Saturday, September 12, 2009

Coffee and the Untrained Palate

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Latte at Philippa's in Armadale, Melbourne

I've never been a big coffee drinker and only ordered an occasional cappuccino whenever I had lunch with the girls. Then Starbucks came to town together with all the other coffee shops. And because it became a hang out and a meeting place, I got used to having cafe mochas. That tasted good. Finally I settled on Cafe Latte because I really do like a lot of milk in my coffee.

But it was in Italy a few years ago that I became a coffee-drinker. They would serve a cappuccino with breakfast at the BnB we were staying at and it gave me a giddy feeling the whole morning. I couldn't decide whether it was the coffee or just the excitement of being in Italy. Maybe it was a combination. I began to look forward to breakfast because of the coffee. I now know how people can be addicted to coffee and understand when they say they're zombies the whole day without their morning coffee. It's a legalized drug!

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Cappuccino in Rome

In Australia, they people take their coffee very seriously. Coffee here is all espresso based and even the smallest shop will have hard-to-beat coffee. And whoever gave them their names is a marketing genius. I remember my cousin ordering a "Flat white please..." and I remember thinking "oooh, what is that?!?"  She laughed and said "it's regular coffee!"  Then there's a short black (a single shot of espresso) and a long black (an espresso topped off with water) too.

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Cappuccino at Vue de Monde Bistro, Melbourne

I still order lattes which is similar to a flat white but with more milk. A flat white comes in a cup and the latte usually in a glass.  I think the small-cafe glass is stylish, even if not very practical. In Australia, I looked forward to having coffee every morning and afternoon too. I think the best I had on the trip to Melbourne was at Caffe Brunetti-- rich, smooth and velvety. 

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Latte at Caffe Brunetti, Carlton

I also learned just recently that you're not supposed to stir a cappuccino before you drink it--something to do with the microscopic bubbles. In Italy at breakfast, I'd always stir the whole thing. It all tasted the same to my untrained palate.

But now I finally know what people mean when they say the coffee is so good in Italy. I think it's just as good in Australia. It's probably not such a good habit to take up, after having stayed coffee-free for so many years. For a someone who doesn't drink coffee regularly, I'm now craving and dreaming of the coffee I had in Melbourne, and wondering where I can get a really good cup in Manila.

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