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Monday, November 15, 2010

Single Origin Roasters, Surry Hills

It's like watching live theatre.

The modest eat-in area at Single Origin Cafe is full when we stop by for lunch, and we are motioned to wait on the row of stools in the alley across from the cafe. We sit there patiently with menus, watching the bustle of locals drinking coffee, eating lunch and soaking up the sun - it almost seems a shame when we're summoned over with a friendly wave when a table has become free.

Single Origin menus

Single Origin started as a small cafe in 2003 with a 15kg roaster affectionately known as Big Boris. Today Single Origin has expanded to include a dedicated warehouse in Alexandria, where a 120kg roaster is required to roast and blend their wide range of coffees for both wholesale and retail customers.

The cafe is cosy and quirky, with distinctive murals painted on the walls, and lamingtons and macarons lined up on chopping boards on the counter. The click-click and whir of the coffee machine is non-stop, as the barista serves an endless queue of loyal coffee fans.

We peruse the menus - updated seasonally with a focus on sustainable produce - that are covered in recycled coffee hessian bags.

White corn tortilla $15
with pulled organic pork, chipotle chilli beans, guacamole and pico de gallo

The spring menu includes a white corn tortilla that bears a huddle of pulled organic pork and a rainbow of tomato, capsicum, red onion, avocado and coriander. Chipotle chilli beans on the bottom are a smooth spicy paste and the filling is so significant this dish is more a cutlery than a hands-on affair.

Open lasagna of peas, broad beans, asparagus and mint $15

Open lasagna is a loose interpretation of this Italian dish but it's one worth pursuing. Undulating folds of fresh pasta sheets are slippery smooth between bedfellows of peas, broad beans and asparagus in shades of vibrant green. Oozing ricotta and shavings of sharp parmesan make this a vegetarian dish of pleasure.

Roast beef sandwich with chimmichurri $15
beetroot relish, onion jam and rocket

The roast beef sandwich is a more substantial offering, thick slices of toast filled with a hefty wad of roast beef, tangy beetroot relish, caramelised onion jam and fresh rocket leaves. The chimmichurri is a generous spread of chopped parsley, garlic and olive oil but it's the sticky sweetness of the onion jam that I savour most.

Mocha coffee $3.50

A mocha coffee arrives with the most exquisite latte art on top, a perfect fern on top of a rich and aromatic coffee and chocolate blend.

Siphon coffee $15 (Yemen blend) - enough for three small cups

I'm keen to order the siphon coffee, an extraction process I'd first experienced at Melbourne's Sensory Lab. There's a great sense of scientific spectacle, one that involves glass contraptions and a naked flame. Essentially it involves heating water to almost boiling, so it is forced up the tube and into the top vessel holding the ground coffee. The barista gives the coffee a quick stir at the top with a wooden paddle to make sure all the coffee grinds make contact with the water.

Adjusting the flame

When all the water has migrated to the top vessel, the heat source is removed so the water cools and eventually makes its way back down to the bottom. A filter at the top of the tube ensures no coffee grinds end up in your final drink.

Brewed coffee making its way down the tube

Final brewed coffee

Siphon coffee

The coffee is poured into fancy glasses and for the first time I can appreciate the subtleties that come from siphon brewing. Many of its fans say that siphon coffee tastes more like tea, and we find there's a broader spectrum of flavours here, not simply robust and bitter, but with fragrant and delicate notes on the palate.

Cold brewed Yemen coffee

We have barely taken a sip of our coffee when the barista returns with tiny glass thimbles filled with ice and coffee which he says has been brewed using the cold drip method. This involves a slow drip of water through ground coffee, a process that takes 5-7 hours. He made these last night and is happy to provide them as a complimentary treat.

The cold drip coffee exhibits an unusual intensity, its bitterness almost reminiscent of whisky. I drink both without sugar, and find it's the best way to appreciate them without masking their flavours.

A delicious lunch and good coffee, with a science show thrown in too.

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Single Origin Roasters on Urbanspoon

Single Origin Roasters
60-64 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9211 0665

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 6.30am-4pm

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14 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/15/2010 06:18:00 am


  • At 11/15/2010 9:55 am, Blogger Melleemoo said…

    I didn't realise they had such an extensive food menu there! That open lasagne looks excellent. And I have been meaning to try a siphon coffee... intriguing!
    Thanks for the post!

  • At 11/15/2010 11:42 am, Blogger cafedave said…

    It's an amazing place: I had the best decaf coffee I've ever tasted there. When I'm not studying on Friday mornings, I go back regularly for "coffee mornings" - a chance to catch up with people from a range of creative backgrounds.

  • At 11/15/2010 12:48 pm, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Interesting interpretation of lasagne ....

  • At 11/15/2010 12:49 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Peas, broad bean, asparagus, and mint! All that lasagna needed was some Brussels sprouts and it'd be made up of some of my favourite green things :D

  • At 11/15/2010 4:27 pm, Anonymous Matthew (Masterchef) said…

    I need to try this scientific way of brewing coffee. For a coffee lover I have never hit this up, silly me!

  • At 11/15/2010 4:31 pm, Blogger Miss Feathers said…

    Wow, coffee straight from the lab! Looks interesting!

  • At 11/15/2010 7:27 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    the siphon looks interesting but too much like a science experiment to me. i was tempted to try the White corn tortilla and lasagne when i visited last weekend but was pretty happy with the organic chicken salad. i loved my mocha. full of flavour :-)

  • At 11/15/2010 9:34 pm, Blogger Effie (: said…

    The pattern on the mocha coffee was nicely done ;) But my favourite is the tortilla... it looks really yummy lool ^^

  • At 11/16/2010 12:12 am, Blogger Nugmeg said…

    I can't get over the siphon coffee price. For $15 per brewing, it is the most expensive siphon coffee I came across. Pround Mary, Sensory Lab, Toby's estate, etc. prices 're about $5-7 per siphon brewing.
    I also don't think Yeman bean is that expensive. Panama La Esmeralda Geisha this year is $5 clover brewing (The Sources, Mosman) while Toby's Estate offerred Pamana Kaiser Serracin for $8 per Chemex.

  • At 11/16/2010 4:17 pm, Blogger susan said…

    I love the coffee from this place, but I don't love that they aren't open on a Sunday! Many times I have been in that area on a Sunday morning to find they are closed :(

  • At 11/16/2010 11:30 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Nugmeg - The $15 we paid was enough for three small cups of coffee.

  • At 11/17/2010 10:40 pm, Anonymous ben said…

    It's really exciting. I would definitely try Open lasagna of peas, broad beans. I love Italian food. Also siphon coffee is unique.

  • At 11/18/2010 4:05 pm, Anonymous Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said…

    The coffee there is amazing isn't it? I'm spoilt by good coffee choices as I work nearby and I shudder to think about what I'll have to drink if I ever leave my work! Never tried the food though and it looks great so I'll have to check it out one lunchtime!

  • At 11/19/2010 9:08 pm, Anonymous Nick said…

    Hey Helen, thanks for coming to the cafe and sharing your experience. It's always great to get feedback. This week we opened our new 'sideshow' project next door. Give me a wave next time you're around. Cheers nick


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