Oh dear oh dear, how many times did I hear this? Melbournians and their proud for their “coffee” culture.
I know it’s been a while since I wrote something and I promise more food posts are coming, and news on my end. This post is now under a new category: Coup de gueule. It’s a bit hard to translate from French to English but it’s like having a rant but in a more objective way, not just under anger. Well in France, when people have a coup de gueule it’s when they are not happy about something and they want to complain (fitting into the stereotype) but beyond that, to express themselves because never forget that when you brag about democracy it is only relevant under 3 main points: 1. You know what you are talking about, 2. You question your own point of view and 3. You FREAKING express your opinion. I’m just saying that because the lay-back way of life in Australia doesn’t really seem to fit in the latter but that’s another story. So, what is my coup de gueule about the Melbournian coffee culture?
So I know my opinion is a very unpopular one in Melbourne seeing the reaction of people around me when I express my opinion about this topic but seeing people on Facebook sharing this stupid ranking of Melbourne having the best coffee in the world by …booking.com (really?) just gave me a stronger desire to share with the web my view on this.
First of all, booking.com…really? You really think that because some tourists said Melbourne has the best coffee in the world is enough to show it to everyone like a world cup trophy? It’s basically saying that your restaurant is way better than a 3-star Michelin because Urbanspoon has a better rating. The democratisation of these websites to give your opinion is a good thing, don’t get me wrong but there is a tradeoff. You take the risk of substituting professionalism by amateurism. For things like a hotel room, I think there is no problem, that’s why websites like tripadvisor seems to work so well but websites for restaurants, that’s another story. On Urbanspoon, how many times I’ve seen people talking about things they don’t know. You give me a ultra sweet thai curry rich with coconut milk and they will tell you that they had the best thai curry in the world. I think grotesque exaggeration is a thing in Melbourne, you can always see in restaurants or coffee shops ” the best … in the world”, I think that’s misleading publicity because it’s there is no restriction, everyone can write they have the best something in the world and that’s when it becomes really grotesque. That’s when you loose the meaning of words. In the end, that is one reason that motivated me to write restaurant posts on my blog and to put them on Urbanspoon so that hopefully I can dilute mediocrity by an opinion that I judge based on my friends to be valuable. Ask anyone around me if I took them to non-authentic disgusting restaurants AND when I don’t know about something, I won’t judge it in my blog.
Secondly, people keep talking about their coffee but have you ever stopped for a moment to think about your hot beverage components? In a cappuccino, you have about a third coffee, a third milk and a third foam. For a latte, you have probably a fifth of your beverage made of coffee, the rest is what? Milk. So when you have a latte (milk in italian), you’re drinking a coffee-flavored milk and not the opposite and not a coffee. Can you imagine talking to people who appreciate extremely old fancy whiskies and saying that you had a wonderful last night and when they ask if you have it straight or on the rocks and you reply “just with ice cubes and Coke”. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Well it’s the same with coffee. How can you tell that your actual coffee is delicious if you have 4/5 of milk in it. The thing is, I have nothing against a nice cappuccino in the morning, latte not so much but whatever makes you happy. The problem I have is that Melbourne has a latte culture, not a coffee culture. You may think it’s the same but no, words have meanings. If you have a coffee culture, then it would be like the italians. A Japanese friend who lived in Italy told me this “Do you know how to recognise a tourist in Italy?” I replied “no, how?”. She told me “Anyone who is having a cappuccino after breakfast is one””. So what do they drink for the rest of the day? Mainly expressos. When I asked my italian supervisor what he thinks about the latte culture in Melbourne, his answer was the following ” That’s freaking milk man, I don’t get their obsession with it”. Once I got the comment saying that I was out of topic because in this person’s country, they serve instant coffee, therefore in Melbourne, there is a coffee culture…Well it’s like comparing instant noodles with a bowl of ramen from a restaurant, it’s not comparable.
If Melbourne had a true coffee culture, then most of the coffee shops would have different beans with adequate roastings and different origins to match the drink. For an espresso, I believe the roasting is quite different for a latte or an expresso because you need more bitterness and acidity for a latte as it will be diluted in milk. The good thing is that in Melbourne, true coffee shops exist with this diversity of beans, there is a very good one in South Melbourne market but most of them are the same thing because they serve the same drinks. When you walk among coffee shops during the day, you will see, it’s mainly latte. So when I was looking for a good expresso, I got something extremely bitter that in my opinion was not drinkable so they should not have put this on their menu. A separate comment more for the ladies out there. I always got the comment or question “is it true that french women are skinny?” ” how do they do it with all the food there?”. I read an article about this journalist who travels a lot between France and Australia and he compared eating habits between the 2 countries. Among the different interesting points he is raising, one caught my attention and is relevant to this post. You have a latte in the morning to work. Maybe another one at 10am for your break to wake you up. Then maybe a small one after lunch. Let’s be extreme and let’s imagine you’re having last one for a final break and a meet-up with your friend at 3pm or after work. Calculate all the calories you gather with 4 glasses of milk + sugar. A fair amount of calories for just a drink.
Last time, I had some good friends from the US that I picked up at their airport. We went to South Yarra to wait for their AirBnB apartment manager in a coffee shop. I ordered a ristretto. The waiter came back to me and ask me how I would like it served…I frowned. What do you mean how I would like it served, a ristretto is a more condensed version of an expresso. In theory, you need a machine that has more pressure than a normal one so that the extraction is done very fast as you have half of the volume of an expresso. So I asked the waited back “How do YOU serve it?”, he replied ” With ice”…ok…processing time…how the hell do you have ice in your ristretto, I was thinking maybe like a Ice Coffee with ice-cream and stuff. I told him “no ice, thanks, just the normal way”. Look at what I got
A ristretto in this coffee shop in South Yarra is a double shot of expresso in a martini glass (presumably with crushed ice) that you drink with a straw. The very funny thing is that 5 minutes ago I was explaining my view of the melbournian coffee culture and 5 minutes after I got my South Yarra style Ristretto the apartment manager was explaining how we have such a strong culture for coffee here in Melbourne. I think I have never ordered a drink that supported my view in 2 separate conversations.
Bottom line is…you can have your latte at any time of the day, please enjoy yourself, this post is not here to tell you what to drink or who you are. Australia is a very young country so whatever they can create and enjoy they will appropriate it as their own culture and that’s fine but please, words have meanings. So before you show to the rest of the world how good is your coffee culture, think again. I’ll probably make enemies today but again, I’m not here to criticise but to put my opinion out there and it’s up to you to take it and to think about it.