Wil & Sons, 102 Darby St. Cooks Hill, Tue-Thu: 8am-11pm, Fri-Sat: 8am-12am, Sun: 8am-10pm.
The cafe where you first learn to pour coffee always holds a special place in your heart. Wherever you end up in the years to come, and even if a barista hasn’t worn the apron for years, they can rely on being treated like something of a long-lost family member whenever they return.
And often the coffee will be accompanied by a different kind of hand shaking. Instead of the I-should-never-have-ordered-a-triple-shot anxiety kind, it’s the welcome-home-it’s-great-to-see-you type of hand shake.
For Ricky Reece, head barista at the brand new Wil & Sons on Darby Street, honouring the time and place where his love of coffee first began has involved more than a quick visit and a catch-up chat.
When he and cafe co-owner Toby Wilson started Cooks Hill’s newest espresso outlet recently, in the front room of the Hop Factory, their choice of roaster was a straightforward one. The beans being ground at Wil & Sons were not only blended in his home town of Forster, they were roasted by the same bloke who gave Reece his first-ever barista job over seven years ago.
Reece’s old boss, Michael Tartt, of Little Street Roasters, has cleverly balanced in this blend the flavour notes from a wide variety of origins.
From Huila in Colombia, Tiger Mountain in India and the famous Ipanema plantations in Brazil, the Bootleg blend at Wil & Sons offers hints of blackcurrant and toasted hazelnut before a lingering, full bodied finish.
“I couldn’t be happier with this coffee,” Reece says.
“It’s a beautiful cup and we’re the only ones in Newcastle who are pouring it. I’m still pretty close to the guys who roast our beans and they were happy to give it to us because they trust us to treat it right.”
It’s a beautiful cup and we’re the only ones in Newcastle who are pouring it.Ricky Reece
The team at Wil & Sons not only treat their coffee right either. On each visit I made to this café it almost felt like I had grown up in Forster too. Families, young groups of friends and grandparents were all being catered for with full servings of enthusiasm.
It’s not especially my thing in a cafe but when I looked around that Saturday morning, more than one family dog was getting plenty of attention as well. Where you can’t swing a cat in some Darby Street cafes, there’s more than enough room for any size of canine at Wil & Sons.
When I paid this place another visit the crowds had gone and the families were probably busy with their midweek, school morning routines. Ricky Reece might have gone up the coast to visit his family, but my flat white ($4) arrived just as quickly and was just as full bodied and delicious.
Curious as to whether I needed anything, even the chef appeared from the kitchen to greet me and make sure everything was alright. Maybe that’s what the mornings are always like in Forster. Welcoming like a lost-lost family member on any day of the week.