Last week I was in Melbourne, Australia, for the first time in my life. I was gladly surprised with the coffee culture there. For a whole week I enjoyed a self-guided coffee tour through the city. With a few recomendations written down in my diary I ventured through the city with changing weather to visit the recomended places and additionally I popped into the places that just looked interesting.
What makes a coffee place look interesting? The place should somehow catch my attention as for any other customer. Sometimes it is the decoration, sometimes it is the location (at the waterfront or close to a park), sometimes it is their original advertisement refering to coffee. Then, the coffee expert in me kicks in and I start paying attention to other things. Do they offer single origin coffee? Do they mention the brand of coffee, or do they roast the coffee themselves? And, very important, I prefer places that smell like coffee instead of like food.
I had fun in Melbourne. I learned what Melbournians like in coffee: acidity! I tried some very acid coffees in the state-of-the-art coffee places in the city. As much as I appreciate acidity, I prefer my coffee to have a good balance between acidity and bitterness and to have a good body. Overall, Melbourne is a coffee destination: Melbournians appreciate coffee and have an increasing interest in single-origin coffee with properties that make each coffee unique.
Now I came to Sydney full of curiosity to see the coffee scene here. Guess what? Sydney is also full of coffee lovers! But Melbourne and Sydney are completely different cities. In Melbourne every block in the CBD (commercial business district) has restaurants and coffee places. On the other hand the CBD of Sydney is full of high fashion stores and for the coffee places one has to go to the neighbourhoods just outside the CBD (for instance Woolloomooloo or Potts Point) where there are indeed coffee places in every block.
Some places have just nameless generic coffee but many places have single-origin coffee! Why do I feel this is important? Because coffee blends are specific to a store, so very good blends I may not be able to find anywhere else but in that store. Single-origin coffee can be found anywhere in the world. So if I find the same single-origin coffee somewhere else I can expect it to have the same taste (assuming they roasted it equally).
Next week I’ll be back in The Netherlands, probably still not recovered from the jet lag that for sure I will have. I could then write on coffee served by airline companies….but probably I won’t for obvious reasons.
I truly enjoy travelling, maybe as much as coffee. So, when packing for a trip I wonder whether I will be able to enjoy this two passions in the coming days. Fortunately for me coffee culture is expanding and in my latest two trips I have enjoyed nice coffee in nice cities.
Last week I visited Riga with a good childhood friend. This city has a beautiful downtown: a fascinating combination of a medieval old town and art nouveau buildings. And while wondering around the city, I had a hard time not stopping at every coffee place! The coffee culture in Riga is really outstanding. There are a few major coffee chains, local but still chains, that deliver reasonably good coffee in creative beverages. But the most interesting is the little cozy coffee places, full of character, where I enjoyed good coffee served by friendly owners.
This week I am writing the blog from Melbourne, Australia. It was a long way to get here but the city is really worth the trip. And after a 30 hours trip I was carving for a good cup of coffee. That proved to be not a problem in Melbourne. Every block in the downtown has a few restaurant and coffee places, and they serve proper espressos. So far I have only spotted one major coffee chain. Local business with their own coffee trends seems to be the way to go here. Melbournians are generous with the cocoa powder topping the cappuccinos. They also like serving the cafe lattes and moccas in glasses instead of cups or mugs. Furthermore, they also serve cafe cortado, or “short mac” as they call it, after “short macchiato”, in cute little glasses. Getting acquainted with the local terminology I learned that if the short mac is completely filled up with milk then it is called a piccolino. On the other hand, if made from a double espresso the “short mac” becomes a “long mac”.
A few years ago I was in Australia for the first time, only visiting Sydney. That time I already learned some of the coffee names found in Australia (and in New Zealand). A long black is an americano but sometimes a lungo. A lungo is usually referred to as a short black. A latte macchiato is called a flat white, though sometimes I have the feeling that the difference between a cappuccino and a flat white is only the chocolate powder on top. Also, then and there I had the feeling there was hardly any coffee culture in Australia. Coffee at restaurants was usually over roasted and not properly brewed. Most of the time I could only get a weak and bitter long black. I wonder now if for coffee matters Melbourne has always been different or that it is part of a changed coffee culture in Australia. But that I will let you know next week when I am in Sydney.
About 2 years ago we decided to go to markets with our mobile espresso bar, just to see some “real” customers. That may sound strange, when running just a webshop as we do the only contact with customers is through e-mail and we just like to meet people who drink our coffee, comment on it (either good or bad) and have a chat. An espresso bar at for instance a lifestyle market is the ideal opportunity for that!
But now after 2 years and 10-15 markets we discovered there is really no such thing as “the average customer”. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise us, but somehow it did. We’ve had markets that we sold almost only cappuccino and we run out of the 24 liters of milk we brought at least an hour before closing the market. Other times we brought back more than half of that amount of milk because everybody wanted to drink espresso. Why is that? We honestly don’t know…. The weather, the mood, the time of the year? Any guess is as good as any other guess.
So what have we seen so far. Well, as said, we’ve had markets were we sold a lot of cappuccino, or a lot of espresso. Last market we did (Swan Market in Rotterdam, last weekend of September) we had a lot of people asking for lungo while in any other previous market we hardly made any lungos. And also, a lot of people asked for a double espresso instead of a single one. Maybe it’s just fashion…the last half year a large coffee company making coffee pads has heavily advertised on special coffee pads to make lungo (which is nonsense, by the way – a lungo is an espresso for which one let more water run through the machine, so the coffee is exactly the same) so maybe with the word “lungo” being frequently on TV somehow people subconsciously now start asking more often for a lungo? Or do I sound too much like an amateur Freud now?
Anyway, we always enjoy seeing our customers and have a little chat. Some just want to have a drink, some are genuinely interested in the coffee or want our advise on buying an espresso machine. Others start asking questions on coffee cultivation and so on.
Ah, that reminds me to something else quite different this market: we had several people asking whether we also have soy milk. This is also a new experience … Now I can imagine somebody having for instance lactose intolerance or just being vegan, but the interesting part was that after we told them we unfortunately don’t have soy milk most of them decided to have their coffee with cow milk instead. So they were clearly not allergic or vegan. Again, something that is (temporarily) in fashion?
I will take the opportunity to thank everybody that visited our espresso bar last weekend, or in any other market. Thank you for the nice (short) talks and your feedback on the coffee we serve….