Megan Kelly is a creative writer with an academic background in Australian history. She has recently begun exploring a new interest – graphic design. Watch this space for her most recent creative project. This is the third of a series of three blog posts exploring Canberra. You can read her other posts here and here.
I am somewhat of a coffee fiend, but thankfully this is socially acceptable – especially in Canberra.
These are the five coffee shops I visit the most, after considering accessibility and atmosphere.
1. The Cupping Room
The Cupping Room is an automated response to ‘where do I get coffee?’- and with good reason.
The Cupping Room is a ‘concept café’ designed by a team from ONA Coffee; Canberra’s largest specialty coffee roaster and supplier.
ONA use their own ethical trading company, support sustainable farming that empowers local communities, and have won numerous awards.
What does this mean for the Cupping Room? It means their coffee is outstanding. You can order specialty blends, pour-overs, milk coffee, or black coffee.
Don’t try ordering a cappuccino – it’s milk or black.
Widespread adoration means getting a seat in the Cupping Room involves waiting outside – which isn’t an option for me.
Access to the café is via one of two wooden doors, both of which have a single step. Once inside it is very crowded.
When I go to the Cupping Room, I use the ‘Takeaway window’. Accessible with no stairs, one window at the side of the café is dedicated to takeaway orders.
Parking nearby is difficult during the week, and hectic on Saturdays!
Rivaling the Cupping Room, Harvest was there for me at a time when coffee was a study aid. Their tagline says it all:
We love coffee – we need coffee – we breathe coffee
From the outside, Harvest is a little noir. It has tinted black windows and stained wooden paneling.
Harvest is a favourite of city workers. It can be accessed from the street via entirely paved areas. One ramp is quite steep, but a gentler slope is only meters away.
The doorway has no lip or step, and counter remains clear and accessible. The café is large and uncluttered – which means wheelchair friendly.
People rave about two things at Harvest: their coffee and their muffins.
3. Stand By Me
I don’t work in the city, but I’m still drawn to the boutique coffee experience – which is where Stand By Me comes in. Tucked away in a suburban shopping ‘village’, Stand By Me is quietly hipster.
A muted mural fills one wall. There is a bookshelf of old penguin classics, shelves of old records, and vases of native flowers.
Table service means the small space doesn’t feel chaotic. Menus are written behind the counter – large enough to be read from where you’re seated. Staff also supply menus as you arrive.
The coffee is excellent, and is rivaled by their food menu.
Customers in wheelchairs can use the front door, which has no step or lips. If this door is too narrow there is also access to the café from their back courtyard.
Stand By Me is only fifteen minutes from the city but you can park at the door.
4. Espresso Room
Espresso Room is a sanctuary inside of a shopping centre. Located in Westfield Woden, Espresso Room serves up its house blend by ONA coffee with flare.
They operate oblivious of their context, so customers get boutique coffee with the access the benefits of a shopping centre. Parking is easy, and everything is accessible via lifts (if you use Westfield’s Callum street car park).
Inside the shop is crowded. However, they have additional seating outside.
There is also an Espresso Room in the CBD, and one at the Tuggeranong Hyperdome. From my experience, their coffee is consistent across stores.
5. What Café
Despite Canberra’s seemingly endless choice, I most regularly use an unpretentious coffee shop in Weston Creek.
What Café is welcoming and friendly. They know my name. They know my order. They know I like to paint. The staff at What Café take the time to talk to their customers. More than talk, they listen.
Listening – and a community focus – has translated to accessibility and approachability.
What Café is frequented by customers who use various mobility aids.
There is ramp access to the shop fronts from the car park. The café itself has a sliding door, which is usually left open. The area from the door to the counter is kept clear.
If you’re drinking in, there is plenty of room. The menu is on digital screens with a printed version available. The café has a selection of hot food made to order, as well as cakes and other sweets available.
If you are looking for an easy and welcoming space to enjoy coffee (under bowler hat light shades!) this is perfect.
What are you waiting for?
I’m not claiming these are the ‘top five’ places for coffee in Canberra, but these are the places I know and love.
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