Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coffee Madness

"Our Nicole" leaving her local Nashville Starbucks where she gets filter coffee

I've been living in Melbourne for three years now and I like the place a lot. The weather's agreeable, the people are friendly and St Kilda is a Greenwich Village by the sea. 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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When Starbucks announced that they were closing almost all of their Melburnian outlets it was greeted with rejoicing in the Melbourne Age and the Herald Sun. "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 theory, 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. This of course tastes like utter 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 but 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. Many many times I have dropped in at a busy coffee shop, ordered a long black, paid my money, got my change and waited and waited and waited. In the US or UK I would stand there for a few seconds and then someone would hand me an excellent freshly brewed cup of black coffee and I would leave. In Melbourne since you have to brew every cup individually and then clean the espresso holder and fire up the machine again it can be upwards of thirty minutes (!) to get your cup of coffee. Thirty minutes for a cup of joe? This is insanity.
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Australians really need to get over themselves with this coffee nonsense. Actually there isn't really a coffee culture here at all, it's a mannered, decadent, effete, un-Australian steamed milk drinking culture. The propaganda about drip coffee is entirely bogus. Blue collar drip coffee is better than espresso coffee. It's cheaper, faster and when its made strong enough fantastic. 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 great. I'm sorry Australia, I like you, but this cult you've joined has taken you down a bad path and 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.