A siren song
Photo Courtesy of: Natwick
THERE WERE TWO HABITS I observed in New York in the 1970s that I would have bet money would never catch on in Australia.
One, I actually considered as a business venture. I was intrigued that Americans bought so much bottled water at the supermarket. The concept of buying water was beyond me.
(My Dad used to joke and call tap water ‘borough cordial’.)
Now, people here blithely pay up to double for a litre of water what they pay for petrol – and at sporting events and concerts it is even more outrageous. Missed a ground floor opportunity there.
The other habit I could never embrace was stopping off on the way to work to buy a cardboard container of coffee. Back then, if Styrofoam had been invented, it certainly wasn’t widely used.
The Aussies in our Times Square office would huddle around the electric jug in the mail room to boil water for a cup of instant coffee. The Americans would buy theirs on the way in.
(I also took a while to get used to the way the locals would phone the local deli to have a sandwich and a Coke delivered for a 25 cent tip.)
Aussies would never fork out for a mug of coffee on the way to the office. I mean, ‘put the kettle on’ is/was almost the national anthem.
a poseur’s lexicon
I say ‘was’ because suddenly, in Sydney and Melbourne, baristas are kings. There’s a morning procession of men and women of all ages barreling along through peak hour pedestrian traffic with single cups, or cardboard trays, of coffee. Paying anything from $3 to $4.75 for their morning hit.
Their lives now filled with a poseur’s lexicon of macchiato and espresso corretto. Almost grounds (as in coffee beans) for divorce.
A few months ago, none of this would have interested me, even though back in the days of early starts for morning radio I would have about five cups before I went on air. Unlike Cliff Richard I must have been wired before sound.
Then about 15 years ago I stopped drinking hot drinks. No coffee or tea. No reason. Just stopped.
This year, in prison, I picked up a bad habit (no, not that one) and started drinking coffee again. Mainly because the other five prisoners in my unit seemed to drink coffee on the hour, every hour.
A friend gave me a coffee machine for my birthday and, with my partner Natasha being a coffee addict, I was hooked again. Especially with the coffee machine ‘bullets’.
adopt a foreign sweetness
I read somewhere that Nespresso has churned out 27 billion bullets. Not sure if that’s in a year or three. (Probably in the past three weeks.) I know they costs you about 50-60 cents a shot from the supermarket -- but jeez it’s so convenient.
The new coffee world that has opened up for me extends way past home. I now relish dropping in at a local cafe after a walk in the park. Even have lunch at one place and then swing by another for a coffee. And sometimes a caramel slice.
Luckily, when I started back on the beans, I didn’t take sugar. I drink it ‘long black with cold milk on the side’. Sounds silly I know, but the milk you heat and froth up in your coffee machine seems to adopt a foreign sweetness.
My favourite coffee stop in Melbourne is The Botanical. They serve my style perfectly: Pure black coffee in the cup and two small jugs of piping hot water and cold milk on the side.
Fleur Depot de Pain at The Blackman Hotel which I have written about before for their good breakfasts. And my neighbourhood oasis CAFÉ 420 in St. Kilda Road.
Like a lot of new coffee and snack places, shooting up in the CBD and inner suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne, Café 420 (pictured below) is actually in the foyer of a major building. In this case, in the ANZ branch around the corner.
The barista and staff are friendly, the product is good, they have a ‘free coffee’ loyalty program and (I’m biased) a great peanut and caramel slice.
Sitting back over a cuppa and a slice I can reminisce over how wrong I was about the exportability of two New York habits.