The sun is out, the winter morning air is crisp and fresh, as I am walking down the jagged old stone pavements towards the wharf, I already can smell the coffee miles away. Coffee, the only scent that can wake me up in the morning and here I am, at the annual festival for lovers of coffee, chocolate, tea and spice - the Aroma Festival at The Rocks 09 in Sydney.
The Aroma Festival at The Rocks is probably the only one event that I go religiously every year. I think I've only missed once two years ago. And let me tell you, the festival is definitely getting bigger and better each year. This year, there are more stalls, more coffee, and more ground to cover. They all spread out start from the wharf outside MCA museum, all the way up to Kendall Lane, then stretched all the way down Hickson Road reserve under the Harbour Bridge.
This year they are taking you on a whirlwind tour of coffee from around the world at four unique destinations - The Latin Quarter, The Orient, The Continent, and The Oasis. Stimulate your senses with the aroma of freshly ground coffee, tea and hot chocolate for a mere $2. Not to mention there are some stalls even giving out free drinks.
Piece of advice, best to arrive early as the crowd tends to build up around midday. Having said that, despite the big crowd that flocks to the festival each year, it is much more manageable now is spread over a greater area.
I had my first coffee from the Mokador Coffee stand, which is desperately needed to wake my body up. I am soon fully charged and well caffeinated, is time to look for some breakfast. The Turkish gozleme once again proven to be the most popular stall with a queue snakes down George St few meters down the road. But I have my eyes on the giant meatloaf as I saw one guy chomping it down as I walked past.
It is from the Lowenbrau stall on Argyle St right outside the restaurant. The first thing I noticed is the wicked witch of the west stirring a big cauldron friendly lady stirring a massive pot of green peas soup with kransky sausages. It is quite a sight with onlookers staring at the big pot, mesmerising of the green bubbles popping now and again on the surface. I settled with the German meatloaf sandwich which is super huge which I struggle to finish and the meatloaf already getting a little salty towards the end.
The event organiser has even put their creative skills to the test and set up this massive Mona Lisa mural by using 1000 cups of Grinders coffee in four different colour tones. It is so impressive viewing from the top level platform at the Overseas Passengre Terminal. Leonardo da Vinci would be proud, but how I wish the mural is actually of the cravats wearing sex icon Masterchef Australia judge, Matt Preston to promote the finale show on the same day.
My second coffee is from the Sacred Grounds which now I only noticed that they are actually part of the Voodoo Coffee company. There are also a lot of talk about Fairtrade and sustainable coffee at the festival to ensure a better deal for producers and workers by investing back in the local community.
More info : fairtrade.net
The Adora Chocolate stall is a must visit for me every year. There are two type of hot chocolate drinks available at the festival - the hot chocolate drink which is simply a chocolate malty drink mixed with milk, and the hot chocolate shot, rich thick melted chocolate sauce in a cup! Each type of drinks you can choose either dark, milk or white chocolate. I remember the milk chocolate shot was pretty sweet, so this time I go for the dark chocolate which is simply irresistible! So, don't get confused and go for the hot chocolate shot!
It does not just look good, it is edible too! Stuck with gift idea for your friend's birthday? Valentine's Day present? Christmas? Or simply feel like to indulge yourself? This stunning strawberry bouquet from Flower Fruits will definitely make the perfect gift for your next special occasions. It is simply stunning and I simply had to buy one and try it. Can't really afford the whole bouquet, but the one I had was pretty tasty too.
Apart from the coffee, chocolate and sweet treats are also a highlight this year with so many varieties to choose from. The giant cupcake at the Cupcake Bakery is simply an attention seeker. On the other hand, my little cupcake stall this year is rather a let down with not much of a presentation going on.
I am a coffee man, but only recently I am slowly warming up to the taste of Chai. I saw the vivid and colourful Chai sign with rainbow shoots out from the cup, I simply couldn't resist and have to give this organic Rainbow chai tea a try. The chai tea I've had from the Chai stall is aromatic and very strong of cinnamon flavour, almost too strong that I had to drink it very slowly while browsing the nearby stalls.
Under the bridge at Hickson Road reserve has truly turning into an Oasis. For $5, you can climb on top of a camel and have a slow ride along the Sydney harbour with Sydney Opera House as the backdrop is not something you see everyday.
A huge marquee has been set up with pillow cushions and low tables spread out over the Persian rugs. All patrons are welcome to join in a faux wedding ceremony to enjoy some entertaining performances for the wedding couple. I wander off to the Baclava stall and get myself a big sesame seeds and pistachio cookie which is crunchy and aromatic from the sesame seeds.
"Open Sesame!" I say and give me more... I just love sesame seed, I love the texture and the aromatic sesame oil is simply divine. Hence before I leave the oasis, I also go and get myself a Turkish pide bread, which almost looks like a giant ring of donut fully coated again - sesame!
One full day of fun can be bit tiresome for the little ones. I spent well over 2 hours at the festival, easy! There are simply so much things to try and taste. Only so much caffeine one could handle. Hence I decided to head back home, and get ready for my Malaysian dinner that night. But there is one last stop to check out - the gadgets inside the Overseas Passenger Terminal of course.
Inside the oversea passenger terminal is a coffee fanatics heaven, there are gadgets everywhere. From industrial size coffee machines, to a $199 hand held espresso maker, or perhaps go for something bit more BLING, a Bugatti Diva coffee machine covered in 14,000 Swarovski black and white crystals. Watch the video in this post for that extra Bling-alicious!
Aroma Festival at The Rocks is fun, fun, fun! I have my one last free hot chocolate drink from the Piazza d'Oro square before calling it a day. I am looking forward to next year Aroma Festival already!
The Aroma Festival held each year during winter with stalls from Circular Quay, to The Rocks and all the way down to Hickson Road reserve.