Thursday, March 25, 2010

Best Coffee in Brisbane's CBD

Brisbane City's Best Coffee

I feel cautious about writing this post. I enjoy eating out and taking amateur photos to share but I have no actual training/talent/skills in passing formal judgments on what I eat and drink. I like that my blog is a platform for expressing my thoughts but my thoughts tend not to surpass basic conclusions such as 'this tastes good' or 'I don't like that'. Occasionally, I'll push the limits of my food vocabulary by including such statements as 'complimentary flavors' or 'great texture'.

Basically, I am NOT a food critic nor do I want the responsibility of people actually taking my feedback seriously and using my recommendations just to end up feeling disappointed.

Having cleared all that up, how DARE I compile a list of 'BEST' of anything in Brisbane? Not only that but COFFEE?? People go nuts about coffee. There are barista championships and prize-winning blends.

I, on the other hand, am known to purchase coffee from Krispy Kreme in order to take advantage of their $1.50 small coffee between 7-9am deal. Hardly an authority on coffee.

So, readers, please please please take my opinions with a grain of salt. I am about The Most Average coffee-drinker you can imagine. Good coffee is probably wasted on me, yet here I am writing about it.

It so happens that in the past couple of weeks, I've been in 3 situations where I was faced with a claim of 'best coffee'. We all know that many restaurants brag about awards that don't really mean anything (close to self-fabrication) but these seemed to radiate authenticity.

I tried a coffee from each of the 3 coffee shops: Alen's Espresso, Coffee Hit and Sage Restaurant.

Rather than being a critical comparison of the 3 venues, think of this post as an introduction to coffee shops that you, perhaps, have not tried in the past.
Alen's Espresso

Alen's Espresso was my first venture. I walk past it every time I go to the gym from clinic and take note of the 'Winner, Best Cafe 2008' banner plastered across the front. This is a NATIONAL award and hence, not to be sneezed at.

Seating at Alen's

It's usually closed by the time clinic finishes but when I went around breakfast time, it was packed. By that, I mean PACKED.

Queue at Alen's

The queue was enormous but the service was friendly and super efficient. I ordered a latte and custard Danish. They took my name and I went upstairs to sit and wait. The order was then brought out to me.

Custard Danish

My custard Danish was average. It was served cold and the pastry didn't jump out at me.

Latte from Alen's Espresso

The coffee was intense and full-bodied. I could taste how it was different to other generic blends just from the richness of the flavor. It was, however, a bit bitter for me.

Coffee Hit

Next was Coffee Hit. This is a coffee shop I walk past on my way to clinic. I had tried coffee from there before and enjoyed it very much. On this day, I wasn't planning to get coffee but there was some event focusing on cyclists around Brisbane.

Seating at Coffee Hit

Coffee Hit was supporting the cause by providing cyclists with $1 coffee. The lady at the counter was kind enough to ask me if I was a cyclist despite my obviously anti-cycling appearance (pencil skirt and lack of helmet). I didn't bother lying.

What attracted me to Coffee Hit on this day was a claim that they had 'Australia's 3rd Best Barista' there that morning.

Coffee Hit baristas at work

Now, I can't be sure that this particular individual made MY coffee... but let's just assume.

Latte from Coffee Hit

I ordered a latte (my usual, in case you haven't figured it out) and it was a bit of a wait before it came. There were ALOT of cyclists waiting for coffee. When I got mine, I thought it was delicious. A slight drizzle was starting to come down in the CBD but boy, my coffee sure picked things up. It has a smooth flavor and not as bitter as the latte from Alen's.

Sage Cafe Restaurant

The last place I'm going to write about is Sage Cafe Restaurant.

It's included in the mix because of a sign stating 'Best Coffee in the City'. Apparently, the blend here is the standout because they stock DiBella Ali Reserve, something that won 'Australia's Best Coffee' (the sign didn't specify a year).

I ordered a latte and toasted muesli to eat there and went outside to a cute table. It was a bit like a booth but with zero privacy because I was facing the street.

Toasted muesli with milk and natural yogurt

My muesli was brought out almost instantaneously. The muesli itself is toasted with chunks of dried cranberry, large flakes of coconut and pumpkin seeds. With the addition of milk, it was absolutely delicious.

Addition of milk

I admit I generally like supermarket cereal over gourmet muesli but this stuff has me converted. I saw sheets of it on oven trays in the kitchen so maybe Sage toasts and mixes it on the premises. Whatever, I don't care. It's great.

Because I was so enthralled in my muesli, I was unenthusiastic about the coffee. It did look gorgeous though and wins points for presentation over the other 2 which were served in takeaway cups (photo of this latte is at the top of the post). The latte at Sage is also delicious and again, very full-bodied with a distinct bitterness.

Of the 3 I had, my preference is for Coffee Hit because it wasn't as intense as the others. Sage had the best ambiance for obvious reasons (well, Alen's is cramped and Coffee Hit only has a few outdoor tables to park your bottom). They are all standout coffees though and my understanding is that it is a combination of good blend, good machine and good barista. My criteria for coffee-judgment goes something like 'awful/watery' to 'normal' to 'great' and these fit comfortably in category 3.

I did notice that one thing the above cafes had in common... they were significantly busier than other CBD cafes that I've been to. I guess with coffee, reputation is crucial and if you're good, word-of-mouth will keep you going.

1 comment:

  1. Hi blogger. I'm not sure when this was but if anywhere in the early/mid months of 2010 (likely it was) I would have been the young lady asking if you were a cyclist. I don't work there anymore but the store was operated on Melbourne procedures and most importantly, Melbourne beans. Even if you haven't developed your palate it's easily appreciated as the best coffee in the brisbane CBD. Jean-Paul Sutton (red-shirted man in the frame) is the 3rd best barista in Australia.