Review: The Rocks Aroma Festival


On a wintry Sunday, Sydney hosted a whole festival celebrating my absolute weakness: coffee. The historic and picturesque scene of The Rocks became flooded with coffee connoisseurs, chocoholics and foodies.

For me, it’s not just about satiating an appetite. It is experiencing the story of many people’s vision materialising into something tangible to our tastebuds. Something shareable with loved ones and strangers alike. Something that walks the line between art and science with finesse. Yes, I can get all that in a good cup of coffee!

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There were well over 60 stalls of coffee roasters, herbal teas and heart-warming cocoa, hand-made sweets and gourmet savouries. Every nook and cranny was filled with a surprise and I was rewarded for my aimlessness.

From a tea leaf reading by The Argyle Oracle tucked away behind the main strip to a spontaneous brunch at Creperie Suzette. Entering the French creperie was like stepping into a cathedral; the sun rays refracted off every surface and broke into a million colours under which we enjoyed a magnificent mocha, macchiato and two savoury galettes.

I spotted a couple with an Italian gingerbread fish encrusted with what looked like gemstones and they told me it was from the Italian Gingerbread and Nougat stall. In the process of looking for the stall, I got lost down streets as filled to the brim with whimsy and magic as Diagon Alley.


Creativity is never-ending; coffee is as much of an art as it is a science. Every roaster I came across had their own wild glass contraption like something out of a steampunk fantasy; a coffee cold drip. It is the process of steeping coffee grounds in cold water for a long time, or in my mind, sending your coffee through a glass rollercoaster for a less acidic and more delicate flavour profile perfect for a gorgeous summer.

But for days where you’ve woken up too late and the morning is over, there is still hope for you. The Aroma Brew Bar, a pop-up bar ran by Endeavour Vintage Beer Co. served coffee-laced beer and cold press coffee liquor cocktails. Let the children look on with their babycinos, I say!

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I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Black Drum Roasters’ Head Trainer and Quality Control, Kevin Crouse, and former owner of Sydney’s beloved Mars Hill Cafe. As we relayed to him our experience chasing the best cup of coffee in London, he shared with us the cupping that he does as part of his job and how he ‘takes it to psychotic levels’.

Kevin is exemplary. His palpable love for coffee crosses over to his love for community. So much so that to his surprise, the tribe leader of the Tierradentro region from where BDR source their Kogi Coffee Tierradentro Organic beans came all the way from Colombia to visit him at the festival!

The relationship Black Drum has with the community from which they source their beans is certainly something I hold to high esteem. Kevin has certainly carried over the social enterprise mentality from Mars Hill and enjoys making a living by being himself.

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On this lazy Sunday, we were already feeling nostalgic for this fleeting weekend with the aroma of roasted coffee beans, freshly baked cakes, and the buzz of tens of thousands of people all under the crisp cut of a winter noon by the harbour waters.

And by the end of the festival I was left thinking, “Monday morning called and it wants its 5 God-sent shots of espresso back.”


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Review and photos by Chloe Keung.