C for Coffee

We Finns might be the biggest coffee consumers in the world but Australians certainly love their coffee too. However, while people back home have the filter coffee going 24/7, here in Australia the choice is basically between instant coffee and café-style brew. As the instant is pretty much undrinkable, it was not long after I moved here that I became a frequent visitor to the coffee shops.

A problem many coffee drinking foreigners have when they first arrive in Australia is to figure out what are the magic words they need to say to get the kind of coffee they want. If you drink coffee like an Italian, you are practically sorted (cappuccino, espresso or macchiato anyone?), or so I am led to believe anyway, but if you are more of a “black coffee with a little bit of milk” kind of person, like myself, then it might take a few go’s to get it right.

Kalbarri with Rakas June 2014 118

Long black is, as the name says, black coffee. It has two espresso shots topped up with hot water. It is, surprise surprise, pretty strong, and my mother, who only drinks black coffee at home, has to water hers down with more water. However, if you do drink milk, you can ask for a little bit of hot or cold milk on the side, in which case they will bring you a little jug with your coffee, from which you can then pour as little or much milk as you like. However, this can be a bit tricky if you want to get your coffee to take away, but in that case the coffee shop might let you pour some milk from one of their jugs before they or you put the lid on. Although I don’t know how well this kind of request would go down at a very busy coffee shop.

I used to have my coffee as above, but nowadays I more often get a “flat white”, which is one or two espresso shots (depending on the size) topped up with, in my case, soy milk (practically no froth). A “latte” would be the same except for the milk being frothier. The way to get this type of coffee to taste strong enough for me is to order an “extra shot”, meaning three shots of espresso in a large cup/mug of coffee, and going to a place with strong tasting espressos in general. I know other people who order “weak” coffees (only ½ shot or 1 shot in a big cup), double strong, 3/4 full, “topped up” macchiatos etc. There are so many different combinations that I don’t know how the barista and counter staff keep up with all the different requests. Did I mention that you can also get your milk either low-fat (=skim) or full-fat? Or soy of course.

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I love going to cafes; it is one of my favourite past time activities to be honest. More often than not my weekend mornings start with a yoga followed by a coffee from the local little café (if that doesn’t get you awake then nothing does). However, as the coffee habit can become quite expensive (a large coffee will roughly cost you from $4 up to $6), and as it is not always convenient to go to a coffee shop for one, approximately a year ago we invested in a “pod machine”, a new and increasingly popular choice in the market. It is not as good as a “proper” coffee, but it is a lot cheaper ($0.7-0.85 a shot) and very convenient. And it is definitely better than instant coffee. However, compared to other options, it is more appropriate for people who like to have their coffee at home (meaning it is not really suitable for travellers), and purchasing the pods can be a bit of extra work if you are using one of the brand machines, as we are.

Anyway, to give you an example of a real Australian coffee snob, a serious addict in fact, I only need to describe last weekend’s travels with my other half. We were going to a small sea-side town hours away from Perth, and before we had even left home my boyfriend was on his phone trying to figure out where in the town the odds for getting good coffee where the highest. Then the first morning we spent a good fifteen minutes driving around the town before finding the chosen establishment (this town being so small you would’ve thought you didn’t need to even look for it), just to find out that the coffee was not up to his standards. And during those fifteen minutes we had already stopped off at another place, where his highness walked out of before even tasting the stuff, just based on the look of the coffee machine.

On the second day the first thing he said after waking up was to ask how long it would be until we could head off, as in a bigger town 160 kilometres away there was a place where “reasonable” coffee could be had. Honestly, his coffee addiction has gotten so bad that I don’t know how we are going to go on our trip to Thailand in three weeks.

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