This Maitland cafe has been a standout since day one

Black Label team: Jess Rinkins, Amy Noone and Mathew Collett serve a customer. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Black Label team: Jess Rinkins, Amy Noone and Mathew Collett serve a customer. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Black Label Espresso, 2/427 High St, Maitland, Mon-Fri: 6am-3pm, Sat: 6:30am-12:30pm, Sun: 8am-12pm.

You don’t have to travel very far from Black Label Espresso in Maitland to find a fan of their coffee.

When I walked past this thriving and smartly designed little cafe last week, owner and head barista Mathew Collett had his head down and his hands full. Thinking I might give him a few minutes to finish his orders, I wandered into a nearby clothes shop where, without needing any encouragement, the proprietor told me much of what I needed to know about the beans being ground next door.

Like any regular would, this lady knew her favourite blend, but it was the detail of her coffee critique, and the enthusiasm with which it was offered, that impressed me the most.

It was partly because of this encounter that made me feel that, even before I had sat down to speak with Collett, I had already learnt the most important part of the Black Label story: the locals around High Street just can’t stop raving about this coffee.

“I don’t like to talk myself up” Collett tells me. But when you have an daily queue of customers, as loyal as the lady next door, you can count on many of them spreading the good word for you.

The coffee that the locals are lining up for is roasted by Delano, an independent specialty roasting company based in Wollongong. If you haven’t heard of them yet, it’s because only two places in all of Maitland and Newcastle grind their coffee – Black Label and the café where Collett worked for two years, Xtraction Espresso.

These days Collett alternates between Delano’s Cargo blend and a Black Label house blend as his daily mainstays. As he explains, both of these blends are a medium to dark roast that offer a slightly heftier body than than his other alternative, the more lightly roasted Mavericks blend.

“The Cargo is probably my favourite,” he says. “It definitely has more of a punch to it and has the nutty, caramelly flavours that most customers, around here and in Newcastle, still want and still prefer.”

Whilst it is so often hard to identify how each blend of coffee beans can consistently deliver the body or “punch” that Collett describes, you might notice upon tasting that the current Cargo blend by Delano is a little different. A combination of Brazilian, Tanzanian, New Guinean and Ugandan beans, roasted longer to produce those elusive, nutty cocoa flavour notes, gives the coffee at Black Label a lasting and chocolate sweet finish.

If you are unlucky enough to not be able to get up here to enjoy one for yourself, try filling a Snickers bar, without the nougat, with a couple of Maltesers before dunking it in a cup of hot milk. My flat white had all of these flavours, pumped up with caffeine and poured with care and attention. Just brilliant. Next time I won’t have to wonder why this café has such energetic neighbours.