Hobart cafe tour: Cold climate coffee at its best

Yellow Bernard serve up cups of hot coffee to eagerly-awaiting coffee lovers

Yellow Bernard serve up cups of hot coffee to eagerly-awaiting coffee lovers

"There are 72 cafes within a 10-minute walk of the Town Hall," says Robyn Everist, throwing down the gauntlet to our small group of locals and non-Tasmanians at the start of her Cafe Culture tour. 

Sydney-born Everist, dressed in bright blue, set up Hobart Walking Tours in 2010 when she moved to Tasmania, but added the cafe tours in September last year. 

"It's something I realised was really missing in Hobart," she says. "There are so many cafes, and it's such a different scene to what I've seen in both Sydney and Melbourne; cafes [here] are really friendly."

Of course we could never visit them all on a three-hour tour, so Everist has hand-picked eight that are passionate about what they do, including our first stop: the "world famous" Atlas Espresso where, in 2014, owner Sue Stagg (who might also be the world's calmest barista) set a Guinness World Record by making 353 cappuccinos in an hour. Inside, Everist orders us coffees and hands around a packet of green coffee beans and a small plastic goat, explaining that we can thank an Ethiopian goatherd and a bunch of monks for our daily addiction.

It all started when the goatherd saw his goats jumping around after eating some red fruit and took a handful of these coffee "cherries" to the local monastery. "The monks tasted them, thought they were terrible and threw them into the fire," says Everist. "Then they noticed, 'Wow, this smells really good!' and developed the coffee process that transforms that horrible bitter bean into a really nice drink." Our coffees arrive – Everist has a decaf long black, "also called a Why Bother" – and we talk about coffee styles (who knew there are 82 ways to serve coffee or that the flat white was invented in Sydney in 1985?), napkins tied around latte glasses ("If it's too hot to hold, it's not a latte; it's a hot white coffee") and reusable cups (her favourite a Frank Green smartcup with a microchip that lets you pre-order your takeaway coffee using an app). 

Moving on from Atlas, Everist sweeps us along Elizabeth Street and Hobart's cafe timeline. The first coffee beans arrived when the colony was founded in 1804, she says. Then came the anti-alcohol Temperance Movement that saw ornate coffee palaces pop up all over the city in the 1850s. 

Stepping out for a cup of coffee suddenly became the done thing, but there were mixed messages. While newspaper ads declared coffee to be invigorating, making men "fit for business", women signed petitions against it, saying coffee was "enfeebling" their husbands (who were probably enfeebled by "recreation rooms" upstairs from where coffee was sold in disreputable coffee palaces).

In the spirit of Tasmanian inclusiveness, the tour isn't just for coffee-lovers. We taste specialty tea and hand-made chocolates, savoury muffins and frozen yoghurt. (Everist gives us each a paper bag containing napkin and biodegradable spoon so we can eat on the run.) 

Coffee didn't really take off in Hobart until 1955 when the owner of Manhattan Coffee Lounge ordered the city's first espresso machine (Melbourne got the first one in Australia, in 1928), which saw customers lining up out the door for one-shilling espressos (including two biscuits!). 

It's made up for lost time now. As we wander Hobart's CBD, what strikes me is the sheer variety of cafes in this city of only 220,000 people – from humble hole-in-the-wall Bury Me Standing and pretty pink-and-green Augustus (also a chocolate shop) to 1950s-era Retro, vegan Frankie's Empire, nanna-friendly Bojangles and Speed Feed, popular with taxi drivers and police officers because it opens at 3.30am. 

We pass "cafes" that stretch the definition, like Glow on Collins where you can get a blow dry with your latte – because it's a hair salon. And Hobart got its first cat cafe last year (in North Hobart, where the tour doesn't go). 

One of Everist's favourites is Bright Eyes, on Brooke Street Pier. Why? They remember how she likes her coffee. "That's important, because going to a cafe isn't just about getting a caffeine hit. It's about getting some love, some acknowledgement. It's like an over-the-counter hug."

Our last stop is Hobart's only bookstore cafe, Afterword, "a combination of the best things in life," says Everist, offering us one last coffee. I pass. I'm buzzing already and not just from caffeine. One of the most exciting things about this tour is that it opens a door to a surprisingly urban Hobart of waist-coated baristas, cobbled lanes and commissioned street art – including the two-storey Lost Giant by Perth artist Stormie Mills, painted in 2015. 

"The idea is he's trying to find his way around town with the GPS in his phone," says Everist, "but we know he's just looking for a decent coffee."

TRIP NOTES

MORE 

traveller.com.au/tasmania 

discovertasmania.com.au

FLY

Virgin Australia and Jetstar both fly direct to Hobart from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. See virginaustralia.com and jetstar.com

STAY

Sullivans Cove Apartments has luxury apartments in heritage buildings along Hobart's waterfront including the three-bedroom Brooke Street Terrace Penthouse from $460 a night for two people. See sullivanscoveapartments.com.au

TOUR

Hobart Walking Tours runs three-hour Hobart Cafe Culture tours for $65 per person on Wednesday mornings and other days by appointment. See hobartwalkingtours.com.au

Louise Southerden travelled as a guest of Tourism Tasmania and Hobart Walking Tours.

This story originally appeared on Traveller.

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