Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This Coffee Nonsense Has To End

I've been living in Melbourne for a year now and I like the place a lot. The weather's agreeable, the people friendly and the architecture around St Kilda reminds me a little of the South of France. One of the biggest irritations however (and if you're a regular reader of this blog you knew that that sentence was coming) is the coffee situation. In the late 1940's Melbourne had an influx of Italian immigrants who brought their coffee worshipping culture with them. In this schemata drip or filter coffee was verboten and every cup of coffee had to be individually made on an espresso machine. You could of course get an espresso itself but Melburnians became hooked on lattes and cappuccino. Gradually this sophisticated culture spread displacing the old diners and restaurants who sold drip, filter or even instant coffee. Now you can't get American style filter coffee anywhere.
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Anti Starbucks snobs are probably cheering as they read this and when Starbucks announced that they were closing almost all of their Melburnian outlets it was greeted with rejoicing in the Melbourne Age and even the tabloid Herald. "How dare these Yanks try to impose their weak kneed filter coffee on us when we are light years ahead of them," was the tedious refrain. There are two big problems with this entire grand edifice, however. If you want a standard cup of black coffee in Australia you have to ask for a "long black" which is an espresso shot mixed with hot water. The first issue I have with this is that it tastes like crap. The espresso and the water don't mix properly, it's grainy, either weak or too strong and it's basically inferior in every way to a good cup of filtered coffee (tell this to Australians and they will snort incredulously). The second problem is that it takes fecking forever just to get a bloody cup of coffee. Yesterday I was out for a walk and I dropped in at a busy coffee shop on the water front, I ordered a long black, paid my money, got my change. In the US or UK I would wait for a few seconds and then someone would hand me an excellent freshly brewed cup of black coffee and I would leave. At the Portabella coffee shop however I was informed that it would be a "thirty minute wait" for coffee. Since you have to brew every cup individually and then clean the espresso holder and fire up the machine again, this makes sense. Thirty minutes standing around with sweating, Lycra clad bikers for a crappy cup of joe. I don't think so. I got my money back and left.
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Australians really need to get over themselves with this coffee nonsense. Drip coffee is fine. It's cheap, fast and really good. Did you ever go to Malaysia? There they make fricking Nescafe with condensed milk - bloody delicious, takes two seconds.Watch 30 Rock sometime, everyone's drinking those blue takeaway cups of New York diner coffee which costs 99 cents - you add sugar, half and half - again, bloody delicious. I'm sorry Australia, I like you, but this cult you've joined has taken you down a bad path, you need an intervention. Just try brewing a big pot of filter coffee in the morning for people in a hurry or who think "long black" tastes like shite - you might be surprised by the results.
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The picture BTW is Aussie icon Nicole Kidman exiting her local Starbucks in Nashville, Tennessee.
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Oh and apologies for two beverage posts in a row, won't happen again.