As many of you know, I recently returned from a month long working holiday in Australia, where my main base of operations was the city of Sydney. Contrary to the popular notion of Australia, with its pleasant climate, sunny beaches and clear waters, Sydney was everything from chilly and grey to downright wet, with a day of rain that seemed to top the downpours in Bombay too. Only towards the end of my trip, as luck (or lack thereof) would have it, did the skies clear up and let out some of that cliched Australian sun shine, just as I was bidding adieu to the land down under. Still, I can’t complain – erratic weather aside, I’d have to say my first true working holiday was an absolute blast.
One of the great aspects of remote working is that you get to work from diverse locations, and experience a variety of new things. For me in Australia, this meant that I got to work from tons of different cafes and casually (albeit superficially) interact with many baristas. Considering Australia’s coffee scene should be placed on a pedestal, this really was a wonderful perk. So today, I’m going to tell you a little about my caffeine adventures in Aussie land, and the new vocab I learned along the way.
It probably comes as no surprise that Australians are *picky* about their coffee. Even the average coffee is tasty, as compared to what you get in most run of the mill coffee shops in Bombay. And apparently, with superior coffee comes various ways of ordering. Maybe it’s because Australia is so far away from the rest of the world, but coffee is defined so differently down under. Here’s a snippet of a conversation I had with a barista on one of my working-from-cafe days that illustrated my point:
Me: can I get a coffee?
Hipster-looking barista: Sure, what would you like?
Me: Black coffee, cream on the side?
Hipster-looking barista *raises eyebrows* : So a long black? Or short black? If you want the cream you may as well get a flat white.
Me *starts stressing*: Err…What’s a flat white? Sure… *looks down and starts to mumble*… I’m new here..
So after this little incident, I did some research – both via the Internet and via ingesting various coffee “titles” over my trip, and came to certain conclusions.
Flat whites for the win!
My favorite coffee type in Australia was a flat white. One espresso shot with milk, but not the overbearing foam of a traditional cappuccino. The Aussie cafes do a flat white perfectly, and even though there isn’t “foam”, the milk is frothier to a perfect creamy consistency, complementing the coffee in a perfect duo. This is the iconic Aussie coffee in my opinion, and with “one” sugar ( most cafes here use raw sugar only) is the best pick me up, one I already miss dearly, as flat-whites, which seem to be up and coming in Bombay don’t even come close to the ones I’ve tried this far.
A little about lattes
At an Aussie cafe, a latte is served in a glass. Really. Like the cutting chai glasses we see on the streets in Mumbai, but slightly wider. While it tastes pretty similar to a regular latte (coffee, a good amount of milk) the whole glass presentation is confusing if not inconvenient. I’m not sure about the logic behind this one, but serving hot coffee filled to the brim in a thin glass makes it pretty hard to drink – think: palms on fire!
Even though, I’m not much of an espresso drinker, I did try some through my cafe explorations, for the sake of “truly appreciating a good roast”. Down under, an espresso goes by the aptly descriptive name of “short black”, because why not. I had some memorable short blacks over a weekend in Melbourne, and they were the best way to kickstart a day after a night out! A particularly tasty espresso was at Baba Brother Budan (where I tried a flat white as well) an eccentric hole-in-the-wall cafe with a ceiling that was really an art installation of suspended chairs. To describe this cafe as “alternative”, would be putting it mildly! For anyone that’s traveling to Melbourne soon, I highly recommend this joint. Sydney short blacks didn’t disappoint either, though my stomach couldn’t handle drinking them every working day.
For coffee, size matters
Obviously, if the short black exists, then the long black must as well. A long black is Aussie speak for what I’ve always known as black coffee – a single or double shot with hot water. I usually drink “long blacks” with a splash of milk (which is what I was trying to order through that aforementioned hipster-barista). But boy, am I glad that barista introduced me to the Aussie flat whites. In my opinion, a long black with “cream on the side” could be considered a deconstructed flat white. I tried mixing the separate elements together myself, only to find that it didn’t even yield an ounce of that same creamy frothy satisfaction that a properly made flat white did. Yep, it seems I’m taken!
Turns out, there’s more!
Seriously, these 4 types of coffee are just the start of it. From picolos to cold brews and more, a boutique Australian cafe is any coffee-lovers oasis. While these 4 coffees are the ones that any cafe will surely serve up, don’t let them fool you into thinking there is a dearth of coffee options – because it’s quite the contrary! In fact, the increasing options of amazing coffee even at neighborhood corner cafes is one of the reasons why generic giants like Starbucks had to close down so many of their outlets in Australia, and are still unable to crack the Aussie coffee market. Jackie Chan* apparently said “coffee is a language in itself”, and after my Aussie coffee experiences, I can’t help but think that Australia indeed speaks this language beautifully.
Stay tuned for my next few posts in the upcoming weeks about overall impressions of the land down under, and my diving adventure on the Great Barrier Reef! Oh, and before I forget – I made some DELICIOUS healthy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies a few days ago, check them out in the Recipes section!
*In case you’re wondering why I quoted Jackie Chan here, I watched Skip Trace this afternoon with my dad, and he’s been on my mind since!