Today was a planned excursion with 7 other friends to hit Single Origin Roasters for a shot (or in my case 3 shots) of caffeine. S.O.R was a place that was on my radar ever since I came to Sydney. I know its supposed to be good.

The cafe’s located in a quiet street corner, pretty near Central station. Its nondescript if anything, looking pretty much like any other cosy cafe in the city. Cept this one’s reknowned for having good coffee. Which it does. I praised Campos Coffee to the high heavens but I seriously think S.O.R’s stuff is on par, at least. Probably marginally better.

This visit was pretty much forced by me after a friend mentioned the place. Time Out thinks its the #1 place for coffee in Sydney, displacing Campos into second spot. When I heard that, I was dubious Thomas but I’ll readily admit that I can see why its so highly rated. The coffee is seriously next level shit. But I’m still gonna go for Campos as #1.

Why you might ask? Well, a good coffee experience is more than just the quality of the product. Both places are superb. The margins are minute, if at all. I’d just as easily be able to say that either joint served me the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life. Its seriously that good. Then again, there’s tons of places almost as good in Sydney alone. There’s all the other things that go into making the experience out of this world.

The place itself is nice but it doesn’t really say coffee. The menu is a full cafe menu, with all kinds of food, a good variety of single origin blends for sale as well as the Italian style stuff. The food is good, we had some sourdough toast with butter as well as a fresh pork pie, really simple but good. But their diversification leads me to be distracted away from the coffee. Yet, that’s not the main reason why I don’t think S.O.R is the best there is.

The long black I started out with was superb. Hardly much acidity and very good body. Intensely lively and wonderfully round on the palette. When it hit my lips, I was sold on the coffee. It was awesome. The cafe latte right after pretty much confirmed it all. The foam was dense, solid and lent a wonderful smoothness to proceedings. The affogatto just finished off a pretty nice morning, tastewise at least, for me. My friend though, had chunky ice bits in his and didn’t enjoy it all that much. Another commented that the vanilla bean ice cream didn’t have enough vanilla kick, which I agreed with. It still doesn’t take away the fact that their coffee in general is really really good.

Yet, that all seems kinda paltry because at the end of the day, the service was what let it all down. The owner seemed really really cool, like a guy who’d be great to chill with over some coffee. He came over, asked where we were from, and generally looked very easy going. Pity he wasn’t the one serving us. Instead it was this lady who seemed really rushed and gruff. She chased me outside when I went in to order, saying she’d come to the table. Fine. She takes the order but takes nothing down, eventually getting it wrong when I make a second order having decided it was good shit. Ok we’re a big group of eight so I’m not too fussed. She shakes a fist, 30% in jest, 70% in frustration when we tell them we got it wrong and one more affogatto should be on the table. Uh ok. She mentions its going to rain. We ask if we can move indoors. She says she’ll see but nothing happens. It doesn’t rain and I’m not too fussed but it seriously dulled my experience, especially considering it took a while for everything to come out. Perfection takes time and the stuff was good enough for me to wait an hour for but I don’t want the baggage that is the service, if that’s what it was supposed to be. I coulda served myself and been a whole lot happier.

I like the coffee. I want to root for it and go berserk but I cannot in good faith. I was let down, or maybe I was conflicted. Would I grab a coffee there again? In a heartbeat, if I was in the area, but it’d have to be takeaway. I’m never going to have that conversation with the owner over some reggae and a bucket of ristrettos. How sad is that?

Maybe it was just the combination of crap factors. Soon to be inclement weather on a cold wintry day, a big group of non-native English speakers ordering coffee at a new place, someone feeling stressed or having a bad day, me not understanding how its done… Its so easy to cross the line with what friendly service ought to be. If I could suggest one thing, it’d be to have an ordering system for stuff, like Campos does with the spoons and plates. They never screw up once. Perfection is allowed to run its course.

Bottom line, if you see an empress dowager wannabe at S.O.R, don’t communicate with it.

Single Origin Roasters
60 Reservoir St
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
(02) 9211 9055
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