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The Best Coffee Shops In Canberra

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There are few things in life more satisfying than that very first sip of coffee. Whether you prefer the bold intensity of a long black, the decadent creaminess of a double-shot latte, or the familiar taste of a tried-and-true flat white, the feeling is the same: you cannot live without coffee.

If you are a self-confessed coffee lover, chances are, you are always looking to expand your knowledge of local cafes. For that, you’ve landed in the right place. We asked Canberra’s locals to share their go-to coffee spots. From there, we have come up with a list of the top three in the region.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

What makes an excellent coffee shop?

What should you look for when researching coffee shops in Canberra and surrounds?

  • Unreal coffee. This one’s obvious, but if a cafe serves up burnt, bitter, weak, or cold coffee, it’s not worth your time. Coffee is the most critical element of any café-style eatery.
  • Wide range of coffee styles. Some of us like black coffee. Some of us like white. And some of us enjoy the sweet complexity of flavoured syrup. No judgement here. The best coffee shops serve up a wide range of coffee styles: cold brew, batch brew, alternative milks, piccolo lattes, the list goes on.
  • Fantastic food. Whether it be a full brunch menu or fresh-baked cabinet goods, the best coffee shops serve up a variety of tasty treats that perfectly complement their top-notch coffee.

The top coffee shops in Canberra according to you

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 19 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

Now, it’s time to introduce the locals’ top coffee shops in Canberra.

Sweet Bones

Sweet Bones may be known for its unbelievable vegan cakes and baked goods, but one sip of their expertly made coffee, and you’ll understand why the locals come back time and time again. The team at Sweet Bones doesn’t believe in bells and whistles – they want quality. With a rustic atmosphere and rock’n’roll edge, this gem of a café will fast become one of your favourites.

Harvest

At Harvest, they focus on one thing and one thing only: coffee. That’s right – they love coffee as much as you do. Their passionate team goes above and beyond to deliver delicious, full-flavoured, high-quality coffee, whether you drink a short black, cold brew, or extra-large cappuccino.

Barrio Collective Coffee

The dedicated team behind Barrio Collective Coffee believes in simplicity, good food, and excellent coffee. They use the highest quality beans available to produce some of the most delicious brews in the region. As locals themselves, the Barrio Collective Coffee staff offer a welcoming atmosphere and neighbourhood vibe. Perfect.

Who did you pick?

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback, if you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Where do you think serves up the best coffee in Canberra and surrounding regions? Share your opinion in the comments area below for our readers to check out.

 


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45 Responses to The Best Coffee Shops In Canberra
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miss bliss miss bliss 9:39 am 05 Mar 10

Oops I missed McCafe. I so disagree. I think it is dirty tasting coffee that tastes like it’s come out of a percolator. Not acceptable to me for an espresso style.

I have heard about Tonic too. It has a very good rep for good coffee but haven’t tried it myself. Perhaps next week…

And Cafe Injoy in Gold Creek International (at the Hall end of O’Hanlon Place) has won best cafe somewhere along the lines and I honestly don’t know how. The service is poor, you have to line up for ages to order and the coffee was one of the worst coffee’s I have ever had in my life. I took once sip and pushed it to the furthest corner of my table that I could and didn’t touch it again. I honestly couldn’t be bothered asking for a replacement. I didn’t think it would be much better. The service is so bad that they didn’t even notice it sat there undrunk as far away from me as it could possibly be.

And on a non coffee note, if you’re sick of poor coffee and want to try tea Adore Tea are awesome. Over 300 teas, live jazz every sunday. Also in Gold Creek International.

miss bliss miss bliss 9:09 am 05 Mar 10

Having worked in many cafes I think I am now officially a coffee snob. It can’t stand it even remotely burnt or bitter. Being a decaf drinker for medical reasons this predicament becomes worse as you need to handle decaf slightly different and it’s often not as fresh as the beans don’t get as good a turnover.

I’ve only been in Canberra for 12 months having come from the Eastern Suburbs in Sydney and really miss the coffee culture. But we have a great machine at home now so don’t have coffee out very much at all.

However, I have tried and boycotted some places such as GJs-the coffee there, I’m really sorry if you think it’s drinkable, but it’s just so average. Consistently burnt and bitter no matter which store you get it from.

If you want a mild roast and like it weak, as much I hate to admit it, Coffee Club do a good latte.

Michels do seem to be reasonable, which I must admit I am quite surprised by since their cakes are consistently dry.

In Belconnen Markets Knead Patisserie is pretty good, and have beautiful food.

Cook & Grocer in Gungahlin do a good coffee too. It’s on the strong side, and being an organic store, they use a particular brand of organic milk that does have a different flavour than the standard flavour. If you can get used to the change in the milk the coffee is quite good.

Coffee Guru in Gungahlin seem to be ok. There’s one guy there that appears to own/manage it and lords over the machine, not letting anyone else touch it. The coffee is very strong, and they are constantly busy. Don’t be fooled thinking it’s table service though. The plastic bench seats aren’t good though.

I can’t remember where else I’ve had coffee except for the French? place in the Canberra Centre outside David Jones and that was ok.

But there’s a little tiny hole in the wall cafe in Civic. It’s attached to the Canberra Centre building outside David Jones, accessible from City Walk. The decaf there is GOOD. Every time I go to Civic now I want to go there for a coffee just because it’s good, well it is from the one guy I’ve only ever been served by anyway.

As for differences between stores, coffee beans are very affected by their environment, so different handling between different stores can have a surprisingly large affect. As can different grind, different calibration of the machine, different packing of the basket. A big no no is leaving the basket in the machine after pouring a coffee-the beans in the basket can burn, sending the bitterness back into the lines. Another issue is not cleaning the machine properly.

Incidentally, I also agree that Koko Black’s hot chocolates are average. And don’t even bother with their iced chocolates. I had one yesterday and it reminded me of something I can buy off the Supermarket shelf. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not what I was expecting and certainly not worth the exorbitant price.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 9:57 am 16 Jan 10

try a bit of salt in your coffee. cancels out the alkaline levels

You’d like this video.

Melanie Melanie 6:48 pm 15 Jan 10

Skidbladnir, sorry you had that experience at the Chocolate Olive. A friend of mine had paintings hung there so no they are not all the owners!

Danman Danman 1:31 pm 02 Jun 08

If you want beans – get teh caffe Grande Gusto beans from Wagonga Coffee, local producers from the Wamboin area. Can be found at EPIC farmers markets producers shed every saturday between 0800 and 1100. No I do no twork for them, I like you, just like quality coffee.

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 1:14 pm 02 Jun 08

el said :

Where’s the Chocolate Olive, Peterh? I need some beans.

The Chocolate Olive is in Colbee Court West (not the side with Pepe’s Art Store, the Medical Centre and House of Heroes, the other one).

Reasonable coffee, south-facing frontage, cranky owner, only hangs her own art on the walls, and refuses to let other people hang theirs. Rarely sells anything.

Next to the New Works Gallery owned by a Ms Victoria Phillips, she lets other people hang work on the walls, so long as it passes quality inspection. Sells enough art to keep the place running.

So drop in, buy a coffee, badmouth her art, and then tell her you’re going next door.

peterh peterh 12:41 pm 02 Jun 08

el said :

Where’s the Chocolate Olive, Peterh? I need some beans.

The chocolate olive is in colbee court, on the other side near the fitness shop.
they have bags of beans, but I haven’t bought from there.

el el 12:14 pm 02 Jun 08

Where’s the Chocolate Olive, Peterh? I need some beans.

peterh peterh 10:38 am 02 Jun 08

To those of you who are going to H+G’s in phillip – try the Chocolate Olive instead – great coffee, friendly staff and a very comfortable venue. They use the sacred grounds coffee – far superior to H+G’s offering. Jindebah Hills (not the name but cannot remember the real name) in mitchell is the best around for coffee – I go there at least once a month to entertain clients, and use Remi’s in town as well.

Oh, and as I work in phillip, the chocolate olive don’t roast at their premises, so I don’t get the big white cloud of foul smoke descending on me.

If you must have your coffee at H+G’s, try a bit of salt in your coffee. cancels out the alkaline levels and it tastes pretty good after that.

Demosthenes Demosthenes 10:14 am 02 Jun 08

I’ve started a website http://www.canberracafe.com/forum for this discussion – feel free to add reviews and provide feedback and suggestions

needlenose needlenose 2:08 pm 11 May 08

There are three reasons why I would never buy coffee or anything else at Gloria Jeans.

1. It is, without exception, the vilest tasting swill it has ever been my misfortune to sample. When they first opened at Belconnen I ordered a macchiato and found it burnt and bitter and frankly not fit for sale. I was so sure it was a mistake that I tried another a few weeks later and found it identical. Woden is slightly better, but still really unacceptable.

2. I had already sworn off this franchise when I found out about their partnership with, and promotion and funding of the so-called “Mercy Ministries”, a truly evil fundamentalist “Christian” organisation (the inverted commas are to indicate that I would not judge most people who identify as Christians with these values). Now I won’t even shop in stores that have a Gloria Jeans in them (sorry Borders – though not that sorry – I’d rather shop in bookstores with staff that read, anyway).

See, for example, the following:
http://richarddawkins.net/articleComments,2369,They-prayed-to-cast-Satan-from-my-body,SMH,page2#146216
and
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/16/2218825.htm

… there are a bunch of links on Google, including to a MM “Survivors” site. There was also an investigative piece in Crikey a few months ago but it’s subscribers only.

3. Their store upstairs in Woden has written on the wall “I measure my life in coffee spoons”. The gross ignorance of (a) the misquote and (b) the complete lack of understanding of the reference just makes me want to spit every time I walk past that place. They’ve referenced one of the saddest, most pathetic lines in literature, about the sheer waste and drudgery of a life defined by such a measure, and seem to be trying to suggest it somehow indicates how fabulous it is to be drinking coffee, when in fact it should drive every damn customer out of the joint in tears.

Wish it would.

For good coffee, I recommend Bookplates (if you can get in ), Remi on Moore Street, or Caffe Essen. There’s also a really great new place on the corner of Alinga and Mort St (just past the interchange) but I’ve forgotten its name – Tonic?

domsoph domsoph 11:22 am 11 May 08

Well i don’t know about the best coffee in canberra but i sure as hell know about the worst! I ordered a caffe’ latte from Lisboa in woden (near the cinemas) i cannot even begin to describe the revoltingness of it….simply pukesville! I took one sip and left….simply gross. And the problem is that this was not just a one off, bad coffee type thing, i went back a few weeks later and it was the same! They seriously need to sort out their baristas, cos they use Lavazza (i believe) which is a decent coffee….so please Lisboa get some staff that can actually MAKE coffee without poisoning your customers!

ant ant 10:24 pm 22 Sep 07

Starbucks in the US is great, because at least you can taste the coffee. Unlike everywhere else. But it’s still awful. however, they have this gorgeous crumb cake, just a dense slice cake, with crumble on top (coconut, butter, brown sugar). Bloody delicious. And I like the “local meeting place” thing they do there. Fake, but effective, people DO go there to computerise, and chat with their mates.
This winter, the canyon road was closed early one morning for avalanches. I was in the staff van, so we rang work, reported that we were sitting in the queue at the canyon mouth (we get paid from that moment on). Then I suggested to the driver that we could wait in the queue… down in Sandy at starbucks! So off we went. Spent the 2 hours at Starbucks, where they looked after us, driver had a late brekkie at Maccas, then sat in the van watching DVDs. Got the call that the canyon was opening, and we scuttled back, and got back in the queue as it began to move. VERY civilised. Other vans of staff who’d sat there for hours were very disgusted with us.
I must say, that Starbucks was really nice. We all bought coffees and things and sat around chatting, and they came out with little bikkies and petit fours on plates and handed them round to us. Damn decent.

el ......VNBerlinaV8 el ......VNBerlinaV8 7:08 pm 22 Sep 07

poor treatment of staff….

I-filed I-filed 5:52 pm 22 Sep 07

Thanks Hecaterin. I go one further – the few other times I’ve had coffee in Watson, Carlo’s was crap. Bad service, much attitude, high prices, poor breakfast.

Hecaterin Hecaterin 9:44 am 21 Sep 07

The Watson shops coffee place is “Satis”. It’s tiny, and you’ll find it on the other side on the supermarket from Carlo’s. (Carlo’s is merely average, despite its marketing efforts.)

hingo_VRCalaisV6 hingo_VRCalaisV6 9:12 am 21 Sep 07

Yeah McCafe is pretty good. The drive-thru coffee is just the generic crap made by a machine.

jemmy jemmy 8:07 pm 20 Sep 07

I agree about the McCafe too. Except I found out the other day the drive-through is not the same machine as in the cafe. The guy in the window said to use the cafe if you want ‘real’ coffee.

el ......VNBerlinaV8 el ......VNBerlinaV8 7:11 pm 20 Sep 07

The place on the corner of the Civic interchange and Bunda Street – maybe called KARI or something like that? Consistently the best coffee I’ve ever had in Canberra, I would’ve had 50 or so from there over the past month or so, always excellent.

I-filed I-filed 6:32 pm 20 Sep 07

Can only comment on the inner north … Little place at Watson Shops – Safi? – great coffee.
Tilleys – queue at counter for up to 25 minutes but coffee is good and booths are a haven if have laptop
Loui – great coffee

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