I visit my local cafe regularly. For the purposes of this post I shall call it Cafe Proximity. This place is ridiculously near by. How close is it? I occasionally think of walking to the slightly more distant cafe to give my pedometer something to do. But I don’t. The nearer java-slinger plays a steady stream of Generation X hits like Spandau Ballet’s “True” and (perhaps as a result) it is less busy and more in need of my custom. The farther joint, which I will now dub Espresso Hipster, is going gangbusters. It is populated by young mums who have just fast-walked the entire suburb and parked their strollers three deep on the footpath outside. I can’t be dealing with their kind of vigorous energy on a Sunday morning, nor do I wish to be the only person on the premises not wearing yoga pants. So I slump in a Cafe Proximity plastic chair and listen to the likes of Cold Chisel and Carly Simon whilst waiting for a small latte that will be delivered with a complimentary Tiny Teddy clinging to the lid.
As youse know, we’re all about the coffee now. This was not always the case in this continent of Australis. I come from an era when “coffee” meant a nice cup of instant; a Nescafe Blend 43 or its equivalent. As my friend Ed likes to point out, back when we were students, Nescafe was the gold standard for instant and we only bought it when we were in funds, so mostly we drank International Roast. If we were really strapped for cash, we drank “Pablo”. It was a signal moment, somewhere in the early ’90s, when we all moved in unison to drinking the rather pricier Moccona Medium Roast. Suddenly, this was the instant of choice and none of the lesser coffees were acceptable.
Shortly thereafter, the mainstreaming of “real coffee” commenced, although proto-hipsters had been slugging back espressos, short blacks and long maccs for decades. Or to put it another way, the neo-beats, the pre-slackers, the black-clad caffeine cognoscenti, had long purchased their drop from the Italian Australians who brought decent coffee to Oz in the first place. In their restaurants, cafes, continental stores and homes, these Mediterranean folk knew a Moka pot from a Sunbeam ceramic kettle jug.
So we, as a country, skilled up a couple of notches. We learnt to drink flat whites, cappuccinos and lattes. This was deemed “not the done thing” by those in the know. Posers, recently returned from their first tour of the northern hemisphere, explained how these capps etc. were too milky and this is not how they did it in Rome. The changes were coming thick and fast. Chain store coffee arrived and we tried imitating how they did it in America and we got that wrong, too. We joked about ordering a “tall” or a “venti” or a half double decaffeinated half-caf with a twist of lemon, because we saw Steve Martin do it in LA Story.
You see, if the Americans or the Europeans are into it, whatever it is, be it tiramisu, planking or the First World War, we Aussies gotta be part of that action. Which is why we loved it when American movie star George Clooney started shilling go juice in capsules for European food giant Nestlé. The timing was excellent, we had decided a daily store-bought coffee was pricey and we needed a cheaper alternative. The Nespresso machine filled the Nespresso-shaped hole in our hearts.
We in the Wide Brown Land are now perched at the rim of the third millennium of our triumphant Western Civilisation. We’re free to enjoy our coffees in a myriad of ways, including served up chilled in a carton made from liquid paperboard. We’ve never had it so good, people. Any day now, we shall be sitting in our solar-powered, driverless car, taking an Instagram of our drone-delivered, 3D printed, lupin-infused, artisinal, drip-brewed chai-puccino. And in the foam on top, sprinkled in finely milled Ethiopian Teff grain, these words: “I am one of those who think that humanity will draw more good, than evil, from new discoveries – Marie Curie.”