The Bolton St. Pantry, 45 Bolton St, Newcastle, Mon-Fri 6:30am-3pm, Sat-Sun: 7am-3pm.
The softly lit, rustic cosiness of the Bolton St Pantry has always been well disguised from the outside. As if the apartments upstairs were built without kitchens and their shared, secret basement beneath stored their groceries instead, it always feels intimate on the inside. It is, as their name suggests, a local and communal place. A pantry built from old timbers where all your personal delicacies are arranged and hidden from view.
For very good reason, the coffee side of the space looks a little different. To the left of a set of shelves, laden with every delicious thing from coconut dahl to gluten free cocoa, four words written across the espresso machine are anything but hidden away. Even the cups and saucers are a distinctive, luminous green. That colour and those words – The Grounds Coffee Roasters - tell you everything you need to know about the quality of the coffee. If this side of the pantry catches your eye, it’s no accident.
The owner of this café, Zach Levien, can only find the best things to say about what goes into his little green cups, those lime-coloured calling cards from his famous Sydney suppliers. Down there when you order a takeaway coffee from The Grounds, they ask for your mobile number. Like anything else of quality that is carefully made, the end product can take a while.
Up here, the coffee might be quicker but the Bolton St Pantry are careful in their own admirable way. They choose not to use any specialty brewing methods. They only serve espresso which, Levein admits, is complicated enough if you strive to get it right every time.
“It is a simple way to make it but still very complex,” Levien says. “There are so many variables. Coffee is fascinating. At times I think people forget it’s a natural product. Those beans come a long way through a long process to get to your café and into that grinder.”
This is particularly true for the blend being ground at the Bolton St. Pantry. Brazilian, Ethiopian, Colombian and Indian beans are not only well travelled, but roasted separately at The Grounds before blending. It is a method used to accentuate the flavour characteristics of each origin, which in this case combine into a distinctive, fruity concoction. Hazelnut, blueberry, chocolate, almonds.
They’re all in there. Together, they’re outstanding.
Be it about the beans or yourself, the question, as always, is whether the journey was worth it. From the highlands of Ethiopia to a pantry on Bolton Street, or on your own search for a great coffee through a city packed with good cafes.
If you are looking for a place to end your expedition, best you consider setting up camp in here. Like Levien says himself, coffee is complex and variable.
But in some places they really do just seem to get it right every time.
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