Initially, we were looking for a small space – a little hole in the wall where we could set up a couple of Marco SP9 brewers and sling amazing filter coffees. But then we were offered a 650sqm warehouse space in the middle of Surry Hills, Sydney and the entire plan changed. For just over two weeks at the beginning of September, we ran our first ever pop up, serving out not only those fine brews but also a rotating range of espresso coffees, a drool worthy menu by Jesse McTavish and sweet delights from Shortstop Coffee and Donuts. It was epic!
Our temporary café was tucked away on the lower ground floor of 64 Kippax Street in Surry Hills and even though we were only there for 16 days, quickly came to feel like a second home. Like many of the warehouses within the street, our site had until recently housed a bulk clothing, rag-trade business. With the last tenants out and boxes stacked into looming corridors cleared, the space opened up into a surprisingly light and vibrant space. On the sloping Kippax Street, a row of windows peeked into the space at pedestrians’ knee height while a row of windows on the parallel Sophia Street let in soft diffused light.
Amongst the expanse of polished concrete, we worked with our friends at Porter & Maple to build the engine room of the popup – a huge 4m x 4m cube bar. As contrast to the rough industrial surrounds, this central design drew the eye with crisp white geometric lines, glints of brass detailed edges and warm ply tops which drew you forward to the tasty treats on offer.
Our initial goal with the popup was to provide an opportunity for folks to explore filter – to show them just how approachable and delicious this coffee style could be. While brewed coffee is slowly being picked up by more cafes around Australia and within people’s homes, there’s still many who haven’t experienced a great filter or who might feel uncomfortable taking their first exploratory steps.
To meet this need, we dedicated one side of our central cube to a brew bar. Decked out with four Marco SP9 brewers and an EK43 grinder, we used this amazingly consistent and efficient setup to brew both single serve filters and a spread of tasting flights. For those just dipping their toe into this fun world we offered up a Processing flight, showcasing three very different flavour profiles: the washed El Mirador, wet hulled Naga Saribu and natural Ardi. We also pulled together a collection of delicious Kenyan coffees – an exploration of new relationship, fresh crop arrivals from one of the power houses of east Africa. In the final week, we were super excited to bring to the bar a flight showcasing the detailed work done by the Lamastus family in Boquete, Panama. With a washed geisha from their Luito farm, a natural process geisha from their El Burro farm and cascara from the well-known Elida estate, this was a line-up that melted minds!
While filter had been the original inspiration for our popup, with such a large space at our disposal, we had the opportunity to bring to life a venue that included much more. On another side of the bar we set up a beautiful 3group Synesso MVP Hydra customised in collaboration with Specht Design. We decided on two Nuovo Simonelli Mythos grinders for a rotating range of single origin espressos while the belt driven Mazzer Kold took the brunt of service, showcasing our four house blends. Distribution and tamping were taken care of by the uber combo of the OCD tool and PuqPress. It was great to get some solid hands on time on this setup over the two weeks and even more pleasing was how delicious the coffees were tasting! The Barista Breakfast of a flat white, espresso and filter of the same coffee turned out to be a crowd favourite and an option we’re sure we’ll see pop up on more coffee menus in the future.
With all of that caffeine flowing, we knew we needed to offer some great sustenance to keep people from wigging out. Luckily for us, long-time friend of Five Senses, chef Jesse McTavish, previously of Top Paddock and Kettle Black, was in a break between projects and brought his breakfast A-game to sunny Sydney! It was truly amazing to see the dishes he was able to turn out of the little popup kitchen we setup – check out some of the pics of that Red Fruit Salad with compressed strawberry vodka infused watermelon, berries and hazelnut mayonnaise or the Hanger Steak with dried mushrooms, coffee and burnt onions… we’ll be dreaming of these dishes for weeks to come!
And if your sweet tooth craving was calling, we worked out the best possible solution – Shortstop Coffee and Donuts. As a Melbourne favourite who has recently setup shop in Sydney, Anthony and his team’s delicious circular creations were the perfect match to a big coffee drinking session. We admit, we may have sampled one or two (or three or four) every now and then…purely for QC purposes.
With the food and drink situation under control, we worked with Liam Mugavin, furniture, lighting and interiors designer, to bring his unique angular lights to illuminate things and the sisters from Plant Tribe brought their green thumbs and created a jungle amongst the concrete pillars for us.
We had so much fun and such an incredible response to our temporary café it was truly sad to close the doors for the last time on Sunday the 18th. I think the endless coffee conversations and fresh layer of ground coffee worn into our hands had an equally invigorating effect on our team as it did on the highly caffeinated visitors sitting at the bar! We also gained a refreshed appreciation for the passion and hard work that all of our café family put into serving out excellent coffee experiences: it’s a truly challenging task to balance good systems, fine-tuned coffee extraction and customer service day after day. So to those of you slinging brews day in day out, we salute you – keep up the great work!
A huge thank you to all who came and visited us, allowed us to talk your ear off and ply you with endless cups of the good stuff! We loved every bit of it – we don’t have any further popups planned for the future but it certainly hit us with a serious jolt of inspiration which, when paired with a workplace with endless coffee on tap, could result in almost anything…stay tuned!