No-one is more passionate about Canberra than Marg Wade, author of Canberra Secrets (now in its 2nd edition, with the 3rd edition imminent). I know, because I have just completed her Café Culture Walking Tour on a beautiful sunny Saturday in the city.
There were just eight people to take this tour, one of the first of its kind, with a mixture of ages and stages amongst the clientele. Some were from Canberra, and some tourists were discovering Canberra from interstate and overseas. It was a good mix and within the first few minutes, people were socialising, as well as discussing and responding to the information that Marg was disseminating as our guide.
As the author of Canberra Secrets, it came as no surprise to me that Marg knew a lot about the history of Canberra, but what I wasn’t prepared for were the little surprises she had in store for us along the way.
As we walked around the city, she regaled us with stories from the past (some of which were glimpses of stories I had lived through myself as a young girl), but never had I known such interesting details about these well-known characters whom she brought alive with the same passion that Tim the Yowie Man gives to his ghost stories.
I even discovered a secret bar I never knew existed. A Chicago style bar underground. Who’d have thought it on a café tour? But it wasn’t just the stories that were surprising. There was more.
Something is oh, so intoxicating about coffee culture in this city of Canberra. I know we are not alone in the world in our reverence for coffee. Recently in Germany, I was reminded of the Kaffee Klatsch society there; particularly in some of the small towns. Viennese coffee culture in their outdoor cafes was something else, and don’t even get me started on wonderful, Italian coffee. But the truth is, that we can get most of that European and South American tradition and coffee blends right here in Canberra, and Marg introduced us to some local businesses doing extraordinary things in the world of coffee.
Each had their own unique style and specialty and we tasted many coffees, as well as indulged in culinary delights along the way. (None too good for the diet, but we won’t even go there!)
What was the highlight of this tour for me? It was a unique “Cupping” experience – which is, in simple terms a ‘coffee tasting’, like a wine tasting only with coffee. It was unexpected and unrivalled in coffee experiences I have had thus far, and I learnt so much about the way coffee comes from the tree to me!
I won’t spoil it by giving away too much here; suffice it to say that you do need to have this experience at least once.
As a writer, whenever I think of coffee I am reminded of TS Eliot’s quote: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” History buffs, of course, will love the tour; coffee lovers will find it addictive; and anyone at all who is interested in finding out more about cafes, along with the city they live in, will have a wonderful experience.
Tours are run on Fridays & Saturdays, catering for both the working and retired. Cost of the half-day tours are $125 per person and here is what you get:
- Entertaining narrative from informative guide
- Discovering Canberra’s hidden cafe secrets
- Coffee cupping session OR sensory scent experience with leading industry experts
- All coffees (or tea if you prefer) and tasty treats along the way
Minimum 4 people, maximum of 8 per tour and it’s perfect for hens’ parties, corporate functions, team building and those seeking a different experience of Canberra.
Upcoming Café Culture walking tours are available on the following dates: Friday 7th April, Saturday 8th April, Friday 5th May, Sat 6th May, and Friday 2nd June and Saturday 3rd June. Frequency will be increased over coming months.
(Marg also runs Canberra Secrets Highlights Tours Wed-Sun 1:00pm – 5:30pm, and also provides private, personalised tours on request.) For more information and bookings go to www.canberrasecrets.com.au)