An American’s Observations of Some Charming Cafes in Australia and New Zealand


As an American “mum” visiting two of my daughters in Australia and then traveling on to New Zealand, I was prepared to see lots of beauty. However, I couldn’t help but be awed by the cafe culture. What I expected was an abundance of places that served tea to middle aged ladies wearing hats. Those existed too, but what actually seemed to be more plentiful were establishments that not only served coffee (and tea) but also innovative food. I shouldn’t have been so surprised since my daughter Allison had written an article about Navigating Australian Coffee Culture as well as posted some fabulous photos featuring Melbourne cafe culture on her  entertaining blog Naptime with Yasmine. There is no substitute for real experience though, and I came away with a few observations as well as a craving for a bliss (protein) balls. Those little morsels were seen nestled among the sweet offerings in several cafes. A recipe for Almond Butter Bliss Balls is given below; they are not too sweet but still delicious, and ingredient proportions can be played around with to suit individual tastes.

First of all, I was blown away but the sheer number of cafes.


Each of the smaller bergs we passed through in our rented car had a least one really cute cafe. In bigger cities, there seemed to be multiple coffee shops literally side by side. In contrast to the U.S., each tiny shop had its own unique individuality and style. Some major themes seemed to emerge – “shabby chic”. “retro ’50’s” or “Euro new age”. Turquoise seemed to be a favored color, but another prominent decor scheme was white paired with gleaming stainless steel adorned with potted succulents.


I LOVED the coffee cups. Probably the correct term for them is cappuccino cups. What ever they are called, I ordered a set of colorful ones from Amazon when I got home. Of course, I had to have one in turquoise.


They serve lattes in a glass.  Does anyone know why?

At one point I just ordered a regular coffee. The waitress looked confused.

“Mom, you can’t do that here”, my daughter Jennifer explained.

What? It turns out that each coffee is built from espresso. An “American” cup of coffee would have to be made by adding a lot of hot water to an espresso shot. In addition to that, since each order is individually made, be prepared for a long wait in line if the cafe has only one barista working one machine.


So, what goes with a cup of coffee? If it was ten in the morning or mid afternoon, I’d go for a sweet. Bar cookies or sheet cakes are called “slices”.  Often seen with fruit filling and crumble topping, they were absolutely over the top tasty! But so was everything else, even the “biscuits” (cookies to Americans).


If it was breakfast or lunchtime, the savory food served in the cafes was scrumptious. Even a small town cafe could be counted on to offer fresh, high quality dishes. No bagels or fried food were in sight. Always on hand were carafes of water and a supply of small glasses that patrons could help themselves to.

The following photos show just a few of the cafes we encountered.


Sonido! South American Cafe  69 Gertrude St, Fitzro, Melbourne

Very close to the Melbourne Museum.  Make sure to get there before the kitchen closes at 3 pm.


Porcelain 149 Elgin St, Carlton, Melbourne

Alright, this is really a tea parlor – but it has a special place in Allison’s heart, so I wanted to include it!


Coco Cubano 191 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney

Wide glass doors open up to the street and patio seating. Inside, leather and wood provide a cozy atmosphere.


26 on Ross 26 Ross Place, Lawrence, New Zealand

Delicious, high quality food in a tiny small town.



Uncommon 60 Chapel St, Windsor, Melbourne

Very close to some interesting back alley street art. The bliss balls were out of this world and the inspiration for the recipe below.


Chop House Arrow Ln, Arrowtown 9302, New Zealand

Just a wee bit hard to find, but the locals will tell you where it is! The food was first rate.

Recipe for Almond Butter Bliss Balls


Ingredients for six bliss balls:

1/4 cup store bought almond butter

1/4 cup whole almonds

6 dates

2 heaping tablespoons cacao powder

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Use a food processor to pulse the almonds until they are like coarse sand. Don’t allow the ground almonds to become a paste. Place in a small bowl and set aside.

Remove the seeds from the dates and roughly chop them. Place the chopped dates, almond butter, cacao powder, coconut oil, salt, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of the ground almonds in the food processor. Pulse until all ingredients are combined. Form resulting mass into six walnut sized balls. Roll each ball in the remaining ground almonds. They can be eaten immediately but they are even better after being refrigerated for a couple of hours.

Enjoy with a good cup of coffee!



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Guest Post: Naptime With Yasmine Makes Time For Melbourne’s Doughnut Time


Editor’s note:  In 2016, my adventurous, world traveling daughter spent most of the year in Australia courtesy of a Working Holiday visa. Her never boring and often hilarious blog, Naptime With Yasmine , documents much of her experiences there.  Last month, Roy and I met up with her and one of our other daughters in Sydney, and then traveled on to Melbourne. While walking around the city, I was enchanted by the window display of Doughnut Time. Besides looking absolutely delicious, the pastries displayed sported catchy little names such as “Yass Girl, You Sleigh” (red velvet with candy canes) and “O Holey Night” (Christmas cream glaze with festive sprinkles). But do they taste as good as they look? Here’s the scoop from Yasmine – but you can call her Allison.


Make Time For Melbourne’s Doughnut Time


Look through Doughnut Time’s Instagram . Do yourself a favor and open it now. It’s enough to make me want to jump out of my balcony, into the street, and sprint right down to Degraves Street in the CBD and spend another $6 to satisfy this demanding craving that’s plagued me since the first moment one of their doughnuts grazed my lips.

Doughnut time has become a massive craze. Its hashtag is everywhere, dominating Twitter and Instagram. The line is always out enormously long. Walking past the store, there are, without fail, hordes of young girls instagramming pictures of chocolate filling spewing out of the crispy pastries.




So, if the concept of doughnuts isn’t new, what makes Doughnut Time so special? In an age of nutrition-obsessed, health-conscious consumers, how can a doughnut shop not only survive, but thrive? How can a chain go from one store in Brisbane to selling in over 15 locations just a few months later? The publication Time Out Melbourne even listed it as some of the best doughnuts in all of the city. After resisting for months buying what I claimed was an overpriced item to only make me fat, I finally caved. I set off to find out.


They refer to their donuts as “works of art.” And aren’t they, though? Their website  features an array of unique creations with cheeky names and equally impressive ingredients. They have doughnuts called “The Gluten that Got Away,” “The Ed Sheeran,” and “Glazed and Confused.” Unfortunately their current menu doesn’t include those, but I opted for one that satisfied both my need for a trendy name and my chocolate craving. I didn’t leave disappointed.

I arrived at the Melbourne CBD location on Degraves Street, just a few meters from Flinders Street Station around 1:00pm, ready to take the plunge. I waited in line behind five people, but not for long. Within seconds I was at the front of the line, chatting with the two teenage girls behind the counter. “I’ll have the Zero Chills,” I said. The name of the doughnut I chose (butterscotch glaze topped with Hershey’s kisses and crushed Oreo), a popular slang term to mean that I “do what I have to do,” seemed fitting for the occasion.


They packaged my doughnut in a light blue, retro-inspired takeaway box that had, “Honey, I think it’s time. Call now” and “It’s always a good time” written on the side.  It’s as if they were mocking me for holding out for so long. They knew I couldn’t be kept away forever.


On my way to devour my doughnut in Federation Square, I stopped by 7/11 for some cheap coffee (it’s not even as bad as they say it is). After all, who can afford a $6 doughnut and coffee as expensive as it is in Melbourne ?

I took one bite. The outer edge of the doughnut had a slight crunch, but the inside was moist, fluffy, and utterly irresistible. I smeared chocolate all over my face. I licked my lips and dropped pieces of the butterscotch glaze all over my shirt. I felt full and slightly sick after my third bite, but I didn’t let that get in the way of me finishing the entire thing. I had zero chills about what other people thought. I was enjoying a special moment with this insanely sugary, insanely expensive, but insanely breathtaking dessert.

So, I asked myself again, what makes Doughnut Time so special? It’s the taste for sure. It’s absolutely about the quality. But most of all, it’s about having a fast-food, chic, hole-in-the-wall (literally) doughnut shop that gets us. They know their consumers. We want to have aesthetically pleasing desserts to Instagram and hilarious names that make references we understand. We want to frequent a place that thinks of combinations and creations that are close to home and familiar but widely unheard of and somehow still tantalizingly rare. We wanted it, and we found it. At least I did, anyway. Me and 11,000 other followers.

On that note, please excuse me. It’s Doughnut Time.



All photos taken by Allison Yates

Please visit the insanely entertaining Naptime With Yasmine , a blog that focuses on people, travel, and living and working abroad with a sense of humor and a social conscience. She is a traveler, but also a feminist and advocate, questioning the impact of her presence and the implications of her actions abroad.

My personal favorite posts have to be the great stories she tells about the year she lived in Ibiza, Spain.

As Allison says, “Have a meaningful, and most importantly, entertaining life.”