Skinny, strong and hot: the Melbourne coffee scene
If nothing else, Melbourne will turn you into a coffee snob. I’ve never been someone who “needs” a coffee in the morning: my mom doesn’t drink caffeine, so I’ve always thought it’s more of a mental block than an actual physical need. I did fall prey to the Starbucks claim in high school and college, enjoying my vanilla latte more as an accessory as I walked to class and the indie music selection as the background noise while I studied.
But in Melbourne, people take their coffee very seriously. They don’t mess around with sweetening syrups or fancy-schmancy names: it’s simply high-quality coffee made by talented baristas. I’m forever in awe at just how creamy and frothy they can make mere milk. You don’t need Starbucks gimmicks with coffee like this.
However, Melbourne has its own lingo for ordering your favorite caffeine fix. Here’s a bit of a guide to the long and short of it:
Short black (also known as an espresso, un café): A single shot of strong black coffee, ideally with a thick reddish-brown foam, crema, floating on top, and served in a small demitasse cup. I was obsessed with these in France–it’s the perfect way to end a meal, and it’s the cheapest way to secure a spot in a cafe for an afternoon.
Long black (also known as a normal coffee in America, un Américain): Double shot of espresso pulled over hot water.
Latte: A latte is a shot of espresso that has been poured into a long glass and filled with steamed milk. It’s then topped off with foamed milk. While it tends to be a much smaller quantity than even a tall Starbucks, I find it’s just enough.
Flat white: A flat white is very similar to a latte, but generally has a little less froth. Plus, a flat white is served in a ceramic cup, usually of the same volume as a latte glass.
Cappucino (the Cap): Made with espresso, hot milk and milk foam with a sprinkle of chocolate powder on top.
Long Macchiato or Long Mac: A double shot of espresso with a small amount of milk floated on top.
Short Macchiato or Short Mac: A short black served in a small glass or demitasse cup, with a smudge of foam on top.
Skinny: Made with low- or non-fat milk.
Strong: Extra bit of espresso.
Hot: Most coffee will be served tepid as not to scald the milk, but you can request it hot.
How many sugars: If you order takeaway, they’ll ask how many sugars you want mixed in. If not, you’ll be able to mix in your own sugar at the table.
My favorite cafes:
Café Racer: Right around the corner from my apartment and directly across the street from the water, Café Racer is my favorite place to spend a sunny Saturday. The coffee is unbelievable, although I think the real value is how well they froth their milk. There’s a magazine rack–mostly full of cycling magazines, although there is always a copy of the latest InStyle!–that day’s newspaper, an outside terrace and a sunshine-filled window bar. Follow them on Twitter and receive a free coffee–that’s social media at its best!
DiBella Coffee Roasting Warehouse: This is for the serious coffee aficianado–or the Queen Vic market shopper who needs a quick pick-me-up. There are a few varieties of coffee
Market Café (Prahran): Right down the street from where I work, this family-run cafe is quickly becoming like a second home. They know my order by heart, we chat about our days and sometimes they slip me a free biscotti. The coffee is pretty darn good, too.
Note: Since a skinny latte with two sugars is my drink of choice, that’s unfortunately the only thing I have photos of!
What has your favorite coffee experience been, in Melbourne or elsewhere?