista: Jenny at Hit (Paul Geshos trained)...still cheerful and engaging at the end of a long shift plus similar at Essence. I should mention that Evolution barista and Crema Forum member 'Extraction Point' can rest easy....he is still the top-gun on that Pacific Coast route but it was his day off when we passed through!
  • hi mate - thanks for that, but i'd be interested to know your favourites for each place; in particular, did you have any special recommendation for Bellingen? dR
  • Hard to decide but I'd go with Campos in Bellingen. That said, I did try it first of the five cafes covered and that could have influenced me. The town is certainly worth a visit so now I'm wondering what Dorrigo has in was the next town west of Bellingen.
  • Hi guys - just to let you know, we welcome this sort of thing [ie where someone does a coffee trip and wants to record their experiences]. If you're doing a driving trip like this, and want to do something similar to coffeejourneyman, please feel free - it makes great reading! A
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