Estabar, 61 Shortland Esplanade, Newcastle, Open daily 6:30am-4pm.
In the continuous evolution of the Newcastle coffee landscape, where espresso bars can bloom as quickly as they can languish and then disappear – it is easy to overlook the evergreen and perennial mainstayers. Every city has them. Cafes that appeal simply because they do the simplest things better than the others. It often isn’t just about the coffee. It is the freshness of the produce. The warmth and professionalism of the service. The perfection of the poached eggs.
Occasionally the tables stay full on account of all these strengths and something more. It is an uncommon attribute. An intangible quality. Whilst its everyday effect may be felt between the customer and the staff, it commonly originates in the passions and values held by the owner.
Bec Bowie at Estabar is one of these proprietors. Beside her locally baked loaves of sourdough and above the jars of Urban Hum honey and Wholefood Family pickle the writing is quite literally on the wall. After you order your Gedeb Natural Ethiopian Single Origin espresso ($3.50) to accompany your eggs and sourdough with a herb, miso and macadamia pesto ($14.50), allow your eyes to wander across the blackboard messages above the barista’s head. They speak proudly of the values that Estabar commits itself to. “Let food by thy medicine”, says one of them.
When Bowie and her team are not serving up exotic coffees or sourcing quality produce from the farmer’s market, they are honoring an underlying principle of sustainably farmed nutrition to everything the customer is offered. Their menu blossoms with the best fruits of the season. A Summer Bircher features rhubarb compote, rockmelon, blueberries and green apple stirred through a buckwheat, oats, chia and nut crumble ($15.50). Their New Season Tomato ($14.50) is a smoky, sweet and peppery blend of labna and ruby ripe tomato served alongside a spoonful of James & Rose brinjal pickle.
Steaming away behind the bar, within inches of the chef, is one of the hardest-working espresso machines in Newcastle. The barista standing at the handles is flat out with flat whites, but there is something different about this scenario. The composure and precision with which the Estabar baristas pour their coffees befits the professionalism of the entire Estabar outfit. No delays. No egos. Just an unbroken focus on serving an excellent brew, every time.
Of course, they might just be fuelled up on the best beans from their roasters, Single Origin. When he is not pouring his milk-based coffees over the famed Single O Paradox blend, Estabar head barista Greg Watkinson is curating a selection of small lot beans for those who like their espressos lightly roasted and bursting with fruity nuances. Karagoto from Kenya. Dumerso from Ethiopia. Espana from El Salvador. For the curious or adventurous, then perhaps it is these coffees – sought after and strongly brewed – that should really be your medicine.
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