"What on earth is a turmeric latte?" A bemused voice pierces through the general hubbub of a Sunday morning; a grandmother is wrangling two energetic toddlers while deciphering the menu. It's 10 am and staff at Waverton's leafy Coal Loader Café are racing between the bright green tables of morning coffee drinkers, dog-walkers and brunch-goers.
"It's an alternative to coffee, with turmeric and ginger," a harried waitress explains, pointing to an A-frame sign in the middle of the courtyard. Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and caffeine-free are splashed across the board.
"I'll take a cappuccino, thanks."
While it's not to everyone's tastes, it's hardly a surprise to see 'golden milk' on the menu here; the Coal Loader Café is part of the North Sydney Council's Centre of Sustainability, and the menu is filled with healthy and green initiatives. Kombucha arrives at tables with paper straws and prominent signs promise discounts when customers BYO coffee cup. Food waste from the kitchen is turned into compost on-site and local produce is used for the seasonal menu; so local in fact, that customers can trade in their home-grown produce for a cup of coffee.
"Some of the benefits include growing healthy food, mostly organic produce with very low food miles, promoting social connection between members of the group, and turning disused sites into thriving community gardens."
Maintenance of the gardens includes activities like planting, watering, helping out with the worm farm and mulching. In return, you'll get a share of zucchinis, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, flat-leaf parsley and mint, just to name a few of the blooming plants sprawling across the community garden plots waiting to be harvested. You might even collect some eggs from the resident hens!
"It was the community gardeners idea to start caring for chooks, and it fits in very well with having a sustainable food garden. The members of this group are on a roster to care for them."
For those who lack a green thumb, the community centre offers plenty of other green initiatives to get involved with. A string of empty plastic fish soy sauce bottles filled with coloured water, resembling little fairy lights, hangs above signs for free Wednesday morning yoga classes and a book-swap club. A wander through the building will teach you concepts like stormwater harvesting and solar power, and the centre acts as a drop off centre for recycling soft plastics, batteries, mobile phones and corks.
The Coal Loader Café is located at 10 Balls Head Drive, Waverton, and is open Wednesday to Sunday 7am-3pm. The Centre for Sustainability is open Monday to Friday 9am-4pm, and Saturday 10am-4pm.