In Short: Coffee Traders is a gem of a cafe located in Castle Hill. With a relentless focus on fresh ingredients, pride in their food coupled with a focus on customer service, and expertly made coffee. If it’s not on the menu, ask if the Beef Hotpot is available, it’s stunning.
Cafés and restaurants offering Asian fusion style food has really picked up in Sydney. While it is thriving in the hip and trendy suburbs of Surry Hills and Newtown, there are spaces further afield that are on par or better and one such is example is Coffee Traders with their cross over menu.
Coffee Traders opened in August 2018, bringing excellent cafe fare to the industrial section of Castle Hill. Owner James is not new to the café industry, having owned a previous café in Top Ryde. Having conquered Ryde he is now out to win over the folks of The Hills with his style of food and coffee. His vision is to design an environment that is warm, relaxing, family friendly and even pet friendly, a place where everyone is welcome and able to enjoy a relaxing good meal. A combination of green leafy plants and pretty flowers around the café gives it a feel akin to a tropical greenhouse. There are also a variety of seating options, from the individual table and chairs seating, to long communal tables and comfortable sofa seating set in the corner with a mirror backdrop.
Featuring coffee from local roaster Seven Miles Coffee Roasters in Manly, James works the machines expertly to create high quality coffees. My piccolo was robust and a heady with fruity flavours. Warm not hot, silky and smooth with the acidity just strong enough to cut through the milk. I loved the honey sweet finish.
James has clearly put careful though in creating the food menu for Coffee Traders. For those who like familiar café classics, there is the Bacon and Eggs roll and Smash Avo on toast. For those who would like a healthy start to their day though, look no further than their Chia Super Bowl that comes with granola muesli, coconut cream, blank chai seeds, fresh berries and banana. The chia seeds are addictive, tiny pearls sitting atop the muesli, which is made with high-quality ingredients including almonds and macadamia nuts. The slices of bananas are mellow and creamy while the fresh berries provide an explosion of sweet tart flavours. Finally, the coconut cream serves to binds all the ingredients together into one harmonious bowl of food that not only looks good but is actually good for your body as well. If healthy food tasted and looked this good, then I am completely sold on it.
Coffee Traders has a special item in their menu that caught my eye from the moment that I entered their cafe. It is their Asian Beef Hotpot with Pickled Vegetable and Greens on Seasoned Rice (酸菜卤肉饭). Just reading the description of the dish got me very excited. In my mind, I had visions of deliciously tender braised meats, mixed with sweet sour pickled green mustard and that had me drooling from the on start. When the dish was served and I had my first mouthful of the rice with a bit of the meat and pickled greens, I was ready to sink into my chair as I was transported to Chinese food heaven. This is a dish that you can find in most Chinese households and restaurants, usually prepared with lots of love and care. You can tell that immense effort has gone into Coffee Trader’s version of the classic Chinese dish in an attempt to perfect it, from the careful selection of cut of meat used, to the treatment of the ingredients to ensure that it provides a delicious yet Coffee Traders’ own signature stamp of flavour. Each ingredient has a role to play to the overall success of the dish. Even the rice was carefully cooked to the right level of al dente, not mushy soft but every little grain of rice is warm, plump and fluffy. The result is a dish that is rich, sweet, salty, tangy, fragrant, umami flavours in each spoonful. The beef is rich and meaty in flavours, that comes from the generous chucks of braised beef cheeks that has been slow cooked for many hours. The only utensil you need to enjoy this dish is a spoon as the meat is so tender, you just have to prod it with a spoon to break it up. The spoon is also useful to mix up the beef, rice and mustard green pickle so that you get a small selection of each component of the dish. That’s when you realise why the pickled mustard green is essential to the dish as its tangy, mild chilli flavours helps to break up the richness of the dish. Most of the time the pickled mustard is salty, but the chef has clearly managed to reduce the level of saltiness from the pickled mustard while at the same time retaining its signature textures and flavours. All in all, this is a bowl of the ultimate comfort food for me and a definitely must-try when you visit Coffee Traders.
When at Coffee Traders, it is recommended that you always leave room for dessert. One of their star desserts is their French Toast. This is not your normal bread dipped in egg wash and pan fried. This french toast comes with a berry compote, rose water syrup, a scoop of gelato and is finished with a flourish of pink fairy floss. The French toast is thick, fluffy and generous. It is so good that it can be eaten on its own. The addition of the fruits not only adds colour fruits (green kiwi, red strawberries, black blackberries, yellow peaches), it also allows for flavour from the different fruits used to shine. There is also bold flavours from the rose water syrup and a scoop of gelato to cool things off. Finally the dessert is dressed with wisps of the pink fairy floss as a final flourish. Not only is it Instagram-worthy pretty, this is one dessert that is dressed like a princess but a taste fit for a queen.
As good as the French Toast was, the highlight dessert for me though has to be the cakes on offer in Coffee Traders. Maybe its because I love my cakes but the first opportunity I got to leave the table for a second, I stood up and went straight to the cafe cabinet to check out and cast an eye over the cakes. We were told by James that each piece of pastry is carefully selected and crafted for Coffee Traders. There is only a limited number of each items so if you do see a cake that you like when you walk in, make sure to order it then and have then put it aside for you or it might be sold out by the time you are ready for dessert. The cake of the day for me is the Green Tea (Matcha) Swiss Roll , which according to James is only available in limited quantity on weekends. The soft light-as-air matcha flavoured sponge cake roll is filled with a light airy matcha cream centre, with swirls of whipped cream topping and a dusting of matcha powder on top. Finally to give a contrast to the predominately green coloured dessert, sits a red halved strawberry, served on dark blue plate with a dusting of white powder sugar. Not only is the presentation outstanding, the flavours of the Swiss roll and cream filling has just the right balance of sweetness and slight bitterness from the matcha. It delivers the matcha hit without being overpowered on the green tea flavours. This is one cake that has me craving for more but I should be grateful and honoured as that was the last slice for the day.
In talking to the owner James, you can feel the sense of pride and love in what he does. He appears to know most regular customers, greeting them as name as they walk through the door. For new customers, if he is able to tear himself away from the coffee machine where he is passionately making each cup of coffee for the customers, he would come out from behind the counter, engaging with the customers to get to know them better, get their feedback and their opinions of the experience. Coffee Traders Café is a great reminder that if you have a vision and put enough passion and love into what you do, the results will speak for itself.
*Coco & Vine dined as guests of Coffee Traders. However, all images and opinions are our own.