Opens their flagship coffee bar in Newcastle’s CBD
The fresh addition to the local coffee scene is merging coffee, personality, and technology together in the freshly fitted-out space in Newcastle’s CBD.
Smiling Monk Coffee has been serving up the Newcastle CBD community since its official opening in October 2022. We dropped into the slick concrete fit-out to catch up with owner, Zeb McGinniskin to hear all about their coffee technology and unique selection of blends.
Originally from the Central West, Zeb and his family have called the Hunter home since 2014 and have been amongst our growing coffee scene ever since. Launching the Singleton café favourite, Munkeeskins, before selling and moving into developing the Smiling Monk Coffee brand in September 2020.
“We’re certainly targeting quality over quantity. We’re using specialty coffee, all our coffee is specialty grade beans, all traceable back to the farms, and we work with importers that have a focus on quality but also ethically sourcing their coffee as well,” Zeb shared.
The past two years have seen the brand work towards developing its wholesale offering and finessing their roasts before officially launching the café in the heart of Newcastle. Sitting on Merewether Street just behind Newcastle Museum and diagonally across the road from The Clarendon on Hunter Street, Smiling Monk Coffee has quietly been serving the Newcastle community.
Packing so much more than just your average café space, Smiling Monk Coffee has created a space that encourages people to not only enjoy a cup of coffee, but ask questions, taste different blends, and learn about the technology they use.
“It’s a bit of an outlet not only for people to come in and enjoy themselves and enjoy a coffee, but also to see how we do things, the equipment we use, the style of coffee we produce, and our interactions with customers. All of that gives people the idea of who we are.”
Situated in a fairly new build, the space has been sitting empty for the past few years, so the team had a completely blank canvas to work with. Paring the design back, the interior boasts those typical exposed concrete ceilings and industrial vibes but features pops of colour throughout that tie the brand’s personality in.
The particularly large amount of colour that really brings the space to life, is the mighty original mural created by Sydney-based mural artist, Mulga.
“We love colour. It’s a bit of a representation of our life and vibrancy. We try to reflect that in our coffees as well, so we wanted something nice and bright to stare at each day.”
Behind the counter is where things get really interesting; a spot where coffee and tech meet. Something unique to Smiling Monk Coffee, and something that is surely going to change how cafes operate well into the future.
“We have all our non-dairy milk and light milk plumbed into the coffee bar, and then we have our full cream milk plumbed into another system that heats our milk perfectly as well.”
In terms of the brand's coffee blends, they’ve currently perfected three separate and unique milk-based blends; one decaf and two others that are designed for milk-based coffees, both of which have won national medals. In addition, the Smiling Monk Coffee Single Origins for espresso and filter coffee, are roasted to a lighter level to showcase the coffee origins and natural flavours; perfect for true coffee connoisseurs.
The fresh new space also hopes to offer wholesale training in their dedicated studio out the back as well as specialty coffee cupping events in the future.
“We’d love to do private cuppings and tastings with customers that may not have experienced that before, and we might even look at doing barista training at a simplified level later on.”
But, what about the name? Surely a name as quirky as Smiling Monk Coffee garners a good story? The name, Smiling Monk Coffee, is a bit of an extension of old folklore of where coffee originated from. Whilst there might not be any truth to the story, it does circle within the coffee community.
“An Ethiopian goat herder, by the name of Kaldi, is herding his goats and notices they have a spike of energy and they’re acting a bit weird, and crazy, and they’ve just eaten these berries. He then tries the berries and basically parties on into the night with his goats.
“He then takes the berries the next day to the local monk monastery and they realise if they steep them in water, and drink them, they can stay awake for longer hours through the night for prayer. Whilst it’s false, it’s still a great story!”
Not just known for their coffee, Smiling Monk Coffee also offer a selection of foodie options all designed for grab n’ go including vegetarian and meat-based sourdough toasties, and pastries from Port Stephens based pâtissier, Stacey of A Sweet Ride Called Clyde.
Get into Smiling Monk Coffee on Merewether St in Newcastle’s CBD to experience a unique quality-focused, character-filled, and tasty treat.