Two (Cafes) Before Ten feat. the newbie at Nishi

by Barrister Barista


‘Why don’t you blog about that place in Civic with the bikes and the eggs and the cute baristas?’ recently quipped a friend of the Canberran.  Barrister Barista always acts on instructions, and for once, the client’s instructions seemed clear.  Not written up since Vintage Canberran in September 2011, all the evidence pointed towards Two Before Ten (you know, not Harvest, but near Harvest – Marcus Clarke St across from Chicken Gourmet?).

Two Beofre Ten Exterior with an extra shot of Lycra.

It started out like any old Winter’s day in Australian February, or something.  It was raining-threateningrain-raining-threateningrain, and all that humidity made the ‘no coffee, no workee’ vibe strong.  Tired, restless, tired, we shimmied into a twosome table at Two Before Ten and prayed (or paid, rather) for piccolo lattes.  We’d had The Rosti (was it rosti though?), and it was tasty (tasty like fennel) – we’d had The Porridge, and it was amaze-balls (carn Winter).  We supposed that The Baristas were indeed the eyeful, and The Bikes, goodness, they were everywhere.  We had the right place.


Two Before Ten do the whole roast-their-own thing.  Good on ’em.  The machine is called Hank (?) and The Hipster Factor is high. With new-seeming seven-days opening, we guess they’ll be burning the beans with the midnight oil.  (Roasting, we meant roasting the beans – we’re not quite that ignorant.)  Anyway, the team clearly had time to turn rainforest alliance green beans into fairly delicious little morsel – a brown and bright piccolo without The Wait of the peak-hour pack-in. The Pour a little low on head, and The Flavour a tiny bit high on tannin, but brown butter and buttercups and all those happy B words runneth over.  It was a tasty snack-sized coffee.

Two Before Ten Espresso

On other days, we’d agreed with the words of a beanhunter back in the day, ‘Long black was too ash for my liking’.  The Long and The Short blacks have both been delivered with the telltale ring of dust – the dust that if you dab and taste with your finger and your mouth puckers.  This is literally a side-issue, as to paraphrase the same drinker “the juice was [usually] nice”.  The Soy has also copped some flak from the less lactose-loving friends of the Canberran – the combo just never seeming intitutive here.  We know, we know, soy beans don’t actually make milk, and it masks the taste of coffee, but power to the people, it’s a feature of the modern cafe scene, and we as journalists have an obligation to… You get the idea.

Two Before Ten Interior

So, we describe the The Vibe as ‘look-at-us/industrial-eclectic’ but Two Before Ten has soul – mainly due to almost arcade locale and genuine amounts of work-related patronage.  The Canberran is also awarding points for The Website which offers genuine insight into the type of business these guys/gals are trying to run.  This might seem obvi but not all cafes are across the interwebs – facebook, twitter, instagram and a website are all horses for courses, and we all know from watching humans cook on television that it’s better to do fewer courses, and do them well, than do many courses and badly.  No one likes a one-tweet twitter account.  It seems like Two Before Ten are having a real shot.


The magic of the internets was displayed while we were contemplating coffs numero two and facebook stalking the venue (the introvert’s version of “chatting to staff”?). An  Instagram photo posted on Two Before Ten’s facebook (later tweeted and re-tweeted FTW) announces “A. Baker pop up espresso bar now open in the Nishi foyer!”  Our pulse *literally* quickened.  It’s The News, it’s a Coffee Scoop (pardon the pun) – it’s a coffeenomenon (pardon whatever that was), we thought.  It’s *literally* not everyday that Canberrans get a new coffee cart.

Nishi - Under Construction

The days you’re glad you’ve driven, you pull into a park outside the Diamant, trot into the Climate Change foyer, and, yep, you find two hipsters being paid to flirt and make you one espresso.  It’s new, it’s tiny (The Cart, and the takeaway cup), it’s far superior to the coffee at the Palace Electric, and it’s open daily for the benefit of ‘you guys’ (he thinks we work for Climate Change – cute!).  It’s hashtag ‘Here’s an idea, let’s sell coffee to public servants’, but what the hey, making coffee is a public service for the public service.  We bought it, literally, and we describe The Short as tart, vegemite and treacly – fairly dark of crema and fairly happy-making.  It turns out the obtusely named A. Baker is on day two, so we can’t judge ’em yet, but you can.

A.Baker - Pop-up Cafe

The Latte Word, today aka The Eureka moment.  The Canberran exits the Nishi foyer (movies on left, pop-up on the right) and what do we see but the Two Before Ten truck parked outside.  We realise that the social medias were not just all about ‘hey guys, there’s a new kid on the block’, it was ‘hey guys, we’ve got a new kid in the family.’  Wider inquiries reveal that A. Baker will eventually be a a bakery (no!)  and the pop-up is but the first stage of a project that will pop out even more by mid-year.  Watch that space – we know we will.

In the meantime, are A. Baker (or A. Barista at this point) holding up Two Before Ten name?  Was it worth carting beans all the way across to New Acton? Come tell us, O ye drinkers.

Two Before Ten

Ground Floor, Canberra House
40 Marcus Clarke St

Canberra City

Open 7 days

Mon – Fri: 6:30 am – 5:00 pm
Sat – Sun: 8:00 am – 2:00 pm

02 6162 1260