Guest Post by our very own, Maartje Bertens (aka Marge):
“G’day mate, two flat whites and a long mac topped up three quarters, please.” I had just arrived in Australia on a working holiday visa, found a job in a café and customers were throwing coffee slang at me left and right. I had some experience behind the espresso machine from jobs in cafés and restaurants back home (the Netherlands), but here I really didn’t know what to do. Americanos, espressos and the occasional cappuccino or latte were all I needed to know to please the Dutch clientele. Coffee in Australia was a whole new ballpark for me.
The situation described above took place in 2012 in Byron Bay, a hippie surf town on the east coast of Australia. I fell in love with the beauty of this place, the waves, but also the amazing coffee and hip restaurants serving colorful, organic food. Australia was far ahead when it came to the coffee and food trends we now see everywhere in Europe and the United States. In the Netherlands I would hardly ever drink coffee, but Australia’s enthusiasm about coffee was contagious and soon I found myself ordering flat whites with the confidence of your typical Australian coffee snob.
After a year in Australia I moved on to Indonesia, where I planned to stay until my money ran out, which turned out to be five months. In order to stay as long as possible, I spent a lot of time on the less touristy islands, meaning cheap accommodation and food. Once every month, however, I returned to Bali to visit friends, book flights, eat something else than rice and have a real cappuccino or flat white. Indonesia grows amazing coffee, but most Indonesians drink instant coffee with an ungodly amount of sugar and instant milk. “Luckily”, Australians have started opening hip coffee shops on Bali, so people like me can enjoy espresso coffee worth 40.000 Rupiah (2.85 US dollar) a cup. For the average Indonesian, whose monthly income is about 1.6 million Rupiah, this is obviously unaffordable. One flat white or 15 portions of fried rice in a local warung; it’s an easy choice, “crazy white people”.
A year in New Zealand, another year in Australia - this time on the west coast - and a year back in the Netherlands, where specialty coffee finally had taken off, led me to the New Hampshire seacoast. Working at Native has given me a little peek in American coffee habits, and I would like to share some of the differences in coffee-drinking-behavior between the countries that I have lived in. First of all, Americans drink drip coffee. Dutch people do the same, but only at home. When they’re in a restaurant or café, it will always be a coffee from an espresso machine. Americans and the Dutch drink it black, or with a little bit of milk or cream. Australians don’t do black coffee. It always has to be with a lot of milk. Same with their tea: always with milk. Another - surprising - difference is that iced coffee seems way more popular here than in Australia, where it is significantly warmer than in New Hampshire. Flavor shots are also an American phenomenon; hardly any Australian or Dutch coffee drinker would ask for a vanilla or caramel latte. Let alone a pumpkin spice flavored coffee. Lastly, Australians are a lot more serious about their coffee than the rest of the world. This coffee-snobbism has led to some cool-sounding espresso drinks, like the “long mac topped up all the way”, a very popular coffee drink in Western Australia.
I will conclude this blog post by explaining what Australians expect to get when they order a ‘long mac’. I will do that within this list of most common espresso drinks, arranged from very milky drinks (latte macchiato) to drinks without milk (espresso).
A big glass cup of steamed milk with a decent amount of foam (comparable to that from a latte) with the espresso poured in from the top, staining the milk (‘macchiato’ means ‘marked’ or ‘stained’ in Italian). This drink has more milk than a latte and usually the same amount of espresso, making it a weaker tasting coffee.
The classic. Served in a glass or ceramic cup. Has more steamed milk, but a smaller layer of foam than a cappuccino. Has the same amount of espresso as a cappuccino, but tastes weaker because of the larger amount of steamed milk.
A latte with chocolate syrup added to the mix. Served in a latte glass or ceramic cup.
Another classic. Always served in the ceramic cup, usually smaller than the latte cup, making it a stronger tasting coffee. Has a larger amount of foam than all the other espresso drinks. In Australia a cappuccino is served with cocoa powder sprinkled on top.
No milk in this one; just hot water and espresso. Hot water is put in a ceramic cup the size of a latte or a cappuccino cup (depending on the café) and the espresso is poured on top. How strong the coffee tastes depends on the size of the cup and the amount of hot water that is used.
An Australian invention. A flat white could be multiple things: a coffee similar to a cappuccino but with less foam (number 1. in illustration), a cappuccino without foam, just steamed milk (2.) or a latte without foam (3.). How strong the coffee tastes depends on the café. In most cafés though, a flat white will be stronger tasting than a latte, and only have a miniscule layer of foam. Always served in a ceramic cup.
Just the smaller version of a latte. Half the amount of espresso, half the amount of steamed milk and foam. Almost always served in a little glass cup.
Like the piccolo, but with an extra shot of espresso. Strong tasting coffee.
Often confused with the latte macchiato, but very different. A ‘long mac’ is a double (long) shot of espresso with a tiny amount (‘stain’) of milk foam. Very strong tasting coffee. Served in a small ceramic or glass cup.
Australians started “topping up” their macchiatos with steamed milk to make it a slightly less strong tasting coffee. This got a little out of hand, to the point that people for example started ordering “a long mac topped up all the way in your biggest size to-go cup”, meaning the coffee drink would be more like a latte than anything else.
The ‘Short Mac’ is a single (short) shot of espresso with a tiny dollop of milk foam on top. Australians tend to not top up this drink.
A double shot of espresso served in a small ceramic cup. No milk involved. For the die-hards.
A single shot of espresso served in a small ceramic cup. Again, no milk.