“May I have a cappuccino with one sugar, please?”
If I have a mantra that I say religiously every morning, this is it. I make a beeline to get my caffeine fix along with many Australians. The barista starts by measuring just the right amount of freshly ground coffee powder. She then clicks the coffee filter into place in the machine. A familiar humming sound follows as the machine conjures up a blend of water and coffee to produce a rich golden-amber liquid called an ‘espresso shot’ in my cup. Then the barista pours steaming hot frothy milk into the cup, tops it with a sprinkling of chocolate powder and announces, ‘One cappuccino for Sabrina!’
Before living in Melbourne, my concept of coffee was three-in-one: coffee, water and sugar. My friends and I spent hours hanging out at our local coffee shop, drinking three-in-ones while eating toast smothered in kaya jam or butter and sugar. Occasionally we would visit our nearest big-chain coffee shop and have ‘western’ coffee. We used to laugh that drinking western coffee was like drinking a glass of milk with a few drops of coffee.
Coffee culture in Melbourne
A coffee house hosts a myriad of people. In one corner you see a group of suits talking business with notepads and pens, if old-fashioned, or iPads and mini laptops, if tech-savvy. Across the room is a group of ladies catching up on the latest goss. Sitting next to them is a young couple with the awkward and shy demeanour characteristic of a first date. In the other corner sit a couple of the verge of a relationship meltdown, the woman sporting sunnies and the man putting on a brave face.
The couches are often hogged by students, studying for their exams, doing their homework or trying to overcome their writer’s block. And of course there is always that one loyal local, sitting outside with cigarette in hand and reading the horse racing form guide. He is there religiously, day in and day out.
All of these situations I have been in, except of course for the one with the smoking man reading the form guide. In fact, you will often find me sitting in a corner just people watching. It is a favourite pastime of mine.
Salvatore Malatesta owns St Ali, a quirky cafe around the corner from my work. He tells me that his passion for coffee was inherited.
"I was very fortunate because it was a very innate thing for me. My heritage is Italian so I was brought up with coffee and the coffee ceremony has been part of my day to day existence. I used to wake up to the smell of coffee and I used to go to sleep to the smell of coffee. Throughout the day, my mother would host a number of people. We used to have stovetops [of coffee pots]. So, it was very much a part of my life."
Salvatore has worked in the coffee industry for more than a decade and he says the industry in Melbourne is respected worldwide.
"I believe in my heart that Melbourne is the coffee renaissance capital city of the world. We are pioneering new techniques and rushing towards coffee nirvana not only in Australia but globally. There’s a respect for what Melbournians are doing. In Australia, Melbourne has 12-15 micro-roasters that are very committed to the art and craft of coffee making."
Salvatore tells me that in Australia, the coffee industry grew not from big chains, but from independent cafes born out of the early Greek and Italian immigrants. From the 1930s to 1960s, Greek and Italian cafes were the focal point for eating, drinking and socialising. This is why one will find Italian-influenced coffee beverages such as cappuccino, latte and macchiato offered in almost all coffee shops in Australia.
These days, good cafes are not always owned by Greeks or Italians and they don’t always make good coffee! But they remain the social hubs in Australia. Julian is one of the baristas working at St. Ali. The 23-year-old has been working there for almost a year. He says coffee culture in Australia is massive.
"It’s what people do every day. People meet up with one another at their favourite cafe for coffee. The social aspect is huge. We get people coming in here meeting up for coffee. They sit here and enjoy it. They love their coffee so much. They come back the next day and do the exact same thing. It’s huge! It’s a big part of life here."
Đó là chuyện của Sabrina. Bây giờ đến lượt bạn. Hãy chia sẻ câu chuyện cà phê của mình bằng tiếng Anh.
What do you do when you socialise? Where do you go?