Review: Sydney cafe walking tour and coffee appreciation class reveal the secrets to a great brew

Sydney-siders have been drinking coffee since the first fleet sailed through the Heads (having picked up beans en route in Rio). This private Sydney cafe walking tour and coffee appreciation class shares the history of caffeine-consumption in the city, and the whereabouts of some of the CBD's most innovative cafes. Review: Barry Johnson

Sydney cafe walking tour

Sydney cafe walking tour and coffee appreciation class

4.5 stars

Sydney cafe walking tour and coffee appreciation class with Go Local Tours

This private Sydney cafe walking tour includes a coffee appreciation class with Forsyth Coffee and a guided stroll to some of the inner city’s most innovative cafes. This is an ideal introduction to Sydney for coffee lovers. Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

During an unseasonably warm autumn, clear blue skies and bright sunshine continue to tempt beachgoers.

Before the sun sets on Sydney today, I’ll possess the secrets of a magic elixir to ward off the impending winter’s blues. With notebook in hand and tastebuds primed, school is in session on Go Local Tours’ private Sydney cafe walking tour and coffee class.

The experience begins with a coffee appreciation class with Rob Forsyth – owner of Forsyth Coffee. Rob’s been blending award-winning beans for over 35 years. The international tasting judge meets us in Artarmon and we make the short hop to his cafe surrounded by flowering coffee trees. Local school kids are here harvesting the berries for a project.

Sydney cafe walking tour and coffee appreciation class

Sydney cafe walking tour. Image: Bigstock

Over the next hour or so, we sample coffee beans grown in Africa, India and South America, and peruse colour-coded tasting charts akin to a chemist’s periodic table. We carefully measure an exact six grams of fresh grounds from four blends of Speciality Grade beans into tasting cups. After the kettle beeps, exactly 150 mls of water is poured into each cup (accuracy is a trait of the experienced brewer). Dipping my tasting spoon beneath the surface of the first cup, I smell the aroma and receive hints of citrus and nutmeg. Vapours atomise over my palate as I take a sip. The brew delivers an exquisite blend of lime, hazelnut and an aftertaste of cinnamon. Why chew food when the clever coffee bean can deliver this?

After comparing notes on other blends, we try a Peruvian option. Poured first via siphon, then via plunger; I’m stunned by the difference – even to my pedestrian palate. Another simple variation in technique delivers an infinite variety of flavours.

It’s time for a stroll to visit some of the inner city’s top cafes. We meet our guide Richard at the 1920s Neo-Gothic Grace Hotel. Richard is an award-winning barista and professional coffee taster. As we walk, he fuses coffee and culture, and reveals the city’s hidden laneways and snippets of forgotten history.

Passing Mecca Espresso (on Richard’s shortlist of must-try cafes), we arrive at Skittle Lane Coffee on King Street. Richard eases us into the proceedings with a round of lattes made from an Ethiopian Abaya blend, which offers the flavours of sweet blueberries and cherries, coupled with lime and tea rose. The regulars serenely sip their brews, emitting an almost meditative glow.

Sydney cafe walking tour and coffee appreciation class

Sydney cafe walking tour. Image courtesy of Skittle Lane Coffee

Next, Richard leads us to Single Origin Roasters for a long black brewed from Yirgacheffe Beloya beans (also from Ethiopia), savoured on a marble counter lined with firm leather bar stools. Without the sweet distraction of milk, we detect dark chocolate and cinnamon tones, tempered with citrus and strawberries. The flavour of red wine remains on my palate between sips.

Sydney cafe walking tour

Sydney cafe walking tour. Image courtesy of Single Origin Roasters

As we walk to our final stop, Richard tells us more about the life of a coffee taster. He explains the monastic diet of a taster – no smoking or spicy food, and limited sugar, meat and alcohol. As a competition nears, a vegan or vegetarian diet is recommended.

With caffeine levels ebbing, we reach Pablo & Rusty’s – a warm Swedish-style cafe with lush green ferns that contrast with the imposing glass, steel and stone of the ANZ tower above. Greeted as a regular, Richard orders the draught while the affogato (named for the fresh ice cream drowning in the glass) tempts the rest of us. Our ‘dessert’ arrives in tall chilled glasses, and blends mint, chocolate, blackberry and macadamia flavours.

Sydney cafe walking tour

Sydney cafe walking tour. Image: Barry Johnson

When this journey began, Rob defined focus as the key to roasting coffee. Sydney’s emergence as a coffee capital is testament to that focus, which is practiced by baristas across the city and savoured by most of us each morning.

Whether an aficionado or just a fan of coffee, this Sydney cafe walking tour and coffee appreciation class is a must-do.

Barry travelled as a guest of Go Local Tours.

Additional images: Bigstock


Barry Johnson

About the writer

Barry Johnson is a freelance writer living in Sydney, but with a trail of Aussie souvenirs scattered throughout previous homes in Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East. Barry believes travelling is an adventure where the highlights push you on to the next trip and the lowlights can be laughed at with hindsight. Without a passport, he’d have missed getting lost in the Californian forest a week after the Blair Witch Project went viral, building a giant Buddha on a Cambodian mountain, camel racing in an Egyptian desert and teaching English to Peruvian children as they taught him Quechua, the language of the Incas.

  1. Hello there, does this tour still available anytime? we are very interested, please get in touch.

    • Hi Jess. Thank you for your tour enquiry. Yes, the Sydney Coffee Tour runs Mondays and Fridays. We can also arrange private tours at other times, depending on numbers. Regards Adam Ford (Editor)

Please leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>