Posts Tagged 'Melbourne'

4 things you may not know about coffee

1: There are ways around high prices

I’ve seen people get rather inventive when it comes to saving money. A single shot of espresso is cheaper to buy than a latte. Usually, coffee places have a little condiments bar consisting of sugar and milk to put in tea and long blacks.

Last summer, I noticed a customer ordering a shot over ice, a common drink yet it took me a while to figure out why the complimentary milk jug was empty when he left. Then it hit, he made his own iced coffee.

We charge $3.50 for an iced coffee which is espresso shots and milk over ice; he paid $2.40 for black coffee over ice and got the milk for free. Dodgy, yes sir! But he did save over a dollar per drink.

I once pulled up a stingy student for ordering a large latte and an extra cup. If he hadn’t poured half of his latte into the requested cup then handed it to his friend in front of me, he may still be getting away with it today.

2: Skinny milk froths better than full fat milk

Coffee connoisseurs insist that the more fat in milk, the better the coffee tastes. This may be true but if you like a frothy cappuccino, skinny is the way to go.

Because skinny milk has less fat content, it froths better and looks much better when it has been properly dealt with. The froth is glossier and much thicker than full fat foam. If you can get past the slightly watered down flavor of skinny milk, give it a go next time you order a milk based coffee.

3: Are you in on the secret?

A menu board will list the most basic items offered in a café and every now and then a special. However, there are a lot of ingredients behind the counter making options outside of the menu endless.

Syrups, chocolates, teas and assorted milks can all be mixed and matched to form whatever concoction you can conjure. Trust me, I get bored behind the machine, I’ve tried it all.

The most popular under the radar order at the moment is a chai latte with a shot of espresso. Tea and coffee seems like an odd flavour combo yet the sweet taste of chai does level out the bitterness of coffee. If you’re bored of your morning latte, get creative and don’t be afraid to ask a barista for a recommendation.

4: Friends with benefits

Smile, say hi, ask questions and above all, say thank you. Manners go a long way and if there is a particular café you frequent, getting to know your barista means special treatment.

Often I will see a customer walking towards the shop, the kind that never strays from their favourite beverage and without a thought I’ll start making their drink.  A coffee ready at the counter always goes down well especially when on the go.

The key is to build a little rapport with your coffee maker, spend a little more time getting to know your caffeine administrator and we’ll spend more time making sure your coffee is fabulous and prompt!

*This post originally contained information about the price of coffee which has been taken out after concerns were raised about the accuracy of research

A Bitter End


When a customer complains about a drink, it makes me want to shrivel up and die. Imagine coming to uni, paying three bucks out of your tiny Centrelink fund and getting something you thought would be glorious, only to find it’s not hot enough, too bitter or worse…skinny milk.

It happens, bad coffees cross the line here and there which is all part of the process. As long as your coffees are consistently satisfactory, take the hit, it probably won’t happen tomorrow. But if you receive more than three out of ten crap coffees, that’s our problem.

I wondered this the other day as I dined out in a restaurant, always packed with the doorway littered by amazing reviews. Not a breakfast place, but a bona fide five star restaurant, which I have chosen not to name.

I had a fantastic dinner giving my palate the orgasm it craved. I all but licked the plate clean and decided dessert would only enhance this experience further. I ordered a single shot of espresso between the meals in hopes to refresh my appetite.

The coffee looked terrible. Completely under extracted with absolutely no crema, I wondered if they had added food colouring to the water. Yet I decided to take the hit, maybe the dim lighting was being rude to this single shot of horror. It wasn’t, I was right, it was awful.

This wasn’t my first bad coffee from a supposed great restaurant, there have been others. It stumps me that they are all so proficient when it comes to wine, yet completely unreliable when it comes to coffee.

Restaurants in Melbourne know their wine and can pull out any adjective and regional clue that could help anyone decide which best suits their pork, poultry, pasta or fish, why not coffee? Shouldn’t the same routine be used in order to compliment your mousse, cheesecake, cheese or chocolate gateau? It adds to the experience just as a latte brightens your morning.

It’s rather shameful that a lot of these fabulous restaurants can put so much time and effort into wine, yet none into the second most traded commodity in the world.

Yes, wine is more expensive and more money is made out of it compared to a cappuccino. But going home with a bitter taste in your mouth seems like far more of a bargain. Of course, if you’ve taken several hits with the wine, maybe you won’t really notice.

Art on the Clock

Obama Latte

Obama Latte

The longest part of my day is waiting for the espresso to extract through the portafilter, milk steamed and ready to complete the drink.

Our little café uses about eleven bags of coffee a day. This high volume commands a quick result as there can sometimes be lines out the door. When I make coffee all of the art that appears once I’ve finished pouring, is purely accidental.

Coffee art has never been a huge factor in the quality of my coffee. When I venture to cafes on the weekend, I admire the creaminess of the froth and the rich earthy colours of the crema. The art has a tendency to make me feel guilty when I stick a spoon in to mix my sugar.

Nevertheless, people always thank me for the odd leaf and slanted heart, as if I have individualized the coffee instead of handing over something taken off the production line.

Over the years coffee art has become a culture in itself. 2007 World Latte Art champion Jack Hanna explained that “it used to affect [him] a lot to see [his] hard work just ‘destroyed’.” How easily the spoon can swirl away Hanna’s perfect rosettas and a quick sip can erase the coffee formerly known as art. Any hard work going to waste would be challenging to see.

Yet he has adopted a new attitude, “taken more of a big picture approach now.” Hanna would rather see his customers “enjoy their experience” than dance around the art, impeding the enjoyment of the actual coffee.

World Barista Judge, Justin Metcalf commented in The Age that the creativity on top of lattes does not “constitute whether it’s a good coffee or not.” Metcalf went on to slam Melbourne’s coffee adding that “people [in Melbourne] are still far more interested in the texture of the milk and whether it’s got a pattern on top.”

The art is in place as a reminder to customers that effort is mandatory in order to make an enjoyable beverage. In order to produce the art, the crema needs to be the right colour and the milk needs to be frothed in a way that houses the creativity. If a barista has taken the time to learn to draw on a beverage then they have also taken the time to see how the crema will react. Bad tasting crema and poorly steamed milk does not react well and the art will not look tasty.

My customers love a random heart, even Jackson Pollock style designs, I always get a compliment. As a barista, it is nice to be appreciated not only for the art, but for the effort as a whole. As a customer it is nice to know that a white heart on top of my latte has been made especially for me, even if I do turn it into a blob once I add the sugars.

Yes my ‘art’ is completely coincidental, but it does make customers aware of the long hours baristas spend on their feet producing something that helps you get through the day.



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