As an American abroad, small talk in a foreign country typically consists of blathering about weather and sports. Sometimes, when the suds are fresh, there’s even some jiving about geopolitik and the fairer sex. But when java’s on the menu the otherwise merry residents of Sydney shed the pleasantries and get down to business. Coffee is business for Sydneysiders. And business is good.
Unlike the passion of a San Francisco barista or the morning ritual of a New York commuter, good coffee in Sydney is more like piety. You can date the punch-drunk fervor back to when coffee was first planted in 1889 in the hinterlands of Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, but really it’s the fault of the Italians (of course). The city’s rich Italian community has built a foundation of espresso appreciation and with it an assembly of espresso-based essential drinks: the short black, the latte and the beloved flat white. Or, in the heat of summer, an iced coffee — which, to Australians, is coffee with ice cream and whipped cream. Yes, please. Here’s a hard-earned tip: if you want an iced coffee ‘Murica style in the land Down Under, ask for a long black over ice. If they didn’t spot your accent, they’ll spot your Dunkin’ Donut-sipping Yankee ass pronto.
Today, Sydney’s burgeoning pan-Pacifica culture continues to rise, but the city shows no sign of relenting its buzzy coffee culture. With top-notch shops — many of which seem like a case study of “world’s best coffee shop” — materializing each week, here are five shops we’d consider making the 22-hour flight back for. The common thread? Exceptionally tasty coffee.
The Grounds of Alexandria
If you go to The Grounds you will use Instagram. The coffee shop is home to a market, a florist, an Italian providore, a research facility for roasting and blending and a petting zoo. It all works.