It may be a long way from Melbourne, Australia’s coffee capital, but Cairns is home to some excellent award-winning cafes, espresso bars and specialty coffee roasters. If you need a caffeine fix while on vacation in Cairns, here are the best cafes and coffee shops to visit.
Blackbird Espresso in Cairns has been named one of Australia’s top cafes on Beanhunter.com for three years (and counting). This is a massive accolade in a country as large as Australia. Beloved by locals and visitors, Blackbird has its own fairtrade organic house blend, which can be purchased via their website. They also use Misty Mountain milk from Millaa Millaa, which has a natural fat that adds sweetness to the brew. It’s this winning combination that has people returning daily for what many say is the best coffee in Cairns.
Industry One Coffee Roasters was born out of a desire to develop the Cairns coffee culture, alongside cities like Melbourne and Wellington. They roast multiple fairtrade blended and single origin coffee beans in small batches. The award-winning Industry One also has a barista school, where you can do a short course or learn milk texturing and latte art practices. Stop by their flagship espresso bar, Portsmith Espresso, inside the roastery to sample their specialty coffee blends.
Paradiso Cafe is located on the deck at Cairns’ Centre for Contemporary Arts. If you locate the giant jelly bean statues, you’ll find Paradiso. It’s as well-known for its fun and tropical palm print takeaway coffee cups, as it is for its selection of New York bagels. The drinks menu includes smoothies, delicious thick shakes and a range of cold espresso beverages. The signature Paradiso Iced Coffee features espresso, vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate dustings and a honeycomb crumble.
The Chamber Room warns its visitors that it’s not a cafe, so don’t expect syrups or babycinos. Instead, it’s a specialty espresso and brew bar. The espresso bar uses specialty coffee blends from Code Black Coffee Roasters — a Melbourne favourite — as well as decaf from Industry Beans, another renowned Melbourne roaster. Filter coffee is the name of the game at the brew bar, which includes specialty blends from top Australian roasters like Proud Mary and Axil. The Chamber Room also serves tea, handcrafted hot chocolate blends and allergen-free foods.
Cruze Coffee is owned by Gilberto Risa, who moved from Italy to Australia in 1992. They have over 30 coffee varieties to choose from, including single origin, flavoured and original Cruze blends. Coffee beans are sourced from the best coffee-growing regions in the world, such as Africa, Asia and South America. The best part is you can visit their website and get their blends sent across Australia. As they say, life is too short to drink bad coffee.
Wharf One Cafe is run by old friends and work colleagues, Caz and Will. With Wharf One, they wanted to create a venue that was affordable and family-friendly, but that also served a modern and uncomplicated breakfast and lunch menu. Fortunately, they’ve done just that. They also proudly support other local businesses, including Madella Coffee. Caz and Will worked with Madella to develop their coffee roast, which is grown, processed and roasted on their North Queensland farm, less than 100 kilometres from Wharf One.
Bang and Grind serves two different coffee blends from Ransom Specialty Coffee Roasters, who are also locals. Their coffee menu includes the classics, as well as Turkish coffee, tumeric lattes, Frozitos (decadent frappes) and iced coffee. Enjoy your coffee to go or with a dish from the extensive breakfast and lunch menus. Unique dishes include the breakfast banana split and the buttermilk pancakes, where you choose from a selection of toppings.
The Lillipad Cafe has been serving Cairns locals and visitors since 2003. It’s known for its funky decor, international flavours and big portions. For breakfast, you could sample a breakfast burrito, the Turkish breakfast or shakshuka. The drinks menu includes fresh leaf tea, as well as iced drinks like an iced mocha or chai. Lillipad uses local companies — Misty Mountain Jersey Milk and organic Mungalli Creek — for all of their milk needs.
Caffiend are proud supporters of local coffee roasters, The Tattooed Sailor. They serve specialty blends for black (Maiden Voyage), white (White Label) and filter coffees, as well as single origin roasts. Their coffee menu includes bowls for “milky coffee” varieties, cold drip and a coconut latte, which features their homemade coconut caramel sauce. Caffiend’s support of locals doesn’t stop at their coffee either. They also source the best local food produce and are “unapologetically seasonal”.
Sipping Duck is a small batch coffee roaster and cafe with two locations in Cairns: in Stratford and Portsmith. They specialise in imported high-altitude coffee beans, which they roast at their Cairns warehouse. They offer sparkling cold brew coffee on tap, which is exclusive to Sipping Duck. They also have pour over coffee, specialty hot chocolate and cold drip coffee. But the most important point is that they’re known for their colourful latte art. To complement your coffee, choose from toasties, wraps and sweet treats.