Coffee & Keys/West End Newcastle, Corner Charles & Station streets, Wickham. Mon-Fri: 6am-3pm, Sat: 7am-1pm.
Thank goodness. If there was anything more inconvenient than being deposited from a bus or train at the brave new world that is the west end of Newcastle, it was being left there to hunt around for a good cup of coffee. As those of you who have visited the new Wickham (Newcastle) Interchange will already know, it wasn’t exactly established with us coffee lovers in mind. Save for a small kiosk set up on site, operated by a petroleum company, the nearest espressos were hundreds of metres in any direction.
This may sound like a first world problem but this is Newcastle - a city with a first grade supply of excellent coffee on every street corner. To imagine that commuters arriving at our brand new, slightly more humble version of Central Station would be left with their eyelids heavy and their keep-cups cold seemed unfathomable. Especially when all the billboards have been promising us we’re about to be revitalised.
Yet, that is exactly the word that springs to mind once you enter Coffee and Keys, the latest coffee venture to be opened and managed by Jules Thomas. Her past forays into coffee at Saluna on King Street and Grinding Halt in Kotara may have been hot spots for caffeine, but her latest project involves a newer kind of revitalisation – the high-rise towers of Wickham.
If anything symbolises the west end of Newcastle in 2018 it is a café that shares its service area with a development company - a place where you can snap up a three-bedder with harbour views before you have finished your almond milk latte. The fusion of real estate office with coffee shop gives the entire space an urbane, architectural feel. Between vines hanging from exposed steel beams come shafts of natural light onto marbled benchtops and corrugated columns. In big glass boxes are scaled models of residential projects soon to rise. It’s all ambitious, futuristic and mathematical. Not a lot like Wickham used to be.
But there is quite literally a flip side. For every meticulously planned square metre of office concrete, there is the ordered chaos of its opposite – a lively espresso bar grinding away for the faithful. For something very new and unfamiliar, it is still a coffee shop on an inner city of Newcastle corner. The beans are locally roasted and hand delivered in unmarked paper bags. Some things in this city are staying the same.
The blend on offer at Coffee & Keys has been custom roasted by an outfit with an excellent reputation. A Brazilian, Colombian, Sumatran and Nicaraguan combination has tonnes of body but is remarkably low on acidity. Caramel and chocolate notes come through with milk, but it is also a blend that holds together well if you prefer your coffee black.
I often order a coffee with an extra shot and some are definitely easier and more pleasurable to drink than others. This is not one of the others. This is revitalisation.