Well, it all seemed to be a bit of a lark in May 2015 when I thought I might start reviewing coffee shops around the region – little did expect that 208 days later we would have a collection of my thoughts of the coffee options in Geelong. And while I may have scratched the surface, there are still plenty more options to try, particularly out of town.
But it is worth pausing and reflecting on the 100 reviews (plus the three “On Tour” reviews) and to draw some conclusions.
Things that are good
For starters, there are a number of really different coffee options around our city and our region from coffee specialists to restaurants who serve coffee with meals, from sandwich bars to take-away / drive-through outlets, from really bad to, thankfully, really good – each and every one contributing something to the coffee culture that is developing in our region. As I have said on numerous occasions, there is a city about 70km NE of Geelong that much the world seems to think is one of the best coffee destinations in the world. And it probably is. That said, we have a coffee culture that is DIFFERENT to Melbourne’s and we should be celebrating that – not always comparing ourselves to their coffee venues. This whole “like stepping into a little piece of Melbourne right here in Geelong” that the media and some of the so-called “coffee sophisticates” keep telling us is bollocks. Absolute bollocks. If I want a little piece of Melbourne as part of my coffee experience, I’ll jump on the train and go and get the real thing. In time, I’ll stick around and support the people who are working hard to establish our own coffee identity.
We have a number of coffee venues in the area that actually know how to make coffee and that number seems to be increasing. To me, it doesn’t matter what you are making, there is an element that is science and an element that is art. That implies that there is knowledge that you require to make great coffee and their is a need to practise and practise and practise the art. If you run a coffee venue in Geelong, please invest the extra dollars in making sure that each and every person who works for you has both the knowledge and the opportunity to practice. Your customers will be happy and you know what happy customers do
Things that are not so good
Buy the right flipping cups – please. After 100 reviews, I have only received my coffee in the right cup on 32 occasions. On 49 occasions, my long black was served in a cup that was designed to serve cappuccino. On the other 19 occasions, I got all sorts of cups from mugs (urghhh), a takeaway cup with a straw (no seriously) and the occasional “close but no cigar” cups.
There are still too many people making coffees that simply grab what they think is about the right amount of ground coffee and throw it into the machine and press the magic button and assume that everything else will be OK. I have an automatic coffee machine for home use and that’s how that machine works. I expect to get a better made coffee than that when I make the effort to go out. Please take the time to learn how to make coffee properly.
I cannot believe that I am still being asked what sized long black I want – including the one a couple of days ago where I was asked whether I wanted that in a mug. No – mugs are used to serve Milo and cocoa around the campfire not long black coffees in cafes and coffee shops
The overall average for the coffees I have tried is 3.43 stars (out of a possible 5). I was hoping that the number would be closer to 4 but there it is – around about 68% in exam terms. Would you be happy with a 68% on your final exams? I guess it beats 48% but to me it says “good” rather than “very good”.
Of the suburbs and towns that I visited more than once, Newtown scores the highest with an average score of 3.88, followed by Highton with 3.67, then Geelong West with 3.44. The CBD, in which I tried 32 different venues, averaged 3.33 to fall slightly under the regional average. We had 9 venues that scored 4.5 out 5 – to see which ones they are, scroll to the footer and select the link to 4.5 star under the “By Rating” heading.
The Best Ofs
To finish off, I thought it would be fun to have some “awards” that showcase a few of my favourites in different categories
|Best “servery window” style coffee
||This is a toss-up for me between Mister Miller on Pakington Street in Geelong West and 10 sq M in the CBD. Both make exceptional coffee and really know their stuff. Both offer very limited seating but 10 sq M has the advantage of being totally under cover whereas a wet, cold day at Mister Miller can be a bit miserable. 10 sq M but the narrowest of margins.
|Best coffee in a bakery
||Born and Bread Bakehouse in Newtown by the length of the straight.
||Espresso Blu in Lara – I was completely amazed to find coffee of this standard in a shop that really didn’t shout out “brilliant coffee here”. Maybe it will now!
|Best place to go to work and have coffee
||Sticks and Stones in Torquay seems to be the best place I’ve found for a mobile office environment. The owners probably won’t be happy when hundreds of people turn up with laptops under their arms but it’s the price you pay for having such a good venue.
|Best drive through coffee
||Bean Squeeze and, to be specific, the one in Shannon Avenue in Manifold Heights. Does what it has to do – it’s never going to match it with the best cafes but it makes very satisfactory take away coffee.
|Best food court coffee
||Alfie’s Cafe at Waurn Ponds, with apologies to Launch Espresso and Kitchen at Westfield. There is something very wrong with the phrase “food court coffee” but both of these establishments provide very enjoyable coffee despite their location.
|Biggest disappointment (with apologies to Sailors Rest)
||Our waterfront area – with the exception of Sailors Rest – I am very, very underwhelmed by the standard of coffee that we serve in what is supposed to be our most iconic area in town.