The problem with Australia and Coffee

So “Australian coffee is the best in the world” is it? According to an article I just read on http://www.traveller.com.au it is. Beware though, do not confuse this with some kind of industry standard recognition rather it is a self awarded accolade of greatness. This kind of braggadocio is symptomatic of the arrogance and introspection that gives Australians such a bad name globally (or at least in all the countries I have visited). Much like how the French tell us they have the best cuisine in the world, despite having served me literal tripe more times than I would care to count. Or how so many of my fellow Brits take pride in being known as the lager louts of the Western hemisphere.

The best coffee in the world....made by moi.
Actually the best coffee in the world….made by moi.

I’ve got news for you Australia –  your coffee is not as great as you believe, and the Italians would certainly have something to say of your claim to be the “best”. Having been Down Under myself I can assure you Starbucks does in fact exist, and outside of Melbourne and probably Newtown in Sydney there is not an independent coffee house on every street corner. Where I live in South London there are 6 excellent coffee shops within walking distance of my house, two of which are located at their own roastery, and it isn’t a case of “you have to know where to find them” but rather they are not in to aggressive self promotion as the latest hipster hangout for coffee snobs.

Quel horreur, proof that Starbucks does exist in Australia!
Quel horreur, proof that Starbucks does exist in Australia!

In general snobbery leads to a warped perception of reality, so when coffee snobs the world over are told they are being served a single origin Guatemalan bean, hand picked by twenty virgins endlessly grateful for that fairtrade buck, they assume this represents good coffee. It  reminds me of the blind taste tests conducted where professional wine connoisseurs were horrified to have picked a £12 bottle of Sainsbury’s own brand champagne over a Pol Roger. So self righteous are these smug bastards that they fail to realise something very obvious, the vast majority of coffee beans used in Australia are imported – so how can they possibly claim to have “the best coffee in the world”?

A Vietnamese robusta
A Vietnamese robusta

Anecdotally the best cup of coffee I tasted was in Vietnam and cost me less than a quid, their coffee culture was far more appealing to me than Australia’s. Less self aggrandising and refreshingly free of posers sitting with their cortados in hand suspiciously eyeing up people who dare to buy flavoured lattes or frappuccinos. It was a much more convivial affair where friends and family sat on stools, spilling out on to the roads, chatting and knocking back the black stuff until the sun went down.

So sure Australia, your coffee is decent and your baristas are skilled I’ll give you that, but your claim to be “the best in the world” just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. A bit like when I was served an overpriced burnt Americano in Sydney one time.

If you’d like to read the full article it’s here:

http://www.traveller.com.au/australian-coffee-is-the-best-in-the-world-ginqk2

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