Melburnian Suraj Varma has coffee knowledge from around the globe, but he has found that they now look to us for the world’s best.
The fact that Australia is the Coffee capital of the world is no longer a surprise to me. I don’t claim to have travelled to every nook and corner of the world to prove this theory, but I don’t have to. I’ve been taken aback how many different people have, perhaps painfully, told me so. Recently, one of my mates from France told me that Australian baristas are in high demand in both France and Italy (!)
One thing I have to say, perhaps to further irk the nations who made coffee famous; is that much of the “best coffee in the world” statement is attributed to the fact that good coffee is easily accessible in Australia. I can vouch confidently for Melbourne, where you can most assuredly locate fine coffee with zero effort, and certainly without your hand being held by fancy smartphone apps.
But it’s true; here in Modern Australia we take Coffee so seriously that specialty cafes use the most modern and sophisticated coffee brewing equipment available. Did you know 65 degree Celsius is the optimal temperature to serve café latte? Can you tell apart the difference when coffee is made via the siphon method? Yeah, I thought you might.
While aficionados are probably particular about the brewing technique, bean source, or the perfect amount of froth, casual coffee lovers can enjoy these myriad combinations and decide for themselves. Increasingly, taste is one of those skills you develop in this part of the world.
Can you now blame an Aussie who has been thus spoilt? He or she learns the art of coffee dissection over the years spent casually drinking cups after cups of coffee at meetings or through our commutes. We, more than most, know good, and we absolutely know bad. (Starbucks is a good example of this, a colossus everywhere around the world. Failed here) One thing is for sure; we are educated, and this expectation naturally follows when we travel outside our borders.
Moving overseas for a moment, here’s a bit of coffee trivia from India. Much of the coffee culture is concentrated down south. Head to Tamil Nadu, and you will be surprised how serious they are about their filter coffees. Made using a traditional decoction technique with coffee powder blended with powdered chicory, this filter coffee tastes very different from anywhere else around the world. Sweet and bitter at the same time, it is something that will tantalise your senses. Here, you just let your local barista know how strong you like yours. The coffee is then made with the decoction and freshly boiled milk and served piping hot after a skilful show of coffee frothing using two small steel tumblers.
I’m sure every country has a coffee or two up their sleeves, which could give our flat whites a run for their money. But perhaps nowhere else has the art of coffee making been taken so seriously by so many, but still somehow remains a specialist industry.
Australia, we’ve been waiting for a renaissance, and now we have it.