If Hugh Jackman says Australians are coffee snobs and had the cappuccino before America – then that’s it – we did! After all, who wouldn’t believe Hugh? He’s one of my favourite Australian actors!
Australians are coffee snobs. An influx of Italian immigrants after World War II ensured that – we probably had the word ‘cappuccino’ about 20 years before America. Cafe culture is really big for Aussies. We like to work hard, but we take our leisure time seriously.Hugh Jackman
I have to admit, I have never thought of Australians as coffee snobs. I thought America had that game all sown up. But apparently not.
My journey with the cappuccino didn’t start in earnest until I was in my
fifties – well – let’s just say I was well and truly an adult. Sure, I drank coffee before then – but only if you call that tinned instant stuff, coffee.
The transformative journey towards coffee-snobbery started for me when I lived within walking distance of Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast of Australia.
Weekends were for relaxing. And Saturdays always started with a coffee at a local coffee-shop (Cafe).
Shopping, chores, and preparation for next week’s school didn’t start until after the ritual of slowly sipping a long, hot cappuccino. Time stood still until the coffee-ritual was done.
Weekdays – it was back to the instant powder from the tin. Oh, how I longed for Saturday mornings!
Big Changes Were Imminent
It all happened so fast I’m not even sure where to start telling the story. But the short version is, we packed up and moved to North America for two years. I remember sitting on the beach one morning while preparations were in progress, wondering if I was doing the right thing.
That little bit of self-doubt lasted about a minute. From then on, it was full-steam ahead with planning and packing. There wasn’t much time for any more thoughts of should I or shouldn’t I.
As we left on the big jet-plane from Sydney, I thought I would actually burst with excitement. Not so for Bill. Bill was Canadian/American. For him, it meant going home. Going back to a past-life. Memories tugged at his feelings of excitement – but he handled it well.
A hotel was our home for the first few weeks. And coffee became the start of every day.
Tim Hortons was a short walk away. And this Aussie learned the language of Canadian coffee in a big hurry. I walked up to the counter the first day and ordered a cappuccino for me, and a flat white for Bill.
Hmm, it seems there was something wrong with ordering the flat-white. When Bill heard the commotion, he came to the rescue. I was still in shock that they didn’t understand the order so I can’t tell you what Bill said to resolve the crisis, but it worked.
Apparently a flat-white is a coffee order unique to the Land Down Under or it’s neighbour across the ditch (New Zealand). But I don’t think that’s enough to make us coffee snobs.
From then on, it was Bill’s job to order the coffee while I sat and waited.
A few weeks later we moved into an apartment on Robson Street and a whole new world opened up for me.
Bill’s American roots resurfaced.
I discovered there was a Starbucks on almost every corner! In fact, there were two diagonally opposite each other (does that mean Kitty Corner?).
Every day started with a coffee at our nearest Starbucks – right across the street on Robson and Jervis.
I had landed in coffee Heaven.
I know, there are some who would say coffee and Starbucks are not synonymous. But I’m not one of them. I happen to love Starbucks (but that’s another blog for another time).
Once you’ve ventured onto the path of white chocolate mochas with no whipped-cream, there’s no going back.
And Bill progressed to Soy Latte’s.
The fantastic Barista’s at our Starbucks even taught me how to order my favourite cup-of-joe. I took up the challenge of being the one to bravely order the coffee now that it was a lot easier. A ‘Grande no-whip white chocolate Mocha’ for me, and a ‘tall soy latte’ for Bill.
When we left Vancouver and moved over the border to San Francisco, our nearest Starbucks was a couple of blocks away – but it wasn’t too far to walk each morning. The day had to start right, right?
A year later we moved back to my homeland and back to the Gold Coast, and for me, back to teaching. The first year is still a bit of a blur.
Bill spent most of that year in hospital. And my weekend coffees consisted of whatever I could get before rushing off to visit him, or the dreaded hospital-canteen coffee. Sometimes you just have to make do.
All too soon I was on my own.
Weekend coffees resumed at my nearest Starbucks, a block away from where I lived. The first year was the hardest. Ordering just one coffee – and staring at the empty chair opposite – but I survived.
On weekdays I would look at that jar of instant coffee and say – Yeah? – Nah! I just couldn’t do it. I’d call into a drive-thru on my way to work. The coffee wasn’t good, but it was a whole lot better than the granules from within that jar.
When I ran out of Starbucks by moving to a town in Central Queensland (CQ), something had to give. The nearest coffee-shop (cafe) that even remotely resembled a Starbucks was a two-hour drive away. And then two-hours back. It was a long way but I often did it, just to sit in that cafe and soak up the atmosphere.
But the weekdays were the problem. So I invested in a coffee-machine. Not the Pod variety. I mean, a real one! I bought a Rocket Giotto, and a coffee grinder.
Every time I went back to the coast I would go to my old Starbucks and buy lots of beans to take back to CQ. Then I would make my coffee each morning – put it in a travel mug – and enjoy the taste of real coffee as I drove to school.
What makes us coffee snobs?
There is a local cafe near where I live now that makes the best cappuccinos, using beans that are roasted a few hours from here. Since the very first cup, I was converted.
Luckily I can order the beans online or buy them from the cafe, so there is always a supply on hand (well – at least in the freezer).
The only trouble is, I will now only drink cappuccinos made from Dancing Bean beans. If I meet friends at any other cafe, I just can’t bring myself to order a coffee.
I know what tastes best – and there is no substitute.
Oh, that is, unless I happen to be near a Starbucks. There’s still something about the atmosphere in a Starbucks that I just can’t resist.
I just wish there was a Starbucks close to where I live now. I’d make it a weekend thing – but I’d do it. Perhaps it is because I still can’t sit at a Starbucks without thinking of Bill…and the fond memories of our Vancouver and San Francisco coffee routines.