Full-cream fascists: just let me have milk in my coffee
Coffee snobbery is getting out of control. The other night my request for a dash of milk in a post-meal espresso at a hip new eatery drew a firm shake of the head. “We do not have milk,” the French owner sniffed. She didn’t mean they’d run out - they simply don’t serve milk with coffee. Not a drop.
Much like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, eatery owner Catherine Chauchat sets high standards for her patrons. Her chalkboard menu vetoes soft drink, and a cup of any tea other than obscure herbal digestives is out of the question.
And you can bet if she ever puts steak on the peasant-style menu, eaters won’t have the option of it served well done.
In some ways Ms Chauchat’s near-religious devotion to the integrity of the food and wine she serves is admirable. (For those in Melbourne, the wine bar, Boire, is in Collingwood.)
But I’m starting to find the puritanism of some of the coffee crusaders serving my daily heart-starter infuriating.
I broke a barista’s heart at one place recently by telling him my latte bordered on cold.
Iconic Melbourne eatery Marios refuses to serve skinny milk, soy milk or even decaf. Sydney’s Bar Italia is among others to take a similarly stubborn approach.
Here’s a triple shot of common sense: it’s my $3 and if I want to put moo juice, eight sugars, hot water or any other pollutant in my cup, I will.
Even in the country that spawned Starbucks, snooty baristas are imposing standards.
One US cafe owner had a very public tiff last year with a patron annoyed at being denied espresso over ice.
Customer Jeff Simmermon later posted an angry blog announcing “the only way I’m ever coming back to Murky Coffee in Arlington is if I’m carrying matches and a can of kerosene”.
The owner responded with his own internet rant: “if you ever show your face at my shop, I’ll punch you in your dick”.
For the record, my own recent espresso encounter left nowhere near as bitter a taste.
To her credit, when Ms Chauchat noticed I’d left the cup virtually untouched, she refunded my $3 and politely suggested next time I should try a brandy with alcohol-soaked prunes.
Given the way coffee snobbery is mutating, though, get set to feel like coffee heathens more frequently.
Soon we’ll be expected to know whether our beans were micro-roasted, grown in the shade or picked at midnight.
A dedicated ‘coffee restaurant’ with an eight-course degustation menu paired with eight unique brews is planned for Melbourne - complete with coffee trees in a hot house in the entrance.
Coffee guru Salvatore Malatesta of South Melbourne cafe St Ali hopes the venture will make patrons treat coffee with reverence, not just as a commodity.
He insists drinkers should celebrate the subtle flavours of each estate, and goes to great lengths to nurse his beans from grower to cup.
A “sensory coffee lab” in Sydney where customers will sit down for individual assessments so staff can tailor the best possible brew for them is among his other plans.
Also on the drawing board is a ‘siphon bar’ – serving coffee from machines that look like a science experiment, complete with halogen lamps and Bunsen burners.
This week another Melbourne coffee devotee, Mark Dundon, will open Seven Seeds, a small micro-roaster devoted to boutique beans.
Perhaps surprisingly Mr Dundon, a judge in the global Cup Of Excellence competition, is sanguine about those who don’t share his fetish for the perfect cup. “Though we get a little bit offended when people put three sugars in,” he says. “Sugar is for cakes, not for coffee. In the end though, the customer is always right.”
At last, a caffeine fiend with customer service nous.
Baristas need to remember most of us aren’t on an obsessive quest for fruity, floral notes from a remote plantation.
Just hand over my heart-starter and hold the lecture, not the milk and sugar.
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