Saturday, March 24, 2018

On coffee in Australia

Just as in New York City, people walked around downtown Brisbane with a cup of coffee in their hands.  I wanted that cup of coffee.  In New York City, one can make a brief stop at any coffee cart and ask for "coffee."  This gets you a cup of filter-drip brew to which you can request the addition of  milk and sugar.

In Australia, coffee is what comes out of the espresso machine and this substance is used as a principal ingredient in the assembly of the coffee beverage desired.  Going into an Australian coffee shop and ordering "coffee" is like going into a US restaurant and ordering "food."  You will get a blank stare while they await your complete order.

It took me four days of experimentation to find what I needed.  Some beverages were familiar.  A flat white, latte and macchiato in the US is the same as it is in Australia.  They just don't do filter coffee, which is fine except that it means you can't get an instant coffee.   That is, there is nowhere one can walk up and have someone pull a lever for a cup of coffee instantly upon request.

Unless, you use instant coffee, which I did in my hotel room, and they do have some good ones.

So, the coffee culture is a bit different for this reason, but they are generally less-rushed about things in Australia than in the US.  One waits for a coffee in Australia, no matter what one drinks.  There's no walking up, ordering, getting served, paying and leaving as with US coffee carts and counters.  In other words, one can't do what you can do in a US Starbucks by ordering a drip coffee.  One is stuck waiting in line behind the yoga girl who wants a half-decaf soy latte no matter what you order.

I prefer what is called an "Americano" in US coffee stores, espresso diluted with hot water.  I drink filter coffee too, but I prefer diluted espresso.  They dilute espresso to two degrees in Australia, there is a "short black" and a "long black."  A short black is a drink still of low enough volume to be gulped in one drink, but smoother than undiluted espresso.  I don't really see this, or an equivalent, on the menu in US coffee shops.  A long black is an Americano in the US.  I should have looked that up on Wikipedia.

On Day 4, fortunately in the morning, I discovered the long black.

I made my discovery after confessing my frustration to a friendly woman at the concession stand on a ferry to Moreton Island.  "I want a cup of coffee but I don't know how to order it" I said with an open smile. "I'm an American" I added, probably unnecessarily.

"Oh darling," she said as she reached out her hand to pat mine "I know just what you mean, I just got back from the US.  It took me almost a week to get my husband's coffee ordered correctly."

"What does he drink in the US?" I asked.

"It's called an Americano."  She said.

"That's it." I said, "what do you call that?"

"A long black."  She added "He also likes it with milk."

"That's what I want."  I said.

She made it, it was delicious.  Tasting it and finding it was correct may have been the best moment on that whole day trip to Moreton Island.