November 30, 2005

Colonial coffee snobbery

Russell Brown goes to the city with the highest density, and highest expectations, of long blacks south of the equator. Or perhaps the world over ...

Somebody served me a long black without a crema last week. In Wellington. The café had everything else: nice décor, convivial company, Cafenet connectivity, that capital city buzz. But no crema. Certainly, I am a bit of a nut about this sort of thing. I am currently sipping a home-made espresso that is of superior quality to what I could buy at 95 out of 100 Auckland cafes: intense, complex, with a touch of sweetness. And a big, fat fuck-off crema.

Stilll, there's always L'affare and The Astoria .... And it could be London, where according to Nick Smith's interesting Listener story on New Zealanders in London you still can't get a decent coffee in the old town, excepting that you visit a New Zealand-run establishment. .... On the whole trip, the only decent coffee I found was in one place in Amsterdam, and it cost the equivalent of $NZ6.

I fear that we have established a certain domestic coffee culture and simply expected the world to follow.

The disappointment that the world's coffee is not the same as Wellington's is something every Antipodean expat must experience themselves.

UPDATE: 1 December 2005. Other disappointed coffee expats write to Russell Brown. The funniest thing to me was this report:

... the worst coffee I ever had was in Orlando, Florida at the worst large hotel I have ever stayed in, Disney's desperately dysfunctional Swan & Dolphin. There was a coffee cart in the corridor, and I made the mistake of asking for a long black. What I got handed was one of those ridiculous milkshake -container things in which they serve coffee in America

The few times that I have lapsed into New Zealand coffee terminology and used the term "long black" Americans thought I was talking about tall African Americans! And by that twisted logic a short black must be Gary Coleman ...

There is also the "flat white." Which is another kind of coffee, and not a European-descended person who has been hit on the head.

Posted by robe0419 at November 30, 2005 6:14 PM

Jeez what is he complaining about. He should try living amongst 300 million people who think coffee is a light brown, warmish liquid - what the French call jus de chaussette (sock juice)!

I don't know how the coffee is in Minnesota but I can guarantee you an excellent "long black" (how that phrase plucks at my expat heartstrings!) in Steamboat Springs, complete with crema that's nearly as deep as our champagne powder (OK, you won't realy get four feet of crema)...

Posted by: Dan Hill at November 30, 2005 10:19 PM

What is a "long black", exactly? It seems like an odd name for an espresso since the best crema tends to come from a short (ristretto) shot.

I read on a barista message board recently about an American barista being confused by a customer who asked for a "flat white." The customer was apparently shocked that the barista didn't know what he was talking about. They later figured out it was a (no foam?) latte in American terms.

Any other New Zealand coffee names that are different from the American?

As for good espresso in London, Monmouth comes recommended by the coffee geeks. I tried them out this summer and was served the best espresso I had on my entire trip, which included two weeks traveling around Italy.

Posted by: Jacob Grier at December 1, 2005 9:16 PM