Coffee Lessons Abroad…Two Words–Flat. White.

Australians are known as coffee snobs. And they should be. In fact, as this great article explains “most urban Australians have a favoured barista on speed dial next to the dentist, doctor, hair stylist and plumber, and most have a preferred way to drink their coffee.” My Australian friends who found themselves living in NYC without true Aussie coffee for nearly three years even had a secret neighborhood pick-up arranged to procure real Australian coffee beans. I was impressed. This might all sound crazy until you consider a startling fact: Starbucks failed in Australia (they opened 87 and of those, 61 have closed). In the five months that we lived there, I only saw one Starbucks (can you fathom that?) and it was filled with Japanese tourists. But now that I’ve lived in Australia, I get it. Drip coffee didn’t pass my lips for five months. Since we have returned home, I now give our Keurig machine many long, disappointed stares. I’m not usually so into coffee, but it was a big part of the daily Sydney culture. And my daily Flat Whites were just SO GOOD.

I didn’t always drink coffee–my mom predicted that if I made it through college without it, I’d probably never drink it. Then I had a baby and that all changed. Until parenthood, regular Coca Cola was always my caffeine fix of choice (a fountain Coke from McDonald’s being the creme de la creme). My Starbucks order had always been for non-coffee–a tall skim chai, a caramel apple spice (seasonal of course), or a hot chocolate. I was perplexed (stressed even) by the Starbucks menu–I had no idea what language people were speaking when they confidently order a venti soy ____ with a shot of ___, no whip, or two pumps of ___, and no foam. Latte vs. espresso vs. macchiato vs. cappuccino…what did it all mean? Check out this hilarious link for some of the most obnoxious Starbucks drink orders ever. I’m still a bit like a baffled kindergartner in the school of coffee–I usually order a skim latte with no special instructions–but I did learn a few things while Down Under. In fact, all I did was say “Flat White please” and magic would happen. And for anyone following my instagram feed, you may think all I did in five months was take photos of coffee and the ocean…and that’s actually not far off from reality.

The good news is that New York seems to be abuzz about Australian coffee. So I may not have to travel 10,000 miles to drink my next Flat White; rather, I can hop on a subway to try one and see how it compares. If by chance you find yourself in Australia or a hip American cafe that is catching onto the trend, here’s a quick explanation of each. Basically, everything is based on an espresso. And there is no rush to make your coffee (New Yorkers will have to chill out and wait a minute)…they are all a labor of love, which probably contributes to the quality taste. And the beans are REALLY important. It’s rumored that one Australian coffee bean supplier will revoke the right of a cafe to use their beans if ONE customer has a negative experience. So yes, it’s all a big deal. And hold the splenda–which is actually hard to locate in any Aussie coffee shop. The coffee and milk combos are sweet in themselves, and often don’t need any extra chemicals to sugar them up, which is better for everyone.

Here’s the (basic) lowdown–AUS Coffee 101

Short Black–a single shot of espresso in an espresso cup

Long Black–a single shot of espresso mixed with half a cup of hot water. This is known in other countries as an “Americano”.

Macchiato–a shot of espresso with a drop of froth in an espresso cup.

Cappuccino–a shot or two of espresso, steamed milk and a lot of froth. Designs are often poured into the froth and it’s served with a chocolate on the saucer.

Flat White-espresso and steamed milk (like a latte but with a different espresso to milk ratio–flat whites have less milk than a latte). Served in a 5.5- to 6 ounce ceramic mug with a handle, and a small amount of foam (some purists call it “velvet micro foam”on top. YUM.

Have you ever sampled an Australian coffee? Where? Did you love it? Do share!!

Mollie - February 28, 2014 - 6:20 pm

Sarah! This Aussie coffee sounds like heaven! You MUST tell me where to find this in NYC!