How to order your coffee in Australia

Six years ago, when we got off the airplane at the Perth airport the only thing I wanted more than a shot of caffeine was a bed. When our “guides” came to fetch us, our first stop was the Dome on Adelaide Terrace. And so my love hate relationship with the Australian baristas began.
The menu was filled with names I did not understand. I tried relying on my very limited Mugg and Bean bottomless coffee experience and ordered a Long Black. Oi! Was it strong! I tried toning it down with sugar and later remembered the tip of adding a pinch of salt but to no avail. I am sure if I left the teaspoon in the mug it would have been able to stay upright on its own.
My experience of coffee was the drip coffee which I only knew as perculator coffee and of course the four types that you got at the bottomless tap at Mugg and Bean, and Ricoffy was my instant poison of choice. I thought I had coffee down, but oh, how wrong I was!
Coffee culture was introduced to Australia by the European migrants, mainly from Italy, Greece, France, Hungary and Austria. And according to my neighbour it has only really taken off during the last ten or so years.
Apart from having to go to the counter to order your coffee and not waiting for a waiter, you also have quite a few other things to take into account. First of all, a good barista is worth their weight in gold. Previously called Espresso pullers these guys have had training in the fine art of espresso. Their passions for coffee vary however, and it often comes through in the taste. Secondly, the beans do make a difference. Most coffee shops use the Arabica bean. The Robusta bean on the other hand packs way more punch caffeine wise. Most of us however, do not want to know all the finicky stuff. We just want a cup that picks us up and not make us gag.
I once asked a barista to please explain the different kinds of coffee, and once understood, it made the ordering so much easier. So here goes my attempt at helping you order your coffee when you arrive on Australian soil.
Most important to remember is what a shot means. 7 Grams of ground coffee in 25 ml of liquid is a single shot, 14 grams in 50 ml of liquid is a double shot, 21 grams in 75 ml of liquid is a triple shot.
Flat white is an Aussie invention and in my opinion pretty close to the Wimpy coffee that I remember, though I do think it tastes better. It is a double shot, and the ratio of coffee to milk is 1:8. If a double shot is too strong ask for half strength or a single shot.
I was used to my cappuccinos with cream but that is actually called a Vienna (not the sausage). The Aussie cappuccino is the same as the flat white but has a thick layer of foam on the top combined with chocolate sprinkles.
I love a long black. I believe the true taste of coffee is packed within the dark liquid and crema on top. Sadly sometimes it smells much better than it tastes. I had long blacks tasting like panado’s when chewed. It was enough to put me off coffee for six months at a time! A long black is made by pouring a double shot of espresso coffee in hot water. Bigger is not always better and the size of the cup does make a difference. The crema on top of the coffee is not always a sign of quality. Stale coffee will have a pale yellow film that can be very bitter. A long black tastes better as it cools slightly from boiling temperature to a drinkable one.
Espressos are the babies that keep you awake at night, but are also coffee at its supposed best. It should have an intense taste in a very small volume of liquid. It should be free of any sour, bitter or burnt flavours.
Macchiatos used to be a Mugg and Bean favourite of mine. It has a dash of foam in it and I even had it with a bit of hot chocolate mixed in. Yummy. That being said, every state has their own interpretation of it.
Lattes are very similar to flat whites but are served in a glass and not a cup. It is also milkier than the flat whites.
And then there is the indulgence of a mocha! A latte with chocolate.
There you go! One less thing to worry about when you step down and start to adjust. Now we just need a list of the best coffee shops.

4 thoughts on “How to order your coffee in Australia

  1. Great advice here! In Northern Canada we always referred to coffee growing up as “Brown Nectar.” When I went to Portugal in 2008 to study abroad I asked a barista for a cup of the brown nectar and she was appalled! I don’t know if the combination of terms broke some sort of cultural boundary over there or what the deal was, but I suppose I learned that it is very important to know how to order things correctly based on where you are! Good read for sure! 😉

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    • Very true and important to know the terms and expressions. The check out ladies was met by a blank expression (in the early days after our arrival) when asking whether I had any flybuys. Now you know when you travel to Australia.
      Thank you for the positive comment, much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so interesting! Apart from instant coffee and the selection you buy from Checkers for your perculator, I know nothing of coffee. I did once have an espresso to see what the fuss was about and it did not taste good…I guess I should stick to instant 🙂

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    • After years of Ricoffy I have migrated from instant to filter and would recommend that you try a flat white:) I’ll shout you a coffee (stick you one:) ) should we ever get the opportunity to meet.

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