Saturday, September 04, 2010

Bae mi laek fo drinkem wan fala cofi no moa

I’d not be the first to remark that Melbourne’s obsession with coffee seems to be getting a little out of hand.  T’was not all that long ago that, Lygon Street aside, if you wanted an espresso coffee, you’d have to go to one of those special Milk Bars (the ones with the somewhat perplexing, “Delicatessen” sign out the front), and even then it was only for a cappuccino or a flat white.  But now, especially in Melbourne’s Central Business District, you can’t turn around without some semi-trained dick with a portable espresso cart shooting a spray of steam in your ear, or without seeing jittery, ipod-ed students jumping about with a bucket full of latte in hand.

Of course, the rise of the espresso culture is proportional to the number of times a week one is subjected to one’s co-worker casually remarking (at 20,000 decibels across the open-plan office) to their nearest colleague, “Oh, I just can’t function without my morning coffee”.

Oh, pah-leez! Won’t you people just fuck off and leave the rest of us in peace?!  It’s just coffee you’re drinking – a legal, and very minor stimulant.  You’re not shooting-up heroin; it ain’t acid; it ain’t ice and it ain’t the ol’ nose-candy.  It’s coffee … and besides, you drink it with a pint of warm milk anyway!  So please stop carrying-on like the tough kid from down the road whose showing off to his BMX-riding mates with the pack of Alpine Lights he’s bought with the two bucks he’s nicked out of his Mum’s purse*, “What, this?  Nah, this is nothin’.  I smoke ‘em wiv me ol’ man all the time – don’t you?”.

This attention-grabbing, loudly publicized, faux-obsession with a steamy-hot beverage is not impressive; it just gives the rest of us the shits.  If these self-absorbed show-ponies would just pull their heads out of their own arses for a minute and look around, they’d notice that while they’ve been bragging about how “I can easily manage three before lunch time”, more than half of their colleagues, at any time of the day, have beneath their desk an over-flowing bin of stinking, slowly-congealing empty paper cups.

Like most obsessive types, we keep our habits to ourselves … even try to cover it up with unnecessary, old-growth-forest-destroying HP laser-printer test pages.  We are the truly obsessed, and frankly, we find your ridiculous theatrics offensive.

Now right from the outset, I wanna make it clear.  While I might be a tad on edge most of the time, my relationship with coffee is one of obsession, not addiction.  I … love … the … stuff!  And although this post might be tantamount to shouting across the office that “I just can’t start the day without my morning coffee”, it’s definitely different because I’m pretty sure no one is listening … and besides, it’s not even true … I don’t think.

OK, maybe it’s a bit true.  There could be something to be said for the fact that these days I actually like getting up early-ish on the weekend.  I have to admit that while there are two reasons for this, only one of them is to play with Hambones.  The other is to take my cheap, piece-of-shit espresso machine, and to bash it and squeeze it and gently rub it and squash it and rock it back-and-forwards and then hug it in an attempt to churn out the best possible, double-strength long black money can’t buy … and I don’t mind boasting that together we consistently produce the most exquisite thing to ever come out of such an abusive relationship.

Of course, one doesn’t just do this on the weekend … no, this is Donkey’s de rigueur start to any given day, so I’ve got the jump on my loud-mouthed colleagues long before they’ve even thought about interrupting the rest of us.  And this little morning pleasure of mine; both the drinking and the creation of the special brew, certainly keeps me going well enough until I arrive at my desk at 7.45, when I start looking around for something to drink.  A coffee’d be good, but from where?

Who else will take the kind of care I do?  Who else will obsess over finding, and then sticking to the right beans, the right roaster, the right grind, the right temperature (room and water)?  Who else will constantly worry about whether or not he’s got enough stock to get you through the weekend; who’s concerned about having enough cups on the warmer; about having all the various tamps, spoons, jugs, dirty sponges, clean sponges on hand?  Who else sees making a cup of coffee as a creation?

It’s not easy to choose.  As I mentioned, every cashed-up bogan within a hundred miles of the city these days reckons they’re obsessed with coffee, “and it has to be expresso” (sic), so as a result, every single food outlet, milk bar, convenience store, train platform, pub, street corner, law firm lobby, hospital, book shop - even McDonalds - bashes out lattes and cappuccinos at an incredible rate, and for a pretty reasonable price.  But that’s not to say they’re any good.

Now I don’t mind paying up to three dollars for a decent cuppa, but I will object to having to do so for a tasteless cup of brown water, or worse yet, the steaming mug of what I got served-up last week for the princely sum of $3.30, which looked and tasted as though a diarrheal-ridden Biafran kiddie had taken a squat over a porcelain cup.

This place was supposedly French, named after it’s proprietor, Jacque M, and located in a pretty trendy part of town.  Knowing what we all do about the French and their fastidious attention to fine dining, I thought I was probably in safe barista territory, but I should have known something was up when, as I waited for my long black, he answered the phone with, “Yeah, G’Day this is Jack Mole-ey-nooks … orr, how are ya, mate?”.

Fortunately the French redeemed themselves today … or, perhaps more correctly, some 100 years ago, when they brought culinary discretion to the South Pacific.  Today I crossed a dusty track in a five-ute, three-building, two-boat provincial town on a remote southern island in Vanuatu, and ducked-into a tin shack where I quaffed a cup of perhaps the finest, organic, locally grown and roasted espresso I’d ever sent south.  Vive la France – and jam it, Starbucks!

* - yeah, yeah, two dollars for a pack of fags … I know, I’m showing my age.

This cuppa saved my life.  Pic:

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