Your guide to the Newcastle coffee scene & what's so good about it
In just four years we’ve profiled over 100 new and established cafes in Newcastle and each week we seem to find another one.
Has the Newcastle coffee scene hit its peak? And how good is it? To help us get our head around things and find out just how good it really is we chatted to a bunch of local coffee experts.
With baths, beaches, bars and restaurants the Newcastle CBD has loads to offer. Whilst things maybe a little hectic at the moment, with pockets of coffee gold everywhere there’s still good reason to drop in a grab a coffee. Sitting opposite Newcastle Beach, for 13 years, Bec from Estabar is one of the originals in town, pouring quality coffee consistently. Bec’s thoughts on the coffee scene are...
Bec from Estabar:
“Someone actually called me the old lady of coffee the other day [laughs], we started back in 2004 so I guess that’s fair enough. So how it started for me was, I worked at cafes that were doing really great coffee, at the time that was cafes like Three Monkeys, Goldbergs and George’s on Beaumont St [which is no longer there].
“George’s had some kick arse baristas back then, they were one of the first to take coffee seriously. There was real attention to the flavours, manipulating the grind and the press to get the extraction right. Ant at Three Monkeys is a guru and Goldbergs, whilst it has changed hands a few times, they’ve always stayed true to what they were.
"I think the biggest change in Newcastle has been in the offering of specialty coffee and baristas really knowing where the coffee is coming from, being interested in the farmers and what the coffee is of a particular place. Specialty coffee is also about being the solution to a sustainable industry that is fair for farmers around the world. Which is what we are starting to see in Newcastle.”
Right near Estabar is Moor Newcastle East and East End Hub which don't disappoint in the coffee offering. Or you could start at another one of the originals, Good Brother which is always a favourite with locals. As too Xtraction Espresso, just around the corner. For Single O coffee, head to Bolton St Pantry, or The Press Book House, serving up Gridlock coffee, well they’re just awesome. For some traditional Italian flavours try The Umbrian.
Destination: Newcastle West
The western edge of the Newcastle CBD also holds its own in the coffee stakes with Bank Corner Café now a local institution. For a quality on-the-run option head to the coffee window at 876 Hunter St or the cosy little nook that is the Sherwood Coffee Bar in Parry St.
Destination: Cooks Hill (Darby Street) & Bar Beach
Renowned as a coffee hotspot Darby St has been the go-to for locals either for their pre-work caffeine hit or after-work pick me-up. For those with time on their hands take a seat and soak up that Darby St vibe. There's a long list to choose between with Core Espresso, The Autumn Rooms, Baba Yaga, HuBro, Three Monkeys and Darby St long-timer Goldbergs, all sure to pour you a great cup.
Destination: Merewether / The Junction / Adamstown
If you're local to any one of these suburbs then life's pretty sweet, throw in a collective of quality cafes and life doesn't get much better. Whether it’s Frothers Espresso, Convoy Commune or Drift in Merewether, Goodfriends and Talulah Bar at The Junction or a hidden little Adamstown gem by the name of Bootleg Café, these coffee houses are big on having a chat and being social over a cup of something special.
Nathaniel from Frothers Espresso:
"I’ve always been fascinated with coffee and when I moved to Newcastle six years ago to study I worked at a few different cafes but when I started at Glee, that was my intro to the world of specialty coffee, coffee that doesn’t taste like coffee.
"Looking back the industry as a whole has changed a lot, it was difficult to get quality fresh green coffee five years ago. The demand for quality coffee has also changed, people in Newcastle won’t settle for bad coffee and the machinery in the industry has also come a long way.
"I think the other change in Newcastle’s is the positive connotations of having a regular café routine, rather than sitting at home, in your pyjamas, in your cold dark kitchen, with your plunger.
"At Frothers Espresso we’ve built a really nice community where people can come and have a chat on their own, it’s kind of taken over from the pub culture. Welsh Blacks is the best example, two blocks from Darby St, but nothing like Darby St, it has that servicing the community kind-of-feel and they’re doing such a good job of their product and service that people will cross Darby St to go there."
With more than 10 cafes within the 750m strip, Beaumont Street's always evolving coffee scene has long been on the radar of the coffee set or those who just need a coffee hit. With a restaurant and bar scene that’s on the revive there’s now plenty of reasons to visit Beaumont St. If coffee is your focus check Lords Coffee & Associates , a must visit for its beans and its vibe, as is The Village.
This tiny pocket of eclectic goodness has become a much-loved Newcastle neighbourhood. Perfect for weekend wanderings, mix your retro and recycled browsing with your morning or lunchtime brew. Suspension Espresso, or Spennos to locals, offers a grungy coffee scene. For a fully immersive coffee experience, Peaberrys onsite roaster and extensive coffee menu is heaven for coffee geeks. If you're in for some nostalgia, head to Wondermates Cafe on Maitland Road.
Mayf, to those who know her best, may not be a suburb you visit often but if coffee is on your list of must-haves it’s well worth dropping in. You’ll find Side Pocket Espresso and Onyx Cafe scattered along Maitland Rd, depending on how you take your flavour and your coffee vibe there’s a coffee house for you.
Renowned for big retail shopping, a much-welcomed boutique coffee experience is beginning to pop up. Located in Westfield and leading the pack is Garth and Bec's Mr Sister, and the Letter Q is a secret little gem.
Garth & Bec from Mr Sister:
“The coffee scene has exploded in Newcastle,” Garth.
“It’s matured a lot, when we opened One Penny there was a handful of people doing specialty coffee and there were pockets of Newcastle which had nothing, no options. Whereas now, you can go virtually anywhere and have a good coffee. The offering has changed, we’ve gone from a town where you could only really get really dark roasted, double ristretto style coffee which we did [at the time]. Whereas now you can go to numerous places and get lighter roasted coffee. It’s more boutique. with a wider offering for different tastes,” Bec
“It’s pretty much the same thing that happens in all cities, more or less. We were doing specialty coffee in the beginning in Newcastle, the One Penny thing was perfect and now the market has grown. Seven years later all of our friends are now doing their own roasting, it’s a natural progression to buy a roaster. Even if you love something you have to evolve, they’re sourcing green beans from origin or they’re roasting.
“See most farmers don’t know what their coffee tastes like, so if all of a sudden you have these specialty roasters partnering with them and travelling to origin and investing in better machinery and better farming practices. Then that automatically makes the coffee better and you have to roast it better,” Garth
“I don’t think you could ever say that you’ve peaked, because the industry evolves and changes, there’s always room to grow. The experience is what people are buying, not just the coffee, so there is no peak,” Bec.
“I think the coffee here in Newcastle is just as good as Sydney or Melbourne. If I have a day off, there are options for a coffee like our close friends: Welsh Blacks, Esther C, Locomotive and Café Moor,” Garth
Destination: New Lambton
Loved by the locals New Lambton punches well above its weight when it comes to serving up quality coffee. With a collection of cafes including; Little Lane, Corner Lane Espresso, Black Circle Cafe and Too Hands to name just a few, each doing their individual thing.