I can’t decide whether Ona’s new Marrickville flagship looks more like an Apple store, a winery’s tasting room, or a high-school science lab. In any case, the only cafe I’ve ever been to that looks remotely like it was in Melbourne. It was Ona Melbourne.

It takes a lot for a specialty roaster to stand out in a country where caffeine is as essential a utility as water and electricity. But when Olympian-turned-barista Sasa Sestic founded Ona in Canberra, in 2008, it quickly became one of the most singular coffee companies in Australia. And after 14 years and five venues, its innovative, sustainable approach to growing, processing and preparing coffee is garnering increasing international acclaim.

Ona’s latest is a place every coffee enthusiast in Sydney needs to visit. Where Hario hobbyists, James Hoffmann binge-watchers, pour-over pals and ’spro bros can commune, geek out and be merry. But if you’re a person who just wants their morning flat white without any of the nerdy faff, you’re catered for too. Yes, you can come here and learn the minute difference between carbonic maceration and anaerobic fermentation (or at least, do what I did and smile, nod and say “that’s wild”), or you can sit down, have a cracking brekkie and get on with your day. Ona does it all.

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It can because it’s basically two venues in one. As you walk up, a takeaway coffee window overlooks outdoor benches and tables. Inside is a little reception area, where you can order a coffee to go or to have outside. These cups are made on house blends and a house espresso roast, and cost the same as they would at any other cafe in the area. There’s a little pastry cabinet and some ready-to-eat sandwiches, and an array of coffee gear and beans to buy. The bumper all-day food menu includes a coffee-braised beef roll; hotcakes topped with blueberries, lemon confit and rum custard; and smoked labneh and roasted beetroot on Iggy’s sourdough. But today I’m here to go into the main room, where the serious coffee stuff happens.

As I take my seat, my barista, Jason, asks me how I usually take my coffee. The long room has three identically sized coffee bars, each looking like a cross between a cocktail station and an omakase counter. Because I’ve told Jason that I’m in an espresso mood, we move towards the first coffee bar, which is dedicated to all of Ona’s espresso-based drinks. (Bar two is for filter coffee and coffee mocktails, and bar three is devoted just to filter.) I reach for the menu, a tome absolutely crammed with coffee knowledge: from provenance, terroir and flavour profiles to washing and processing details. Ona’s sister company, Project Origin, has even designed a flavour spectrum – like a colour wheel for coffee – so you can pick exactly the kind of experience you want.

I ordered a house espresso, which cost $5.50, as well as a $26 shot from the “masterpiece” section of the menu (the most expensive coffee on the menu is $33). Honestly, although coffee makes up an unhealthy amount of my personality, I never thought I’d be dropping that much dosh on a cup of joe. It seemed like a crazy price, so I wanted Jason to be wrong – for there to be no difference between the two vastly differently priced espressos in front of me. Bad news, folks: the more expensive coffee was way better. Like, 20 dollars better. And, as Jason prepared my coffees as fastidiously as Rowan Atkinson gift-wrapped that affair necklace for Alan Rickman in Love Actually – stopping every now and then to give me a sniff of some coffee grounds, or to explain why a golden Paragon chilling ball can change the entire taste of an espresso extraction – I could feel my mind being blown in real time.

Usually, I’m not a fan of feeling like a big, stupid idiot when I go out and spend money, but the staff’s enthusiasm for what they’re doing, and the way they share their passion and knowledge to you with total sincerity (and a complete lack of condescension) is just commendable. I walked into Ona feeling pretty slick about my coffee knowledge, and by the time I got up to leave – way too hoofed-up on caff for 2.30pm on a Tuesday – I felt like a total noob, but more excited about coffee than I have been in a long time.

Ona Coffee
58 Smith Street, Marrickville

Hours:
Mon to Fri 7.30am–3pm
Sat & Sun 8am–3pm

onacoffee.com.au
@ona.sydney