Confessions of a caffeinatic

Jill Dupleix
Nookie for hole-in-the-wall coffee in Surry Hills.
Nookie for hole-in-the-wall coffee in Surry Hills. Photo: Jill Dupleix

How many coffees a day do you have?

It's all about the first one. I look forward to it from the moment I get out of bed. It has to be a piccolo caffe latte, the perfect ratio of espresso to milk - about 50-50 - and it has to be good or I get a bit grumpy. In reviewing season, that goes up to three or four a day - and on one spectacular occasion, seven.

What happens if you can't have it?

I feel incomplete, as if something is missing. It's the same if the coffee I have is not very good - if it's pale and weak, or crazy-strong, or stone-cold. Something inside me dies a little.

What do you look for when you go for a coffee?

Clean windows, organised work space, focused staff, good smell in the air, movement; the familiar orchestration of sounds, from the click-click of the grinder to the hiss of the steam wand to the thumping of the milk jug to settle the milk. The coffee for me is all about balance - the acidity, sweetness, depth of flavour, body, aroma, temperature; the way it all sort of emulsifies together as a whole. And the people - it's easy to tell if they're into what they're doing or not.

Super sips: Drugstore, Summer Hill.
Super sips: Drugstore, Summer Hill. Photo: Jill Dupleix

What gets your back up?

Baristas who don't know the brand of coffee they are serving. Staff wandering around calling out ''caffe latte with two''. Get a system, please. Sticky tables. Toast toasted on one side only. People whisking your coffee away the instant it's finished - that coffee left clinging to the sides slowly slides down and forms a puddle at the base that's like saying a little farewell.

There are lots of new cafes in this year's Guide. How do you find them?

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I've got a great team of reviewers who are all out there looking. Up-to-the-minute sites such as Broadsheet, Agenda, Daily Addict and The Thousands are great, but you have to get out there. I work like a meerkat, head turning left to right, screeching to a halt when I see a cafe I don't know. I'm really quite dangerous.

What's your core reviewing policy?

No snobbery. Good coffee is everywhere; it's up to us to find it. Somebody told me there was no good coffee in Liverpool, so I took that as a personal challenge and found a great little cafe. Ristretto & Co, since you asked. It's a familiar story - big-shot city bloke moves back to the area of his childhood and brings it the gift of his professionalism and experience.

After four coffees, I need lunch: Something for Jess, Chippendale.
After four coffees, I need lunch: Something for Jess, Chippendale. Photo: Jill Dupleix

How's the 2013 Guide different to 2012? More cafes are concentrating on the quality of the green bean, the roast, the whole thing, and we're just getting better and better at creating interesting spaces you want to be in. Young chefs are choosing to cook in cafes rather than restaurants, so the food's improving by the day. There's also been a massive shift to the west, and many more good ones in the south. But I know there are more out there, so please, anyone, let us know of any good ones we should add.

After all that, do you have one favourite cafe that's ''home''?

Gypsy Espresso in Potts Point, with a dream team of young baristas, a mixed bag of locals and excellent coffee that powers me through the cryptic crossword. Sometimes I'll go there for coffee even when I don't need another coffee, because I need more than coffee - I think we all need a place like that in our lives.