It hurt to admit: the home-brewed coffee sitting before me was less appealing than a cold shower on a winter’s day.
Not a typical realization coming from a lifelong coffee fanatic, but I’d just spent the previous day indulging in the best coffee of my life.
Each year in July the Rocks Aroma Festival is hosted at The Rocks; a harbour-side neighbourhood in the center of Sydney CBD, Australia. It’s here where coffee aficionados swarm en masse to celebrate the finest beverage ever created: coffee.
Drop into one of many coffee brewing and tasting workshops held throughout the month leading up to the festival, or simply turn up on Sunday; the main day of the festival. Either way; prepare to get more caffeinated than you’ve even been in your life.
Level up your coffee skills: book into a pre-festival workshop
The more you know about coffee, the more you enjoy coffee. If you roll into town early, book yourself into a workshop (or two) which are hosted on most days leading up to the festival. Reserve your tickets well in advance, however, as the classes are small, intimate and popular.
Coffee cupping (tasting), espresso machine training, alternative brewing classes – if you want to level up your coffee knowledge, this is your chance. The ‘education department’ of the Australian roasting company Campos Coffee oversees and delivers the classes. Saying that these guys are passionate about coffee would be an understatement; so you can be sure you’re in good hands.
Like wine, coffee can only be fully appreciated if you understand the flavors on a deeper level. In fact, it has been said that coffee has more individual flavors than wine does — whether that’s true or not, it’s clear that coffee is a complex beverage! I took advantage of the cupping class and as a result, I was ready to get the most out of each coffee I sampled on the big day.
D-Day: arrive early
Yes, it’s been said before, yet I’m still going to repeat it: arrive early to avoid lines.
The Australian public appreciates great coffee. Combine this love of coffee with a festival held in a tourist hub with 60 + stalls of gourmet coffee roasters and fine foods and what do you get?
You guessed it: the same thing you’ll find at any festival worth attending. Crowds.
Where there are crowds, there are long lines, but I found a huge lack of lines for the first few hours of the festival. My eagerness to get started prematurely was rewarded; I was like a child with no limits in a candy store.
More than just coffee
Think you’ll become bored of the festival after your third espresso? Think again.
The Aroma Festival offers much more than coffee, and it caters to coffee lovers from both ends of the spectrum – from beginners right through to veteran baristas.
Local Australian coffee roasters know what they are doing. After swilling brew upon brew from the huge number of local roasters and producers, I was impressed. Each tent offered a unique style and way of doing things. Monogamy was NOT on the agenda.
There may come a point in the day where you forget that you’re in Australia. I loved the opportunity to sample coffee styles from all corners of the globe. Kenyan coffee, South Indian filter coffee, Mayan coffee…the list goes on. Your regular old’ cappuccino never looked so dull.
If you’re the type who must have a sweet pastry of some sort in hand to accompany your coffee, I have good news for you: there’s an abundance of options to satisfy the sweet tooth; cakes, cupcakes, pastries, and things I didn’t know existed. Skip your morning breakfast before you attend the festival.
Accommodation – closer may not be better
The Rocks is a beautiful part of town; heritage sandstone buildings and pubs line the streets, which hug a gorgeous sparkling harbour. It’s the epicenter of tourism in Sydney, and the local hotel prices reflect this popularity. A couple of nights in a nearby hotel will cost you hundreds of dollars.
Sure, you should stay in one of these nearby hotels if you can afford it, but make sure you get a room with harbour views within walking distance to the festival.
If you don’t feel like quadrupling your budget, I have a better option for you.
Sydney was built around a stunning harbour, so catching a ferry as a mode of transport is a realistic and necessary option. The bonus of using the ferry system is that it offers you a breathtaking view of the city and surrounding suburbs that you won’t experience from the land.
Here’s my point: take advantage of Sydney’s reliable and affordable ferry system and you’ll spend 70% less on accommodation when compared to a hotel room in the city.
Jump on AirBnB and look for something within walking distance to a ferry terminal in the suburbs of Kirribilli, Cremorne Point, Mosman, or Manly. All ferries arrive at the gateway to the city (Circular Quay) which happens to be a five-minute walk from The Rocks.
Another affordable option is to find an AirBnB rental within the suburbs to the east of The Rocks: Woolloomooloo and Potts Point. You’ll still be within walking distance to the festival, and you have the pleasure of walking through the magnificent Botanical Gardens on your way to the festival.
You’re all set
That’s all you need to know about the Aroma Festival to make it a day to remember. You may have trouble sleeping for days after attending, but it’s worth it!
If you enjoyed this article, or just love coffee as much as I do, leave a comment or share it with your friends!