Archive for May, 2010

Australian Made

The single origin that was being pushed at my local coffee shop last week was impossible to pronounce. Too many consonants and a fair trade sticker made the exotic import out to be a bit smug, even though it was fine in taste.

We consume 50,000 tonnes of coffee per annum and only 500 of that comes from our own backyard. I think Dick Smith would agree that it’s time the Australian Made logo became more of a focus.

The first big coffee boom was in the mid 1800’s when a couple of farmers in Queensland took advantage of the perfect growing climate. The taste was also above par because, according to Australia’s nationwide coffee consultant, Gary Trye, the ‘low acidity in Australian soil, gives Australian coffee its mild body and caramel flavour‘.

Australian coffee won awards throughout Europe in the late 1880’s. It was ‘roasted and ground on the premises’ in most food stores nationwide and a staple in the Australian diet. Unfortunately, the lack of cheap labour and a tsunami wiped out our coffee market in the early 1900’s; it has only become popular to grow in the past three decades.

Even though our resources are plentiful, cafés still look towards Ethiopia, Indonesia and Kenya to kick start their customers. It’s kind of like wine a couple decades back. Who would have thought our vineyards would gain worldwide notoriety? Now it’s our coffee’s turn to become a force on the international market, once again.

A couple of home brands are beginning to make a name for themselves, using history as a selling point. Red Earth Coffee, ‘Sydney’s first coffee shop serving Australian Grown coffee’, is a year old, although the owners, Patrick and Lisa have been selling Aussie beans for over five years in other establishments.  

Nat Jaques of Jaques Australian Coffee is accredited for inventing the first mechanical harvester. Coffee before 1980 was only picked by hand. This has enabled him to enjoy much success with his multi-award winning beans. His plantation is set up like a vineyard in Queensland, complete with tours, tastings and maybe even a ride on his patented machinery.

In Melbourne, there is Eureka Coffee in Fitzroy North. It is a family operation as the owners use their parents’ farm to pack their porta-filters full of home grown espresso. They also house Grower’s Espresso which supplies specialty coffee and tea from around the world. It’s a more balanced mix than feeling tongue tied over the one coffee on offer at most Melbourne cafés.

Buying Australian products will of course boost the economy and create more jobs. But more importantly, Australian coffee is glorious and should be easier to obtain than something from halfway around the world.

I may not sound cool asking for a ‘Byron’ blend but I know the taste is worth it and that’s a fair trade.

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Tweeting the Bean

What coffee do they drink on Network Ten’s show Neighbours? C’mon, it’s been on at 6:30 every evening for the past twenty-five years and they spend at least two scenes at the café in every episode.

It’s Genovese, and it is a clever way to market a product that mostly moves by word of mouth.

There is not a lot of advertising surrounding coffee. Apart from McDonald’s McCafé and the occasional love story intertwined with a latte-art heart on a Gloria Jeans commercial, coffee is such a quick grab that to go out of your way for one requires an intimate endorsement.

I go to places that are recommended by friends, people that have been there and experienced all that the beans and baristas have to offer. They are the best coffees, because my friends know me and they know what I like.

Yet, with the advent of cafés tweeting and hiring professional bloggers to sing sweet beans from the social media stage, where to get a good coffee has never been so easily at our fingertips.

St. Ali, one of Melbourne’s most successful cafés, hired reputable blogger Ed Charles a little while back to video blog, or vlog, all things newsworthy about their growing business. To supplement this, they regularly use the micro-blogging site, Twitter, to re-tweet clever 140 character promotions which usually turn viral.

Last week, they tweeted: “Roasters ready. Kitchen ready. Baristas ready. Floor ready. St ALi is ready for you. coffee subscription to whoever mentions this tweet 1st.”

I and eight other people re-tweeted the dare, who won? Absolutely no idea, but I have nearly 100 followers and if they ever look at what I have to say, they now have St. Ali in their vocabulary.

And so on for the eight others that thought they were up early enough to catch the 8:03 am tweet.

Other coffee affiliates that tweet good bean are Market Lane, Seven Seeds, Melbourne Coffee Review and Stumptown.

It’s so simple, follow a couple cafés, maybe a barista or two and the coffee community is on your screen whenever you log onto Twitter. It is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying for a thirty second spot or a place on a popular sitcom for that matter.

A step beyond that is to actually sell coffee on the networking site. Which is what a US based roasting company has recently engaged in.

Their Twitter alias is Atomic_Cafe and they are a micro-roaster in Massachusetts. Although they have a site for their company listed, it has been “under construction” for the past month.

Atomic_Cafe has been using Twitter to conduct business, I assume until their website is all sorted and functioning.

Recent Tweets include: “you bet bro let me know what you want for coffee your address and if you want it whole or ground, will ship it out Monday

And: “Just brought in a classic Guatemala Antigua (la flor) coming soon to an airpot near you…….”

The fact that the social media airwaves are perpetuating this word of mouth and movement offline is happening, is good enough proof for me that you can be successful even if you don’t have a stake in one of the most popular television shows in Australian history.

The people you follow on Twitter are usually the people you want to hear from. And like my friends I’ll take a coffee suggestion from any of them.

Five Minutes in the Rush

It builds with the roar of the line. I’m presently minded as the coffees pile up, one after one, and the excitement of being busy takes hold.

Head down, I only look to the first few orders and their necessary additions. Always milk before espresso as the crema will disappear within a minute.

Skinny, full and soy make their appearance in the batch at hand and the customers assume their positions in front of the machine to wait for their hit.

I fill the stainless steel jug up to where the spout begins, three quarters full. When steamed, the milk will make three large cappuccinos, or one strong latte, two normal and a flat white.  I put paper cups underneath the pouring porta-filters.

Full fat milk, finished.

I bring down the espresso filled cups while starting to froth the skinny, same amount. It doesn’t take as long to steam, because the liquid is less dense from less fat. I pour the fat milk with my right hand; make drinks, whilst the left continues to foam.

Four coffees called out loud, the crowd of people shift as a few leave and some join in.

More cups going under the pourers, more getting tacked on to the end of line.  People are talking to me, I smile and nod and laugh inappropriately, while trying to fill a tiny jug of soy for the only outsider in the batch.

The skinnys are down, poured to the brim but no time for art; there’s a snake of empty cups waiting for the steam wand to turn them into something magical. I yell them out, one by one.  

The line shifts again.

And the lone soy coffee is finished with a heart, because I had an extra millisecond and my left hand was idle.

“Thank you, it looks magnificent.” The customer smiled.

I shoot back a toothless grin and everything stops as she reminds me that I’m giving someone something they’ll enjoy. The smile gets me through the next few empties.

I look back at the mass of cups and start to steam another jug of full.


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