Cupping is the process coffee graders use to judge the merit of different coffees. Graders rate each coffee by body, sweetness, flavour, acidity and aftertaste. Using a similar process to rate the cafes I visit, I’m struck by the fact that if I’d written up The Cupping Room before eating a week of Northern Rivers café breakfasts, I probably would have graded it more highly. This week has taught me that it’s possible to produce a good-looking breakfast that will slay on Instagram, but also eats cohesively as an utterly compelling (and well-priced) plate of food.
At The Cupping Room, dishes like Chorizo ($20) read well on the menu, and arrive looking intriguing with crumbed chorizo, a single fried egg, rounds of twice-cooked potato, heirloom tomatoes, a Romesco-style red sauce, yoghurt and strangely textured corn chips. To eat, on the other hand, it was curiously dissatisfying. It lacked both generosity and unity across the plate. The sharp corn chips hurt my mouth without adding anything in terms of flavour.
The Avo ($19) with a Wood-Smoked Bacon ($5) topper turns out to be your standard smashed avocado, despite it being written as half an avocado on the menu. Smoked labneh, red dukkah, lemon and sourdough round out the plate, though I’m not convinced that stacking the toast so you need to deconstruct and build your own second piece was either necessary nor clever.
With the name, and a separate coffee menu card, it’s pretty clear that The Cupping Room are serious about their coffee. The café is one of three venues owned by the Ona Coffee crew, Canberra’s biggest specialty coffee roasters. Under the guise of education, they’re proscriptive about how you’ll be drinking your coffee, dividing it into milk coffee, filter and black. And milk coffee doesn’t mean latte, either; all four types are only served as flat whites. Thankfully you’re still allowed to add your own (hipster raw) sugar.
I gave Founder ($4), a medium-bodied caramel-like fruity coffee; Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Sunset ($5), an heirloom varietal promising vanilla and honeycomb; and Black Betty ($4), a full-bodied chocolatey coffee, a try. While Black Betty scrubbed up the best, none of them impressed me more than my home beans roasted by Golden Cobra.
The Cupping Room is a pleasant airy light space to dine with all the usual hipster trappings of exposed wooden rafters, green plants and different styles of seating to break up the big space. The energetic young floor team are friendly and efficient, particularly at getting the waiting queue seated. While it didn’t quite sing for me, it is clear that The Cupping Room is the darling of Canberra’s coffee set.
The Cupping Room
1/1-13 University Avenue, Canberra
Ph: (02) 6257 6412