Camilla Pate usually steers clear of milk in her coffee. But the manager of Ground Control in Circular Quay admits she’s been lured by the cafe’s newly introduced macadamia milk.

“One of our oldest customers mentioned he owned a macadamia nut farm, and the milk idea kind of took off from there,” says Pate. Though she usually sticks to long blacks, Pate says the milk tastes “a little bit biscuity”, and is ideal for an afternoon coffee crowd more inclined to opt for a cappuccino or mocha over the morning’s most popular coffee, the flat white.

“People in the afternoon are more open to ordering something they wouldn’t usually get, as opposed to their morning routine,” says Pate.

Following the breakfast rush – where two baristas are on hand to cater for the demand of nearby office workers – Pate settles in to chatting to customers while stationed behind the machine.

“I love talking about our single origin coffee as much as I love making them,” says Pate. “Our customers are often interested in the different tastes and flavour profiles so it’s nice to be able to share the knowledge.”

It means Pate receives insight into people’s more unusual predilections. “We occasionally get a guy who comes in and orders a regular flat white with eight sugars,” she says. “There’s absolutely zero judgement from us. He clearly just loves his coffee and loves his sugar.”

Most popular coffee order: Large flat white.

How many beans they go through: By 11am, Ground Control has already pumped out about 9kg of coffee beans – almost filling their daily quota of about 10–12kg.

Pre-order coffee from Ground Control via Skip.

Scout’s Honour

“I feel like I’m losing all my cred here,” says Anne Cooper, co-owner of Scout’s Honour. “But while most baristas are hardcore into drinks like macchiatos, I’m all about the skinny latte.”

Cooper sees a wide range of orders from her spot behind the machine at the Redfern cafe. But none more popular than what she fondly dubs ‘The Tradie’s Coffee’.

“It’s a large cappuccino with two sugars,” she says. “We get a fair few tradies through in the morning ordering those and we probably make up to 30 a day.” The runner-up? “Lattes,” says Cooper. “The ladies have lattes.”

Cooper says the coffee orders at Scout’s Honour will alter throughout the course of the day. In the morning milky coffees are in demand – as well as the increasing demand for soy and almond milks – but by the afternoon, regulars will return for long blacks or espressos.

“It’s funny because you see different trends in different areas of the city,” says Cooper. “At Morris, our other cafe in Paddington, there’s a demand for black coffees. At Scout’s Honour milk coffees are far more popular.”

Most popular coffee order: Large cappuccino with two sugars AKA The Tradie’s Coffee.

Strangest coffee order: “Other than the odd request for the double shot decaf soy latte, I have had one lady ask for a really, really hot long black,” says Cooper.

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“It can get pretty flat out in here,” says Matt Maddrell, owner at Bangbang Cafe in Surry Hills. “So it’s always good when you get someone who comes in for a decaf long black. It gives us all a good laugh and lifts our spirits.”

Maddrell says Bangbang will make up to 300 coffees a day. Regular flat whites are the most common order, followed closely by skim-milk lattes. “Skim lattes are catching up pretty quickly, actually,” says Maddrell. “They’re our most popular pre-ordered coffee.”

Maddrell himself is a flat white fan. “Extra strong,” he says. “We need them strong when our day kicks off at 5am.” Maddrell.

Decaf espressos are an oddity ordered more than you might think, says Maddrell. He’s even had a request for a two-thirds latte before: “Three-quarters is too much, and half just isn’t enough.”

Any requests he’d like to see phased out?

“We don’t think it’s right for people to sprinkle chocolate on top of coffee,” says Maddrell. “It’s got to stop. Just have a hot chocolate instead.”

Most popular coffee order: Regular flat white.

How season affects coffee orders: Despite the rise in temperature, sales of hot coffee at Bangbang increase by 30 per cent in the middle of summer and until the middle of winter.

Pre-order coffee from Bangbang via Skip.

Brewtown Newtown

It’s not unusual for Brewtown Newtown’s Dimitri Tricolas to be on his sixth cup of coffee by midday. The barista, roaster and co-group manager puts his intake down to cravings but also quality control.

“I try to limit myself to 10 a day,” he says, with batch brew being his go-to. “Sometimes it’s accidental because we have to monitor the coffee. But other times I’ll need it to stay awake.”

Making (and drinking) all that coffee is hard work, but Tricolas says the baristas will pause to challenge each other to a latte art-off, battling it out for the best rosetta or tulip. “Because of these little comps, I love making flat whites,” he says.

And his customers love drinking them. The cafe will serve between 350–450 coffees a day, the most popular being a flat white, followed by the skim latte.

“About five years ago when people were searching for a nice milky drink that wasn’t too overbearing, skim lattes were easily our most popular drink,” says Tricolas. “But it’s a larger vessel to handle.”

And what about the more left-of-centre orders?

“One that has always surprised me is the dirty chai,” he says, describing it as a chai tea or latte with a shot of espresso. “It’s the ultimate fence sitter. Is it a coffee or a tea? Chai is so powerful with very aromatic flavours, so the poor espresso really gets lost in the mix.”

Most popular coffee order: Regular flat white.

Most interesting coffee machine: The popularity of the cafe’s Steampunk machine brewed coffee, which is made via an app that controls the recipe, water temperature and volume, is steadily increasing. Brewtown was the first cafe in Australia to use it. Initially used to grind about 100g of beans when introduced in 2014, it’s increased to almost 1kg.

Pre-order coffee from Brewtown Newtown via Skip.

Broadsheet Restaurant
(Now closed.)

For Sam Sgambellone, there’s nothing better than pouring a customer – or himself – a black coffee. It’s the very representation of what gives him the biggest buzz about beans.

“It’s the type of drink that best showcases high-quality coffee,” he says. “It’s roasted well and made with skill.”

Sgambellone heads up Coffee Kaizen, a project team dedicated to the continual improvement of coffee through education and events, and is also the organiser of the NSW Barista Championships. Sgambellone also oversaw the coffee at the recent Sydney Broadsheet Restaurant.

In the restaurant’s first week, Sgambellone said flat whites were by far the most popular pour. The runner-up was lattes, followed by cappuccinos and black coffee.

“Although milk coffee still dominates, the percentage of people appreciating black coffee is steadily increasing,” says Sgambellone. “Especially as most of Sydney’s leading coffee places now feature one on their menu in some way,” he says.

Most popular coffee order: Regular flat white.