With their ambience and exceptional roast as well as unique café menu, a good independent café is most certainly one of the best finds. However, whilst there's no denying that boutique cafes are trendy and sophisticated, sometimes one just needs the relative anonymity of (dare I say it?) a crowded coffee chain. Coffee connoisseurs might hate me for writing this article but believe me I love an excellent cup of coffee as much as you do. I just have nothing against walking into a non-threatening coffee chain every once in a while – the help yourselves to our plastic cutlery and chocolate shaker sort of places.
This personality flaw brings me to somewhat tentatively start this discussion on Sydney's best coffee house chains.
Perhaps one of the best known chains to start with is good old Gloria Jeans Coffees. So they really are a dime a dozen and found in almost all suburban shopping centres and strips in Sydney. They can also get a tad chaotic as a favourite of parents with small children, mothers groups, school students and other such everyday people. I confess I'm still fond of my local GJ's (as the locals here affectionately call it) and like to drop in occasionally. They have an extensive coffee and snack menu so even if their coffee blend isn't up to the standards of some more discerning 'coffeesseurs', there are plenty more drink and food options to choose from. Best of all if you're ever there with a little one they will make them free babycinos which usually keeps the rug rats amused and their noses out of your drink.
Next on my list is Jamaica Blue. Not only do they make a great cup of coffee, they also cook a range of hot breakfasts if you're ever in the vicinity of one of their stores at brekkie time. One point to note though is they tend to be slow if you're eating in judging by the handful of Jamaica Blue cafes I've tried. Perhaps not the places to go if you're in a hurry but they're not too slow if you're just ordering take away. And take it from a fussy coffee drinker; their coffee really is quite good.
The Coffee Club
The Coffee Club is another popular chain that also has a full kitchen so they make a range of meals for breakfast and lunch and some even open late for dinner on some nights. They usually have plenty of tables and table service but just make sure you ask for your coffee exactly how you like to drink it…whether weak, strong or extra hot. It pays to ask for what you want as their coffee isn't always consistent and so dependent on who is making it at the time.
Whilst they may not employ your favourite barista who knows exactly how you like to drink your beans, there is still something so irresistibly random and consistent about a coffee house chain. You walk in, order and sit down without feeling the need to look or act sophisticated as you do in some more discerning establishments. They usually don't mind kids being noisy or people taking their time reading the paper or chatting to friends long after they've finished their coffee.
I'm sure there are more coffee chains out there that I haven't covered so I now hand this over to you dear readers to share your opinion on the subject.
My wife will rarely ever go to an independent cafe as she says the coffee is too variable. She goes to Michels Patiserrie as she reckons their quality remains the same throughout their stores. If we're bush and there's no Michels around she goes to McCafe for the same reason. I think their coffee is okay but their staff are the slowest anywhere. Our local, Michels in Forestville, can pump out good coffee at a speed that puts all the others to shame. She won't touch Gloria Jeans, which is a couple of shops further up. Me? I'm a heathen. As long as I get a hot strong flat white It could come from the Salvo's for all I care.
Boring,! Boring! No chains for me. Not enough love in a coffee from a chain plus where is the support for your local. Glad I am in the inner west, no problem finding consistently good coffee places, where you have the whole experience and don't feel like just another order.