Core Espresso on Darby Street pays heed to the little things, like coffee

Special space: Core Espresso barista Charlee Hodge, left, and barista/manager Rosie Scanlan at the Darby Street cafe. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Special space: Core Espresso barista Charlee Hodge, left, and barista/manager Rosie Scanlan at the Darby Street cafe. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Core Espresso, 162 Darby St, Cooks Hill, Mon-Fri: 6am-2:30pm, Sat-Sun: 6am-3pm.

Every so often a café will inherit some of the energy left behind by an earlier team and then immediately change it for the better. Nestled in this space some years ago was a homewares boutique that helped us to imagine the urban courtyard as a sort of bambooed, pebble stoned terrarium. Pan pipes played. Downlights glowed upwards out of copper pots. Water trickled out of places that you couldn’t quite see. For the price of a round-the-world ticket you could buy a vase the size of a mango. It was all stylised, polished and exotic. 

As our tastes have changed our concept of what counts as an urban luxury has travelled from the copper collectible to the café plate. From homewares to Core Espresso. In here there is an earthier, more nourishing version of boutique. The polished pots on the shelf have been replaced with microherbs.

In Core’s take on the urban courtyard the most exotic decorations are dolloped with zaa’taar relish and sprinkled with dukkah. In the health bowl ($23) there are wholesome greens that tumble over each other like the season themselves, around the solar spheres of two poached egg yolks. There is still a distinctive glow, but it somehow radiates from the goodness inside the ingredients themselves.

“We are a small and unique space so our menu tends to reflect this” owner Emma Reid says. “While we maintain our house favourites all year round, we like to experiment with new and exciting ingredients and combinations.”

The current blend is a mix of three origins. The Colombia Alto Vista, the Brazilian Santa Serra and the Ethiopian Genet Wonberta.

Core Espresso owner Emma Reid

It is certainly a philosophy that informs their approach to coffee. The seasonal blend from the Mullumbimby-based The Branches Coffee Roasters has garnered for Core Espresso one of the strongest followings in town. The blend is a small batch, light to medium, “fruit first” roast that tingles with the crispiest and brightest acidities. Discovering the right balance between those fruitier nuances and the bolder, finishing flavours of caramels and chocolate is still what gets most coffee roasters out of bed.

“The current blend is a mix of three origins” Reid says. “The Colombia Alto Vista, the Brazilian Santa Serra and the Ethiopian Genet Wonberta. The trick is to have a blend that is smooth served black whilst being capable of standing up through milk. The Branches nail it every time.”

The partnership forged by Reid with The Branches Roasters has allowed Core to offer their customers an entire suite of expertly prepared espresso concoctions.

“For us coffee is about connecting with our community, a sentiment shared deeply by our roaster,” Reid says. “The understanding of the bean at all stages: growing, processing, roasting and brewing and striving to achieve perfection in the cup every time is what we want to represent at our café.”