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She came, she tasted, she disapproved

May 21, 2012

In YOU’VE GOT MAIL, the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romcom, Hanks talks about a certain US coffee chain being good for those who can’t make decisions.

“The whole purpose of places like St*bucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”

Fair enough. But how many people want that defining sense of self to say: Weak. Bitter. Tasteless?

I’ve kept quiet about bad coffee for too long. As a long-time macchiato drinker, I don’t mind that the macchiati I order in Sydney cafes come in a variety of sizes (well, I do, but…). What really disappoints is so many are undrinkable, giving me no choice but to leave a long trail of unfinished drinks all over town.

Tasting an inferior long black in a 5-star Canberra hotel in the late 1980s. I still adopt that scowl when required.

I remember watching the 1960s US sitcom GREEN ACRES. One of the main characters – the newly married Lisa (Eva Gabor) – prepares the daily breakfast coffee for husband Oliver (Eddie Albert). The thick, tar-like sludge that oozed from the pot looked shocking to me back then. Today I’d probably drink it in a heartbeat.

My coffee credentials are firmly steeped in an Italian heritage that takes its caffeine seriously. Trained as a small child by my father to grind the beans on a manual machine in my lap, I still bear the dents on my inner thighs where I clutched the grinder. Crunch crunch crunch, then into the stovetop Moka. My place of birth is responsible for this obsession and I freely admit to withdrawal symptoms between visits. (In the Jan 2012 issue of ‘Italianicious’ mag, I talk more about this in ‘Trieste and the Meaning of Coffee’ – see link or in next post).  http://www.flickr.com/photos/plumdumplings/6845911655/in/photostream

A good coffee is a revelation and I had fully intended that my first blog should include a recommendation or two for local cafes, however, chances are the barista who makes my coffee today will be gone next week. Sydney, you’re such a fickle town.

This is not meant to be a food blog, although if the stars align and I find a cafe where the coffee is consistently good – with a perfect crema, a full body and no hint of bitterness – I’ll certainly share. Suggestions welcome too.

(The writer is still suffering the after-effects of a nasty morning cafe coffee and apologises for the tone. Women in the 17th century were banned from coffeehouses for less than this!)

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One comment

  1. […] bottom drawer. Last used in 1989 by my dear late dad – and sometimes me  (see older blogpost) it deserved to be rescued after I developed my hankering for a fresh daily […]



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