When I arrived, I was proudly informed that Melbourne was (and, I'm told, still is) the coffee capital of Australia.
Not really being a coffee drinker at the time, I bought this. I thought, "OK."
Now this sentence is a wonderfully predictable thing, because 80% of the time, the person who says it is then going to follow this non-falsifiable Popperian's nightmare up with the delightful and improbable statement, "You can't get a decent cup of coffee in Sydney."
This statement tells you a number of things about the person saying it:
A. They believe everything that they're told.
B. They believe that everyone from Tasmania without exception has 3 eyes and a hump; and
C. They haven't set foot north of the Murray.
Anyone who knows me knows that this sort of idiotic statement holds no truck with me, because in my case the following holds:
1. Having travelled between Melbourne and Sydney more than anyone else reading this blog (I really think I am not exaggerating here) I am in a wonderful position to judge relative coffee quality.
2. I have had both good and bad coffees in Melbourne and Sydney, and in roughly similar ratios.
3. The best cup of coffee that I ever had was in Melbourne, and it was at Pellegrini's in Bourke Street in the CBD.
4. The worst cup of coffee that I ever had, though, was also in Melbourne, and it was at the cafe next door to the cinemas at Chadstone Shopping Centre.
At about this point, anyone that I'm talking to about this really pointless yet annoying topic will turn to me and say, "well that's different. Chadstone's in the suburbs," which will confirm one additional thing about the person saying it:
D: They are a stuck-up inner city dwelling snob who isn't fit to have their car keyed by Shane and Hayley from Blackburn South.
Narre Warren and Endeavour Hills are as much a part of Melbourne as Fitzroy and Richmond are, no matter what Bruce and his partner Trevor from Windsor like to think.
Never mind that this is both a 'no true Scotsman fallacy' and a case for special pleading.
So it gives me great joy to finally have this to say about all you inner-city coffee drinking prats: You are all a disgraceful bunch of know-nothing hypocrites who wouldn't know your arabica from your robusta, if it reached up between your legs and latched you after having warned you in advance with postcards showing pictures of squirrels.
This has been building up for a long time.
The most pretentious strip of cafes in Melbourne is the one that occupies the business end of Acland Street in St Kilda. These cafes are so pretentious that legend has it that the following story actually took place:
"...so we went in and asked for a decaf soy cappucino with carob sprinkles and, after some deliberation between the waitress and the barista, we were asked to leave. The owner appeared as we were being shown the door and it looked for a moment as though he was going to request our presence in the back alleyway while he took to us with a plank with nails through the end of it. Fortunately the cafe next door was able to oblige..."
I know an experienced barista who works this strip, and she's told me that the regulars will return coffees that are burnt straight away.
Even if they're not actually burnt. Sometimes they just do it to show off. It's a bit like how if Russell Crowe doesn't like the waiting staff at the establishment, he allegedly will order the most expensive wine off the list, try it and claim that it's corked and refuse to drink it. He supposedly got halfway through a case of Chateau Mouton Rothschild once doing this, which I'd believe if not for the fact that Crowe allegedly only drinks Australian plonk.
But I digress.
It was a public holiday in Melbourne today. Normally, I'd reward myself by sleeping in on such a fine day, but I was feeling particularly masochistic so in a fit of self-flagellation, I woke up at 12.30 PM and went out to one of Melbourne's finest establishments for a late breakfast and a pot of tea.
"The full English and I'll have my eggs over hard, thanks and a pot of darjeeling, thanks," I casually requested from our waitress friend.
Her tone darkened as she asked, "Um sorry, we only do 'normal stuff' here."
"I'm sorry, 'normal stuff' isn't a term that I'm familiar with. Could you please elaborate?"
"Well, you can have your eggs fried, scrambled or poached. Also, I'm not sure we have the brand of tea that you've ordered."
"Over hard is fried, both sides, until the yolks have set. Darjeeling is not a brand of tea, it is a blend from the north-west of India, and it is one of Twining's biggest sellers."
"I'll see about your eggs, but I can't promise anything," she said. I was a bit shocked at this.
She continued, "and you can choose your tea from the following: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Green tea, Peppermint, Chamomile and Apple & Cinnamon."
Now only one of these is a black tea. Earl Grey is a tisane. Peppermint, Chamomile and Apple & Cinnamon - FSM only knows what the hell is in those.
"OK." I gave in. "English Breakfast."
Now I may only have been having breakfast at 2.30 PM in the afternoon, but it was the afternoon. And English Breakfast is a breakfast blend, for crying out loud.
And this is where I get lost with the macho posturing about Melbourne's "coffee culcha." It's contrived and silly. It's more than just a little bit wrong. It smacks of hometown parochialism.
It's simply not good enough to not know, if you are offering fried eggs, the difference between sunny side up and over hard. It's not good enough to offer only one kind of black tea, and a breakfast blend, at that.
And, this appears to be considered blasphemy, but I doubt whether the majority of Melbourne's baristas would know the difference between a ristretto and a short black. I already know that of the baristas I know, if you asked them to detail the difference between a caffe latte and a flat white, most of them would tell you that it's only the vessel that it's served in.
And I know that on one street - supposedly Melbourne's coffee-drinking heart - if you were to ask for a Vienna, you will get the most strangest of looks, as though you've just sacrificed your first-born on the table.
This is rubbish.
All I want is a decent coffee. Not excellent, but decent. I admit that I get that, but I query the pretence and the ignorance that goes along with it.
And if I order breakfast I would like to have some real choice as to how I get my eggs. Fried does not mean either sunny side up or over easy.
Lastly, if I order tea, I do not want to hear the sheer ignorance of cafe owners who simply don't know their orange pekoe from their china black. Tea is not just English breakfast. Earl Grey is a tisane and peppermint and chamomile are abominations.
It's just not good enough.