Americans and Aussies might speak a similar language, but when it comes to these two basics of life, we seem to be poles apart.
Aussies are often partial to Vegemite, the thick brown goo I've heard referred to as "disgusting" by Americans. It's wonderful stuff! A magical reviver when life is stressful, a useful condiment for scrambled eggs, (recipe here), a handy addition to stews and a flavourful enhancer in assorted exotic dishes. A mere scraping, nay a waft of the knife across a piece of buttered toast simply doesn't do the trick. Thick and tasty is the way to go! If you don't believe me, try it sometime. Wonderful stuff!
The same applies to coffee. Insipid, virtually tasteless brownish dishwater is a pale imitation of the real thing. Whether made in a motel room in desperation, or purchased by the gallon from a prominent chain and presented with a flourish in a paper cups as if it was manna from heaven, this dilute, namby-pamby liquid barely raises the heartbeat. To call it coffee is an insult to the beans, so carefully grown and transported, then roasted by the container-load in what seems to be a forgotten warehouse in the backblocks of the never never. Then (sacrilege) ground into a dusty powder and marketed as if it was the real thing.
Goodness gracious me, what are they thinking to then add insult to injury and present multi packaged sachets of a substance that looks, for all intents and purposes, like powdered melamine. Was this a joke?
No, no, no, no and NO! Coffee, real coffee, is made with tender loving care. Each cup nurtured attentively, encouraged to give the best from the freshly ground beans - ground for each customer as they wait. Individual attention is the key. Fresh water must come only from the purest of sources.
Some like it unadulterated and intense - just one shot with no additions for those weaned on it from childhood.
Others prefer a milky brew, a cappuccino - fresh milk, not that long life or low fat stuff - whipped into a frenzy by hissing steam until it swirls and foams into a dense, almost solid mass. The froth to be enjoyed by the spoonful ideally topped with a delicate sprinkling of freshly grated dark chocolate flakes. Swoon!
The joy of walking past one, two, three or more closely spaced coffee shops, slowing, pausing, inhaling delicately. Are the beans fresh? are they well roasted? what brand are they using? (The generic no-name brands aren't even registered by the nose), then checking - are they using full cream milk? Or horror of horrors, some (gasp) shameful substitute?
Oh, the pleasure of watching a professional barrista at work! They take their job seriously, after all this is business, and keeping your finicky customers happy is as important as the banter and quality of the crockery and cutlery. No paper cups and plastic spoons to be seen. That would be the kiss of death in this coffee shop 'dog eat dog' world.
Can you see that croissant back there? Delightfully flaky pastry! Individually, the flakes would waft into the ether if you had the temerity to blow on the wonderful structure. Yet, in its entirety, dense, heavy and coated with a generous layer of icing sugar, lovingly dusted just prior to being served. Full of almonds and almond meal - half is a succulent feast!
Is it possible for our cultures to meet and agree over these essentials of life, or are we doomed to be forever speaking a different language? The old song goes something like "you say tomayto, I say tomahto" but the object being discussed is the same. But the product named coffee and purchased in the US as such, is, sadly, worlds apart, and an Aussie craving a cappuccino is bound to be disappointed and left longing for the real thing and not a sad, pale, insipid imitation...
BTW, for any Aussies visiting the west coast of the US and wanting to find accessible, drinkable coffee, Peet's isn't bad. They have outlets at Raley's supermarkets and the quality of the coffee, especially cappuccino, is closer to what we're used to than the more prominent chain. Don't get caught by assuming Maccas McCafe's are the same as here, they're not! Ours have adapted to local tastes and offer a wider variety of coffee and foods and generally have pretty good barristas. (I never thought I'd say something so supportive of Maccas - but give credit where it's due, they're good!)