And by brews I mean coffee, even though there are some artisanal micro beer breweries around as well. Australia is well known for it’s high quality coffees and love for small, independent cafes and roasters. I was able to visit the Melbourne International Coffee Exhibition in Melbourne Showgrounds last Sunday, where I got properly buzzed with the different brews, beans and required paraphernalia, coffee lovers and meticulous professionals under the same roof. I also had a peek at the World Barista Championships, but didn’t stick till the end because more coffee was calling me.
Time magazine and New York Times both have touted Australia, and especially Melbourne, as the mecca of coffee. I cannot but agree to that, even though I have been exercising my mind strength and limited my cups mostly to wake-up drinks at work. Apparently there are around 300 coffee roasters in Oz, and about 40% of those consider themselves as direct traders, working hard to offer consumers high quality coffee. Sounds legit!
Why is the coffee in Oz so great? It all dates back to the Second World War, when Australia’s first green bean trader Ernest Singer found a customer base in the American soldiers stationed in Australia, who often visited Melbourne when on leave. The Italians also played a big role in the great coffee scene, since Italians started vigorously migrating to Australia in the 1920’s when Canada and the USA restricted their immigration laws. The Italians brought among them the love for espresso: while specialty cafes in Oz make more and more filter coffees, the majority is still espresso-based brews, unlike in Europe and The US where we often sip “house coffee” from the thermos, made in the morning and whenever the thermos runs empty. Australia is also acknowledged as the pioneer in the third wave of coffee or specialty coffee. Syphon, aeropress, pour over, cold brew and other methods are available in the neighborhood cafes, and it is not uncommon to order a coffee as you were ordering a particular type of fine wine; to discuss the flavor profiles and washing methods. You can have a 20-minute discussion over coffee and proper accompanying milk (organic, skinny, almond, soy; hot, flat, double) without no one blinking an eye.
This particular interest in origin, quality and atmosphere of the everyday joe made Starbuck close over half of its’ cafes in Australia due to “business challenges unique to the Australian market” in 2008. Ha! Unlike in Europe and the States, luckily in Oz the chain is not the king.
I drink my coffee black to get the most original natural flavors out of it, but I must admit I have spent quite some time watching latte art videos in Instagram and YouTube. Getting the perfect crema espresso and frothing the milk to form shapes is intriguing, and I haven’t had the possibility to practice in a long time now. One day I will make tulips and rosettas like tying my shoelaces. Until then, I enjoy the artwork of others and sip my cups black in small cafes where the varieties are carefully chosen and they know where their brews are from.