Espresso drinkers may scorn my preference for lattes, but I'm too old and caffeine-addicted to care. This is a latte lovers take on a broad range of cafes in Hobart, Tasmania, and an ode to the city's coffee culture.
Born in Brunswick sits amid the (normally) bustling North Hobart restaurant area. It’s a distinctive building with a wall of windows and an eye-catching mural of an exotic bird painted around the doorway. Inside, the design ethos – apart from uber trendy – seems to be a blend of industrial and Scandi; soft timber, muted colours, polished concreted floors, and loads of plants. The sun, when it makes an appearance, pours in through the windows, warming the coffee drinkers seated at the marble counter that runs around the edge of the space. Diners sit on high bar stools at tables in the centre or on cushioned bench seats along one wall.
The current bean blend is roasted by Industry Beans, headquartered in Melbourne –perhaps a nod to the Born in Brunswick name? – while the single origin and filter offerings change frequently. The lattes here are served in a moderately sized green ceramic cup, with a perfect heart swirled into the crema. There's the ideal amount of foam and the coffee underneath is smooth, with a decent kick and robust flavour.
Brooke Street Larder is nicely positioned at the end of the Brooke Street Pier on the Salamanca waterfront. The uninterrupted views of Sullivan’s Cove are hard to beat – I watched the MONA Roma ferry, decked in camouflage, setting off for the renowned Museum of Old and New Art as I waited for friends to arrive. There’s also an undercover outdoor terrace that makes the most of the locale. Brooke Street describes its décor as “Downton Abbey Downstairs”: think updated country kitchen in white and duck-egg blue. There are communal tables and tables for two, four or six.
Brooke Street uses blends by superb Hobartian roasters Zimmah Coffee (scroll down to learn more about Zimmah), serving lattes in startlingly red, ceramic cups. The coffee glides down easily and has no bitter aftertaste. I’m a fan of a strong latte and this was perhaps a tad light for my tastes, but it would keep most palates happy and the location is significant drawcard. It's also family-friendly.
It’s easy to be confused by Salamanca Cream. Run by brothers, the brand started with coffee and doughnuts at Salamanca Market. The (admittedly poor) website mentions ice-cream, coffee and honey, and the Facebook page has pictures of freshly-baked, delicious-looking bread and a logo that indicates they are a specialty coffee roaster . What I can confirm is that they do some interesting things with coffee. Based in one of the historical buildings on Castray Esplanade, which runs along the Salamanca waterfront, the coffee bar features 15-metre long exposed timber beams, which hold the sandstone building up. The décor is beautifully rustic chic – crates covered in burlap sacks with cushions in natural hues, flagstone floors and a gorgeous timber bar.
Salamanca Cream presents me with a dilemma: do I have my standard latte or the house special, a honeyccino? The jars of 100% Pure Raw Honey stacked above the state-of-the-art coffee machine influence my decision. The caramel-hued honeyccino is delivered in a glass with a measure of foam, sprinkled with chocolate. The honey is far from overwhelming, adding a hint of sweetness and a final burst with the last drop.
Established in 2012, Ecru Coffee might be one of Hobart's smallest cafes – it's a simple, hole-in-the-wall affair that's immensely popular on Sundays with the overspill from the nearby Farmers' Market. It's just down the road from its big brother, Villino Coffee Roasters (see further down) and serves much the same offerings, including the coffee beans roasted on the premises.
Ecru caters more for the on-the-go trade, with efficient service and limited queues. There are a few child-size curbside stools available for those who prefer to linger and can lower themselves that far The coffee is smooth and middle-of-the-road: robust enough without too big a kick, to keep mainstream coffee-lovers happy. It's a good, solid option mid-week, and one of the few cafes open in the market's proximity on a Sunday.
Fika is a Swedish word that roughly translates to a coffee and cake break. I'm a fan of the concept already. What is missed in the translation is the social aspect, which is equally important. Fika by the beach embodies the concept. Fika is across the road from Kingston Beach, a good 15-minute drive from the Hobart city centre, but that's largely what makes it special.
The artisan coffee house specialises in locally roasted coffee, handcrafted patisserie and baked goods, and the concept of fika. There's a Scandi feel to the cafe that spills out onto wooden cable reels repurposed as tables and whiewashed wooden stools oustide the doors. The latte here is mild and creamy, pleasant and undemanding, and made more delectable by the light dusting of sand underfoot and the salty ocean tang in the air.
Island Espressois a firm favourite in the centre of the city. It's hung around long enough to be an institution, partly because of its cosy nooks and crannies, and partly because of it's solid coffee and cafe food offering. This is the closest you get to having coffee at home in terms of ambience, albeit a tad more bustling than the average lounge room.
Island Espresso is another cafe using beans by local roaster Zimmah, which almost guarantees a decent brew. The lattes therefore have a good dose of flavour to them, although given its popularity, there can be a little bit of a wait for their arrival. It's worth it though, especially when the cup lands with a friendly smile. The coffee is robust without being overly bitter and you can buy a bag of beans on your way back past the till.
Jackman & McRoss is another long-term survivor on the cafe scene – although it bills itself as a bakery and the display cabinet full of delectable pastries, tarts, and baguettes amply backs up that claim. The bakery started in Battery Point and now has three sites: the original; one in the suburbs in Newtown; and another in the city in Victoria Street.
Whichever outpost you visit, you won't be disappointed. The easily recognisable black exterior gives way to interiors that have a similar vibe that I'd describe as French bistro. Although my most recent visit was to Victoria Street, Battery Point has a jot more appeal, due to the large bay window that makes it lighter. The coffee is sound across all three, but the highlight is the food, so do snack or dine here. The breakfasts are superb.
Lost Freight wins the award for the best-named cafe, with the hole-in-the-wall baesd in a shipping container at the Springs, part-way up Mount Wellington. Besides coffee and snacks, they are Mount Wellington's information centre, so they can dish out details if you need information about any of the walking trails around the mountain.
The latte here is a bit weak for my tastes, possibly due to the generous cup size, but it does provide much-needed sustenance after a mountain hike and the pleasant surrounds make it a worthwhile stop regardless. Don't expect too many frills – everything here has to be hauled up the mountain, so there is not a vast menu. There is, however, a solid selection of flaky pastry pies and sweet treats and a local-sourcing ethic.
Oddfellows is right next door to Jackman & McRoss's city bakery, so they have some stiff competition. Their alcohol license probably helps with that. It's actually a bar and eatery, rather than a cafe as such, but it does serve up a decent brew.
Oddfellows shares a cavernous building with Alceme, a studio offering yoga, meditation, song, fitness and movement classes. Don't let that put you off – the only element that carries over is perhaps the decor, with flowing drapes across the back half of the room and lattice arches against the rear wall. The lattes are smooth, satisfying, but with less impact than some. The fluffy pesto scrambled eggs, though, are worth the detour.
Parklane Espresso is in a bit of an odd nook, at the end of a corridor off Salmanca Square that leads to the car park. That hasn't impacted its popularity. This undersized cafe has a row of window stools and a smattering of tiny tables made from tree trunks wedged against the window of Rendezvous Lounge Cafe (one I didn't have time to visit).
What it lacks in space, it makes up for with a deliciously intense cup of coffee using Zimmah coffee beans. This is a latte made for me – it's strong and robust, but smooth enough that it forgoes any bitter aftertaste. I'm not the only fan – a steady stream of customers seems to flow in and out of this unpretentious gem. If you're over coffee – though I don't understand how that could be possible – you can buy their homemade chai syrup to try at home.
Just like its name, which is an ode to a memorable quote by Hyacinth Bucket from British sit-comKeeping Up Appearances, this cafe on the city-end of North Hobart's restaurant strip has a rather unique charm. The exterior nods to its former life as a petrol station, but inside, it's mega trendy, with mainly white-brick walls, a living plant room divider, industrial lighting and more greenery growing in buckets on chains.
Not only is the Pony oh-so hip, it also has an all-day breakfast menu, a rarity in these parts. My pick is the feta and avocado smash on sourdough from local bakery Pigeon Whole Bakers. The latte here could have been the teensiest bit hotter – purists will tell you that milk proteins change over 70°, affecting flavour, but I'm a firm believer that an extra 5° is neither here nor there and allows you to savour your coffee over a longer time period.
There's something about Sash Coffee in Sandy Bay that makes me think of graffiti, with a dash of the 1980s thrown in for good measure. I suspect it's the stencilled sign and the lurid pink spraypaint-style background on the counter sign. The friendliness of the staff, though, more than makes up for the colour scheme.
There's not a lot of sitting space inside. Takeaway is clearly the mainstay of this compact cafe and it does a roaring trade, attributable to its coffee selection. Sash sources premium Arabica beans from a range of roasters across Sydney and Melbourne; the main blend is Ghost Rider from Melbourne outfit Proud Mary Roasters. The baristas treat the beans with the respect they deserve, too, serving up a damn fine latte.
It's with a certain amount of trepidation that I approach a cafe that is focused on clean eating and proud of its vegetarian and gluten-free menu. After all, I live by the motto that bacon makes everything better. With that said, Straight Up Coffee and Food on Liverpool Street manages to straddle wholesome ethics with any judgement – and the bakery items look mouthwateringly good.
Botanical line sketches adorn the white walls and mismatched chairs featuring brightly hued vinyl sit at scarred wooden tables. The shelves on the counter catch my eye as well, with their jars of unidentifiable edibles. It's a comfortable cafe that feels more like hanging at a friend's place. Admirably, everything is made in-house, from the gluten-free bread to the shop-roasted coffee, which is
smooth and satisfying.
On Criterion Street in the city, just down from its offspring, Ecru, Villino is a well-established mainstay of the Hobart coffee community. The cafe is cosy with a hint of minimalism – think simple wood counter and tables, white walls, and a smidgeon of greenery, along with pavement tables, perfect for people-watching.
A mere two years after opening, Villino took up roasting, and it's now one of the longest-running and largest coffee roasters and wholesalers in Tasmania. To be fair, there aren't that many, but their longevity does speak to the quality of their coffee. The latte is middle of the road; it's pleasant, smooth, reasonably strong, yet undemanding and bitter-free. Villino wins the award for artistry, although the swan is on a hot chocolate.
I'll be the first to admit that I rarely venture into Hobart's northern suburbs, but Whisk and Co in Lenah Valley has the power to lure me back. This corner cafe does a roaring trade and it's beautifully branded, the signature black background translating to a black-tiled counter and funky menu design. Apparently the food here is well worthwhile, too, dedicated to local produce, with the menu hand-written on a scroll of butcher's paper on the wall.
On the coffee front, Whisk is supplied by Zimmah Coffee, which makes me happy. Throw in a decent barista and a sweet treat on the saucer and I'm sold. That little morsel is enough of a boost to my willpower to prevent me from purchasing any of the wickedly enticing pastries by the counter, but that may not always hold true – many punters are munching on pastries. Save some calories for this place.
This list of cafes is in alphabetical order, which conveniently means I've saved the best for last. This shouldn't come as a suprise, given that Zimmah supplies half the cafes above. What is a suprise is the location of their cafe and roastery. It's quite well hidden, a ten-minute walk out of town, down an lane on Murray Street, marked by a tile supplier and a physiotherapist. There's no sign, which all plays into the feeling that you've found somewhere special.
The cafe defines cool: tables made from what looks like reclaimed wood and cable reels, columns made of stacked books; bare bricks and the wafting aroma of coffee from the roasting machines next door. There are plans afoot to have tables overlooking the roasters as well. Zimmah represents what coffee can be when it's made by people passionate about the bean. They may not have approved of my extra-hot latte, but I most definitely approved of theirs.