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Cupping Soon: Canberra scores a specialty coffee bar

Barrister Barista

Hands up if you’ve been cupping?  Hands down if you mean the welt-producing alternative therapy, and further down if you mean getting a bra fitted at DJs.  Cupping is a process used worldwide to showcase coffee for buying and blending, standardising preparation to highlight the subtleties of specialty coffee.  Coffee roasters pick their beans after cupping sessions around the world, for example in Guatemala, Indonesia, Mexico and Kenya.  Soon, Canberrans will be able to pick their coffee with panache, after cupping sessions at a whiz bang specialty coffee bar in Civic.

Apparently, Canberra consumes most coffee per capita of Australia’s capitals, and will soon be the best educated about it too, if Sasa Sestic and Jack Scheeren have anything to say about it.  As well as running Ona Coffee houses in Fyshwick and Manuka, travelling the world to select the best and the brightest beans, these gentlemen have put some serious brainpower into teaching Canberra to tell the difference between the beauty and the beast: specialty coffee and commodity coffee.


Jack and Sasa, with bean-shaped stars in their eyes, devoted an entire lunch break to filling HerCanberra in on their plans for a specialty coffee bar with cupping room.  Because their happy place isn’t quite built yet, we head out to Wollongong St in Fyshwick, Ona HQ, and site of a recent coffee roasting incident.  This particular Tuesday, the place is on fire, not literally: buzzing with black-clad staff and the local lunchtime trade. Before long, we’re buzzing too – spoilt for choice at a table covered in speciality cofferings.  There’s cold drip on ice (below), a reduced strength, perfumey drink, there’s a pourover (filter) that blossoms like red wine as it cools slightly.  We get dizzy jotting down the different types of acid that you can detect in coffee, both good and bad: citric, acetic, the ones in green apples and red.  It’s like a Chemistry tutorial, with coffee.


Maybe it’s our coffee goggles, but it seems like these Ona guys have vision.  They want to provide the complete flavour experience to Canberra’s increasingly discerning coffee consumers.  The design eye, Jack is like a kid at Christmas showing off plans for schmick coffee bars for espresso and for filter coffee (pourover), and a speedy takeaway window with perfectly sized, biodegradable cups (no more too-milky takeaways).  As well as serving coffee, the new Ona will be set up for coffee education, including cupping sessions, brew guides and weekly tasting experiences.  All of this jigsawed into a few square metres of recently vacated prime real estate, here.

Sasa’s ultimate goal is to close the gap between the coffee grower, the barista and the consumer, saying ‘farmers are our superstars.’  A visit to this coffee house is going to be like one of Sasa’s trips to a Central American coffee farm, thatched rooves, timber and lush greenery.   A few hashtags you’ll come across on the @ONACoffee twitter feed are #directtrade, buying straight from the growers towards developing lasting relationships, and #projectorigin, Ona’s own green bean sourcing program.  As a roaster, Ona aims to bring out the best of the beans, highlighting what each region is known for.  Yes, it’s exactly like wine.


Speaking to Sasa (above), one wonders if he was born drinking his mothers’ milk with espresso.  An Olympics-level handballer for Serbia, Sasa was apparently dismayed to observe that the Australian team was the equivalent of Serbia’s under 5s.  I’m guessing at some point that he gave it up for something Australians can do well – coffee.  Sasa explains that his focus on coffee appreciation could increasing the overall quality of coffee roasted and sold in Canberra so that ‘the customers win.’  The customers will also win in approximately four weeks, when the doors open to free coffee on the first day of trade.

News flash, with extended opening hours contemplated, there might be somewhere open in Canberra where you can get a coffee after work/dinner/drinks/movies. Also in the mix are artisan teas, shakes, fresh juices, local ginger beer an cider, reverse osmosis water, tasty foods, and wine.  Our cup runneth over.

the essentials

What: The Cupping Room
Where: 1/13 University Avenue, Canberra City
When: Mid-November
Web: The Cupping Room on Facebook

Erin Pynor

After moving from Adelaide in 2009, Barrister Barista started tweeting about all things coffee-related in Canberra. You can follow her at In her spare time she works in the APS, loves to cook and eat, read books and food magazines, and enjoy Canberra. More about the Author