Cafe Reviews

Cafe Review: The Reformatory Caffeine Lab, Sydney

Complementary sparkling water while you wait. Classy!

The Reformatory Caffeine Lab (no webpage, just a facebook page) took about zero hours to launch to massive acclaim and start winning awards. Well, more accurately, it took nearly a year's worth of blood, sweat and tears. But after that it was all downhill.

The founder, a friendly Colombian guy named Simon Jaramillo, took a long time (years, he says) to develop the concept, source the materials and build out his perfect shop. He didn't pull any punches. The benchtop is one solid piece of tree trunk and took months to make. The murals on the wall are hand drawn comic book-style sketches that took weeks (he's a big fan of comic books, apparently). The lighting fixture is a unique semi-industrial looking grill running the whole length of the shop. Even the door, which is mostly up, took nine months to make. Did we mention that the entire bar is on a sloping incline and is built on what used to be a driveway?

Pretty big improvement.

Simon makes coffee for everyone. You can get a latte here (I assume), and any kind of non-espresso drink including coffee made with the hot item of the moment, the Steampunk by Alpha Dominche. (Basically a super fancy and hot looking Aeropress.) Since there was a 'sommelier' tasting set for two on the menu, I just had to get it. Hey I was there with a friend (who ended up giving her share to me, obviously).

Tasting set at The Reformatory Caffeine Lab

What can I say? It was as delicious as it was beautifully presented. Simon has great design sense and flair, and puts it into his marketing, his delivery and his presentation. I mean, check out those badass drawings behind the coffee served in decanters and beakers. From the sparkling mineral water served up the moment we placed an order through to the logo'd wooden board on which the coffee was served (like a pizza! and presumably as delicious), everything is thought through. He is knowledgeable about the origins and can comment to what's fruity, what's chocolatey and what just, honestly, tastes like coffee. (We went for something less fruity, being overwhelmed by overdoses of strawberry in juice-I-mean-coffee recently.)

The Lab uses its own beans. Simon has been roasting for years (where he cut his teeth in the coffee trade), and imports, roasts and brews with his own beans. 

The Reformatory Caffeine Lab is at 17–51 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills (weird street number, but see above reference to the fact that it used to be a driveway) and is open Mon–Fri from 6.30am–4pm and on Sat from 8am–2pm.