Aussie Rules Espresso

This whole thing has Australian Barista Champion Tim Adams steamed!
This whole thing has Australian Barista Champion Tim Adams steamed!

We’ve spent a lot of time since last summer talking about the whole murky coffee/espresso on ice brouhaha,   but while that has died down, a new battle is brewing, this one in Australia. Here in the States we have a lot of regional diversity in culture, attitude, and even generic names for soft drinks. I guess it just shows my ignorance not knowing that something similar is afoot in Australia. (But in retrospect it makes perfect sense that a country as large and spread out as the Land Down Under would have major regional differences). And it appears that one big difference that really gets Aussies fired up is their coffee.

The big population regions of Sydney and Melbourne have had a long time to develop their coffee culture while more remote regions like Queensland have only recently started on theirs, and of course that leads to some tension between them.

This latest go-round started with a story written by a Southerner that said (among other things) this:

The coffee was bad. Sometimes it was bad multiplied by awful.

During a recent stay in the Far North Queensland city of Townsville my wife and I painstakingly searched for a decent kick-start-the-day cup.

We weren’t even looking for good, just palatable delivery of caffeine.

Unfortunately, going by flavour, the additive favoured by local coffee makers was extract of fruit bat droppings.

In fairness to the tropical climes it could have been that the milk had to be harvested from nursing cane toads.

Brutal!

But then the current national champ comes back with:

“Melbourne was first with the boutique specialty coffee roasters so they’ve had a head start but Queenslanders have an equal appreciation of specialty coffee and the barista craft “ plus its a good spot to live. There’s lots of Melbourne guys moving up here,” says Adams. “That the national champion is based on the Sunshine Coast has to say something about how the knowledge is pushing through.”

Obviously this is a story that Barista Magazine needs to get to the bottom of. Maybe if the rumors are true and the 2011 WBC really will be in Australia we’ll get a chance to find out firsthand. In the meantime any Australians want to weigh in? Can you get a good espresso outside of your own city or not?

About Ken 256 Articles
Kenneth R. Olson (he/him) is co-founder and publisher of Barista Magazine the worldwide trade magazine for the professional coffee community. He has written extensively about specialty coffee, traveled near and far for stories, activities, and fun, and been invited to present on topics important to coffee culture. He is also an avid fan of the Portland Trail Blazers, the Washington Huskies, and public libraries.

8 Comments

  1. I think there is good coffee up north! I went to a great cafe in Broadbeach called Lola’s. They serve Adore Estate Coffee (www.adorecoffee.com.au) which I found perfect. It had a rich but sweet taste and I just sat there for two hours drinking coffee (afterwards I went for a run on the beach because I was all jittery). I really enjoyed it. I don’t know about the coffee in Townsville though. Just look for the Adore branding and you know it will taste good!

  2. Hhmmm, Interesting article written by Mr David Southwell !! Raises a lot of questions for me, I consider Brisbane home, I also roast coffee, have taken a few Barista courses & generally have a great passion for coffee & the quality of course, so that is my background on coffee. So when I experience a bad cup of coffee from anywhere in the world I let the person know, so they have a chance to improve themselves & their coffee. I do not slink off & berate some one or some where, using a little known outlet after the fact. Nor do I pass my opinion through my own uneducated ill experienced ways.
    So Mr Southwell, I challenge you to step up confess your vast knowledge of coffee, your training & your experiences…..!!!
    Better still we would appreciate it if you just stay in Melbourne, where your “opinion” belongs !!
    Just for the record you may want to check out where some of the World & Australian Barista Champions are from as well as some of the countries “Forbes 200” coffee related companies are coming from !!

  3. I’m a coffee snob in Townsville, I’d be curious to know where these holiday makers went.

    There’s one cafe/roaster in Townsville that produces palatable coffee, that subject to the barista on duty, can occasionally pass as good coffee.

  4. People must write these negative things just to stir up and muddy the water. Or perhaps they are just having a bad day and want to strike out at whatever is handy.
    All of us in hospitality know that ‘there is no pleasing some.’

    Jay C comment is spot on.

    The northern tip of Queensland, on the PNG border, is more than 1400 miles north of Brisbane, the state capital.
    They are not condemning an area the size of southern california, but an area that would also include Arizona, Utah, Nevada and the whole of California.
    And just because they weren’t happy with something in, say, San Diego?

    And yes, Townsville is called ‘Far North Queensland’ but there is still another 750miles of Queensland left to the north of it, untill you reach the border, and 600miles west to the next border.

    Good grief, the sad thing is that there would be people whose entire knowledge of Queensland coffee is based on those comments.
    What a shame.

  5. That’s quite a cute article but in reality good coffee can be found in each state of Australia. The problem lies in the penetration of great or fantastic espresso bars and cafes and this is related to coffee knowledge at the ground level.

    In Brisbane we’re almost at that tipping point but it hasn’t quite happened yet. In Sydney and Melbourne you are more likely to find shops populated by baristas who have a better grasp of the whole process as well as an understanding of their espresso machines whereas in Brisbane you will find that same passion and dedication but it’s a smaller group that’s expanding.

    The big issue for each coffee roastery, whether it be campos, veneziano, dibella, or merlo always has and always will be persuading their clients of the value of good training and the retention of updated barista techniques.

  6. I see your point, Jay. But I would say that harping about bad coffee may not be such a bad thing, and it may be a sign that a significant shift is underway with consumers. You know in the past, very, very few people would have cared about the quality of their cup, and fewer still would have complained and demanded better.
    I found the above stories particularly interesting because of the put downs from the consumer (ie. milk from cane toads) that we would never hear here in the States, and the fact that the consumer is complaining about a whole region being known for poor coffee yet the Australian barista champion is from that very place. It’s a bit like saying you can’t get any good coffee in Southern California because it’s not a region known for its coffee culture, yet we known there is extremely high quality coffee being produced there (see the August/September issue cover story for example).

  7. I often wonder if we spend so much time “thinking” about these kinds of issues because we’re generally lame. I mean really, threatening to punch someone in the dick is just that: being a dick. And celebrating that in the way we as a community have portrays our craft as a joke. I would hope that a publication dedicated to the profession of the barista would move away from diminishing our craft.

    That said, is it really notable that someone cannot find an acceptable cup in a relatively distant part of a nation? In the United States, it’s not uncommon to find poor coffee yet it does nothing to complain about it. The only way this can change is by encouraging individuals to get out there and build new coffee venues that seek a certain standard. Harping about how crappy a coffee is just wastes everyones’ time.

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