The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

Once a na­tion of tea drinkers, Aus­tralians have been wooed and won over by a dark, brood­ing bev­er­age that is said to boost mem­ory, mood and life it­self.

Known around the globe for our cof­fee ob­ses­sion, Aus­tralia’s caf­feine cul­ture has per­co­lated all the way to the na­tion’s tip with our bou­tique cafes boom­ing and baris­tas brew­ing from the world’s finest beans.

“I would say we are dra­mat­i­cally more so­phis­ti­cated than most cities our size around Aus­tralia,” says Cairns barista judge and cof­fee afi­cionado Nicky Jurd.

“A re­ally good ex­am­ple to com­pare us to is our neigh­bour, Townsville. It’s ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult to get a good cup of cof­fee there. I’ve tried hard. It’s just not in the same league. The next good cup of cof­fee when you drive south is Noosa. It’s very slim pick­ings down the east coast of Aus­tralia un­til you get to Bris­bane.”

Nicky says the Cairns cof­fee scene has evolved, ex­panded and ma­tured in the past decade.

“Per capita, we tend to have a re­ally large range of spe­cialty cof­fee shops. Spe­cialty cof­fee tends to be eth­i­cally grown, higher qual­ity and tastes bet­ter. There’s a lot of con­cen­tra­tion on the farm and its prac­tices and pro­cesses. It’s a bit like the bou­tique wine in­dus­try.

“Cof­fee has moved into that space where we’re in­ter­ested in the vin­tage, the aroma and what it tastes like on the palate.”

Cold drip cof­fee, made slowly overnight when cafes are closed, is now com­mon on black­board menus, says Nicky.

“Once upon a time it was rare, but it is very well suited to our cli­mate.”

Also mak­ing a splash is fil­ter or pour-over cof­fee.

“It’s hark­ing back to the days when we had per­co­la­tors, but tends to use the high­est qual­ity beans. It can cost $10 for a good cof­fee. Of­ten the beans are $200-$400kg.”

The trainee baris­tas of a decade ago have opened their own cafes. Some have two. Many have their own roas­t­er­ies, sell to other cafes or turn up in un­likely places, such as Bun­ga­low.

“That’s an­other cool trend,” says Nicky. “Once, we had to go into the city to get a good cup of cof­fee.”

Bars have got in on the act too, of­fer­ing es­presso mar­ti­nis from lo­cally roasted cof­fees.

But Nicky says we have some yawn­ing gaps in the mar­ket. Hot choco­late is now an art form in Mel­bourne and choco­late cafes are big busi­ness.

“We haven’t seen any here yet.” Ho­tels in Cairns also have much to learn, she says.

“Across the board, the cof­fee is woe­ful. To go to a con­fer­ence and have sh---y cof­fee is not a good look. It re­flects on the con­fer­ence or­gan­iser, but it’s prob­a­bly the ho­tel’s fault.”

Risa was think­ing small when he opened Cruze Cof­fee in Oceana Ar­cade seven-and-a-half years ago.

He was done with busy. A fourth gen­er­a­tion ice-cream maker, he wanted his life back.

“I just wanted a part-time job where I made a liv­ing. I wasn’t look­ing to ex­pand or grow.

“When I started, peo­ple used to say: ‘Are you for real? You’ll go broke in a few weeks’.”

Gil kept it sim­ple. He sold beans only. The cof­fee ma­chine came later.

“We had a cou­ple of dozen cof­fees to start with. Now we have over 30 and sell to other cafes.”

Three-and-a-half years ago, he moved to big­ger premises in Grafton St. “It’s twice the size. We dou­bled ev­ery­thing. We’ve got two cof­fee ma­chines and there are six staff.”

A sec­ond store will open later this year. But one thing that hasn’t changed is Gil’s stead­fast re­sis­tance to food.

“I didn’t want to deal with food, kitchens, chefs, heat and grease. The staff con­cen­trates on mak­ing a good cof­fee and giv­ing great ser­vice.

“The more you com­pli­cate things, the harder it is to achieve the main thing, which in our case, is mak­ing a good cup of cof­fee. We roast in­house, so ev­ery­thing is fresh.”

He says the Cairns cof­fee scene has come of age. “Cairns used to be sec­ond to the rest of the coun­try. Now it’s on a par with Syd­ney, Mel­bourne, Bris­bane, but I think ev­ery barista, ev­ery cof­fee owner in this town has a feel­ing we’re ac­tu­ally a lit­tle bit bet­ter.” He says Cairns has em­braced change. “That’s what keeps this in­dus­try fresh and ex­cit­ing. Once upon a time it used to be bor­ing. You only had the one choice and made it the same way. Now, there’s a myr­iad of choices. You can have cold brews and drip fil­ters.”

Gil says the se­cret to his suc­cess is two-fold, his beans and his staff. He sources beans from the Ather­ton Table­land and ma­jor im­porters in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne. But staff are har­vested from his loyal fol­low­ing.

“All of them were cus­tomers first. If a per­son has the right at­ti­tude and smile, I say ‘if you’re ever look­ing for a job, come and see me’. And you know what? They even­tu­ally do.”

Greenardi has made an art of shar­ing the cof­fee ex­pe­ri­ence with her cus­tomers. She and hus­band Ja­son Greenardi opened The Cham­ber Room in Vil­lage Lane nearly two years ago in a bid to lure oth­ers over to the “dark” side. Black cof­fee lovers, they are de­ter­mined to ed­u­cate us about cof­fee in its purest form – cold drip and fil­tered.

Their spe­cialty cof­fees and brew bar have a grow­ing cus­tomer base with many pre­pared to sit and savour the ex­pe­ri­ence as Kristy talks them through the lengthy pour-over process.

“We’ll talk about what cof­fees we’ve got in the brew bar, the pro­cess­ing meth­ods and how I’m go­ing to get the best out of that cof­fee. I don’t just

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