Friday, April 11, 2014

My Introduction to Coffee Culture in Sydney

I am a self-proclaimed coffee lover and if latte, long black, espresso and the likes come to mind, you are way off mark. I am more of the Nescafe (home mixed or 3-in-1 version) and kopi tarik kind of coffee person. Haha..

Not Nescafe or kopi tarik.

Before our big move, I was told Australians love their coffee and the coffee culture here is big. In fact, the coffee culture mushrooming in Malaysia *could be* a spin-off from here. Anyways it was predicted that I would be a coffee snob by the time I head back to KL, having been accustomed to the coffee culture here. 2.5 months later, my road to "coffee snob-dom" could take a while.

Despite being neighbours with Glebe (apparently plenty of coffee joints here), I have not had the chance to rub shoulders with other coffee lovers in these coffee places. In fact, my first visit to a real coffee place was only 2 weeks ago in Camperdown (another neighbouring suburb). Campos Coffee in Missenden Road came with great reviews - online and offline. I happen to be at the doorstep one day, so I thought why not find out what the hype is all about.

Walking in, the place is small and cosy. It was also nearly full with customers. I looked for a display board with a list of drinks I can order (the kind they have in Starbucks or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf). No board. Maybe they have a copy of the menu on a table or somewhere. A quick scan round the room indicated there were no menu available. The 3-4 customers ahead of me were rattling off their complicated orders with ease. Perhaps they had one copy pasted on the counter top (some places do this).  First in line by now, I looked at the counter. Nothing there. The young girl stares at me expectantly for my order. I stared at her back.

"Chai latte please. To go." I mumbled finally. I don't know where that came from. I actually wanted a latte without the chai - my "safe" drink.

While waiting for them to prepare my drink, I was still thinking about my order experience.

How was it possible to have an F&B outlet with no menu?
How would I know what sort of drink is available for order? 
More importantly how would I know the price of a drink? What if I only had $5 and ordered a $6 drink? How will I pay for it?

From there, I then thought about the other customers. They were obviously not handicapped without the menu, in fact they made their orders the moment they set foot in front of the counter. Perhaps they were regulars who had going there for their coffee fix for years and years. They probably have the menu in their head, having memorised it. Or they only know of one drink by heart and ordered that day after day. Whatever the reason, I now felt like an unwelcome guest trying to be part of a members only coffee club.

"Chai latte!"

I grabbed the cup and practically ran out of the shop before stopping in mid-tracks. Walking back in, I headed for the counter, grabbed sticks of sugar and a stirrer (awkwardly crossing the path of someone there) and headed home to enjoy my cuppa. It did taste nice, nicer than the chai latte I had the day before. 

Not wanting to allow one bad experience to deter me, I invited Mr H for a cup of coffee at Campos a few days later. The place was just as busy, being a Sunday. Feeling a bit less the outsider, I scanned the shop. Still no menu in sight tho. There was a small board beside the till,  could that be the menu? Probably not as it had only 4-6 items listed. It could be their brew of coffees for the day.

There was a short queue and 5 minutes later, we were in front. I told the girl it's our first time there (technically true as the last time I was alone) and asked for recommendations (I am bit smarter than before). She asked if we wanted hot or cold. Replied "one of each." She suggested affagato (ice cream + coffee) and latte. We ordered iced latte and affagato (Belgian white chocolate flavored ice-cream).

Affagato on the left, iced latte on the right.
Uncle behind dunno. 

This must be my first affagato as I have no recollection of having one before. Although it was love at first sight, the love lessened with each spoon. The coffee was extremely bitter and the only saviour was the Belgian white chocolate flavoured ice-cream. Perhaps next time, I will just order the ice-cream. The latte was nicer tho although Mr H didn't seem too happy with it. He felt it was not sweet enough. 

On our way out, Mr H's face lighted up when he discovered soy latte is part of the invisible menu. Looks like another visit could be on the cards but not before I brush up on my coffee knowledge with help from Know Your Coffee - understanding the cafe menu at last.

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