I like to think that I am a bit of a coffee snob, I am by no means a connoisseur but I know what I like and I know what gets me going. In my opinion I make the best cup of Joe in Toronto. I slow pour mine using my favourite beans, roasted by a shop here in Toronto. That very same coffee shop also makes the best Americano in Toronto. But, I’m not naming names, yet.
I knew in advance that Australians don’t handle the “North American” drip coffee well, so I braced myself. Luckily I was helped while on the ground and told that the Flat White was what I wanted. What’s the flat white? It’s something like a scaled down latte. Or a cappuccino without the foam. I tried it, gulped it down, asked for another and was hooked. My Toronto-Aussie connect gave me a great list of spots I should try in Melbourne with warning not to settle for mediocre coffee. Melbourne is the coffee capital of the world, never settle. So with list in-hand I proceeded to systematically try every single one of his suggestions.
The true test came after my first morning in Australia. On the hunt for drip/brewed/percolated coffee I hit up Market Lane coffee, conveniently located in historical Prahan Market and known for being one of the best in Melbourne. I automatically ordered a flat white, to be safe, but also decided to indulge in the Flight of Coffees, a selection of three of the finest beans, hand poured through a filter, just the way I make it at home. Thankfully I ordered the flat white, because it took 15 minutes to get the Flight, as the barista ground each set of beans and very slowly, and lovingly slow poured each cup of coffee. The coffees were fantastic. The beans were flavourful and delicious. I made sure to try each as it was served black, before embarrassing myself and asking for milk and sugar. The “slow pour/pour overs” were delicious, but that was the last time I bothered ordering them in Australia. They were still a niche thing, that award-winning coffee shops like Market Lane were trying out. But I didn’t want to wait, and, if possible, they were too flavourful. They were more in-line with a neat party trick or curious novelty rather than a proper drink.
After that experience, I decided to stick with the Flat white and realized as we traveled around Melbourne and Sydney that the Flat White was THE signature coffee of Australia. The remarkable thing about the coffee culture in Australia was that everyone takes it seriously. Weather it be a much-talked about spot or simply a corner cafe, the care and attention to detail was excellent.
Since being back in Toronto I’ve had a couple flat whites, made by my coffee guy from Melbourne. He made them spectacularly, but perhaps it is the lack of warm sun on the skin, but it wasn’t the same as in Australia.
If you ever go to Australia and are a passionate coffee drinker, I highly recommend you skip all the pretense and just order the flat white. You’ll thank me for it. Here is a list of our top coffee picks in Melbourne and Sydney:
Oh and my favourite coffee shop in Toronto is Ezra’s Pound.
All photos taken on a Nokia Lumia 1020.