To find your perfect coffee combination a visit down under to Melbourne, Australia is essential. It could change your coffee habits for ever and for the better. It did mine.
Early morning, Melbourne - I am bamboozled!
I arrived in Melbourne yesterday and, yes, maybe I am a little jet lagged, but I didn’t expect a visit to the local café to be so overwhelming - and it is all because of the coffee.
I thought the Italians were the world leaders having introduced espresso, cappuccino and latte but the Australians have taken it to another level.
Australians are head over heels with their coffee – it is not only about the taste and the quality of the bean - it is how you want it served for personal perfection and how beautiful they can make it look. Australian baristas are passionate about making coffee for YOU and the choices available to the unsuspecting visitor is vast, like the country itself.
That first breakfast I was so confused, despite being with friends and family, I ended up ordering an ‘ordinary’ it was the only term that came to mind as I listened to complicated orders that involved reams of specific instructions.
Here is my 5 Step Guide to ordering your perfect coffee in Australia.
1. Take Out or Sit In?
The virgin Australian coffee visitor is advised to sit in. Firstly, time pressures are alleviated, and you can peruse the menu and use Google for any explanations. Secondly, waiters and waitresses are working for tips so are happy to explain and guide your decision-making process.
If you decide to take out this is the time to buy a ‘Keep Cup’. We have to reduce the number of cups and plastic lids we use to save our oceans and it makes a lovely memento of your Aussie vacation.
2. Long or Short
In case you didn’t know here is how the lists go.
Long: Latte, cappuccino, flat white, Americano, piccolo latte, machiatto latte, Viennese and long black.
Short: Single espresso, double espresso, piccolo, machiatto and ristretto.
What is a ristretto? I hear you cry. Popular in Australia, it is an espresso shot but only the first half, approx. 15ml is filtered – it is apparently sweeter. You can order a double of course so you get your traditional 30ml if you are so inclined.
Milk seems, on the face of it, an easy decision. In the UK we have full fat, semi-skimmed, skimmed and, just really becoming popular, but not available everywhere, Soy. Four choices if you are lucky. Travel 9,445 miles and the list increases. Now we have our original four as well as almond, hazelnut, macadamia, rice, coconut and goat's milk and they seem to be available almost everywhere. Advising you here is a whole other article but I will say if you don’t like coconut you won’t like coconut milk!
After you've chosen the type of milk you want, the next decision is whether to have your coffee cold, warm, hot, steamed or even frothy. Here, I suggest you trust your Barista as they will know best.
How difficult can this decision be? Yes or no? One cube or two?
'Down Under' you can have sugar, white and brown, honey, maple syrup or the variety of other syrups that are on offer. In some instances, it is back to step 2 - If you choose a Viennese it is sweetened with condensed milk, so decisions 3 & 4 are made for you.
5. To Top or Not to Top?
You may want whipped cream, cinnamon or chocolate. I suggest none of these because an Australian barista is an artist and the designs made by the careful manoeuvring of your milk over your coffee are mini masterpieces. I have an Australian barista in the family. He is passionate about brewing and serving the perfect coffee every time. Even at home he practices his art and always presents the results proudly, anxious for feedback. He is one of a breed of brilliant baristas waiting to serve you.
Do not be afraid of this ordering process. Once you know what you like it becomes second nature. The pleasure you will gain from sipping that perfect blend of bean, milk and sweetness whilst destroying an artistic work of art is worth learning the rules for.
My personal favourites for coffee in Melbourne are:
Square and Compass – Clarendon St, East Melbourne
We stayed at this side of town, a convenient tram ride in to centre and better value for money than the City Centre. The Square and Compass serve healthy, typically Australian breakfasts in a relaxed atmosphere and it has a little garden to the rear. Popular with locals it serves coffee and food to go too. I had the sourdough bread with poached eggs delish. Mr had the Eggs Benedict with kaiserfleisch! Google it. Coffee was great as was the service. After two visits I was getting the hang of ordering. Ristretto for me, it turns out is too short.
The Seedling Café – Flinders Lane
The coffee menu here is simple to understand, as it is broken down according to my list, as are accoutrements. There are extensive other options on the drinks menu that include Detox Tumeric/Matcha/Beetroot Lattes served with honey and almond milk and something they call Bullet Proof. Seedling serves healthy, tasty, paleo-inspired clean food if you are feeling peckish. I tried the cappucino with almond milk. Mmmmm – the process to my perfect blend is coming along.
Brother Baba Budan – Little Bourke Street
Here the coffee is seasonal, as it is in its growing, so blends and origins change. The menu encourages you to ask the team which coffees are being served today. Ask - immerse yourself in the experience. If its something you like you may be able to take some home with you from the retail shelf. I tried a Long macchiato with macadamia milk and honey. As Goldilocks would say: too sweet! As for eating well it had to be the Avocado Smash, served with Vegemite Dust – it is Australia after all.
Melbourne is filled with coffee shops so I genuinely believe you could stop into any and be sure of a warm welcome, an extensive coffee choice and a barista artist. Don’t forget your Keep Cup if you are taking out.
And finally, I achieved my perfect Australian Coffee! I moved from ‘Ordinary’ to ‘Chai Latte on almond no topping’. Chai officially is not coffee, it is tea, but they serve it like coffee, and by getting no topping I get my own piece of art, for a moment, before I stir or slurp the milk.
Now you have these top tips and wetted your taste-buds for coffee, head to Australia.
Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, Canberra and many, many other towns are waiting with coffee shops and baristas to help you find your perfect coffee combination. Happy tasting.