Finding a good cafe when you’re on the road is pretty tough. We struggled in our January trip to New Zealand. There are a number of tips and tricks for checking if the cafe you’ve stopped in is worth your while. But most require you to actually step inside the cafe, and then there’s the awkward evacuation that comes after you spy the milk caked steam wand…
But no more. Beanhunter does the hard work for you. Tracking down independent cafes and recommending them. There’s one result for Townsville – the sadly defunct Squires (actually I think they’ve just moved, and I haven’t found them yet). I’ll put Coffee Dominion on the map. Because they deserve it.
In case I’ve not posted something like this before – here’s my fail safe list for judging a cafe without actually tasting their coffee…
- Bean supplier – I tend to avoid the big name companies like La Vazza and beans that are shipped from Italy or elsewhere. You’ve got absolutely no way of knowing if the beans are arriving within the window of freshness – and chances are they’re not. Beans roasted on site are normally the best bet (but not always). Reputable local wholesale roasters (eg Merlo) are a good start… but can suffer from the same dramas as international beans. Beans from specialty roasters tend to come with a little more care involved – they’re more interested in protecting the brand than expanding the number of cafes selling their beans.
- Grinder. I don’t think there are any cafes not grinding their own coffee these days. But Grinders with a big doser (the plastic chamber at the front) are dangerous. If the barista is grinding on the spot it is at least freshly ground.
- Milk wand. Seriously. If it’s caked with cruddy milk or screaming like a banshee – run away. Literally. Run. Don’t wait.
- Volume of traffic – lots of customers means high turnover of beans and that other people like the product.
- Staff – if the staff look like they can handle the basics – grinds, tamp, extract, and froth the milk – that’s a start. If they have two baristas working the machine – one doing coffee and the other milk – that’s even better.