Friday, December 11, 2009

Syphon, Sensory Lab, Melbourne

Sensory Lab1 – St Ali's new jaunt that has successfully smuggled specialty coffee into mainstream via David Jones, morning television, evening television and beyond – would surely not disappoint in the coffee department. I had no doubts about that. But where it could have disappointed was not looking as much like a lab as its name suggested. I'm talking about a laboratory. Not that other lab that I joked about recently (though "sensory lab" sounds like a synonym for "seeing-eye dog" to me).


“Wow, check it out! Lab coats!”
I was pretty happy. The lab coats seemed to come in roughly only one size, making them more like lab shirts for some of the taller staff members, but lab coats they were. Moving along down the list of Things That Make Something Look Like a Lab we have the lab equipment. I want to see beakers. Preferably bubbling. The more contraptions I've never seen before, the better. And Sensory Lab had them in droves.


Stirring. Bubbling. Halogen heating. This sure as fuck was a lab, and experiments were indeed taking place. Just when I thought my lab equipment cup was full, I saw the cabinet behind the counter. Inside was a huge cold drip setup, with all the glass-encased malevolence of the Terminator's arm that they kept in that vault at Cyberdyne Systems. Want a cup of cold drip coffee? Wait there a while, we need two licensed security guards to turn a key simultaneously. Click.
Whirr.
But the most exciting bit about the cold drip display was that there was a laptop in there too. I had to know why. Temperature monitor? Microprocessor-controlled drip rate? Does it send a tweet when it's done brewing? SETI? I just had to ask.
“Sorry, I was just wondering what that laptop does?”
It turned out it was just there to play music.
But that's okay.
Dad could only get away from work for twenty minutes, so we were a bit short on time, but we were easily talked into having some of the Geisha, on syphon.
“You'd be mad not to try that one,” we were told. You can't really argue with that.
The syphoned geisha is the $12.00 cup of coffee that people have made such a big deal of. I don't see why. If they have a cup of coffee worth $12.00, so be it. It must be better, or rarer, than less expensive cups of coffee. The guy across the road from me owns a Maserati. When he bought it, I'm sure he knew there were other cars out there that cost less.

We were soon advised that some of the flavours would only become apparent at lower temperatures.
Dad was still in a hurry to get back to work, and the waiting time wasn't helping.
"So, I'm standing here waiting for my coffee to go cold?"
"Yeah. Sounds like a Joe Jackson song."
It probably would have made more sense to sit down with our syphons, while we waited for the temperature to equilibriumify itself, but then we wouldn't have seen the whole process.

So that's Sensory Lab1. Very much worth seeing if you're in the city, and even more worth drinking coffee from. That little 1 in the name didn't seem to refer to a footnote, so I guess it suggests there will soon be a Sensory Lab2.

1. this is not a footnote.
2. neither is this.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Espresso, Ninth Street Espresso, New York

Ninth Street have a few stores, all scattered about either end of 9th St, as you may have expected. I froze my ass off walking all the way to the farthest one, trying to walk a rough equilateral triangle before I had to go to the airport. Shuffle chose Justin Timberlake's second album. I agreed that it was a good choice.


As I reached into my pocket to pay for my espresso, I managed to stab myself under the thumbnail with a staple. My second pocket-rummaging-related injury this week. The guy in the DMC glasses who served me also gave me a Band-Aid. That's above and beyond the call of duty.

Brilliant. I really wanted to buy some beans or some cups or a pair of scales, but my luggage was already annoyed at me. I didn't want to push it.

That concludes my half-a-day of espresso in NYC. I wasn't there for long enough, but I'm glad I spent the whole time as caffeinated as I was. Andy also recommended I check out a place called Abrazo, but when I asked Google Maps it tried to direct me to Abruzzi in Italy. That's a long walk from the East Village.

Triple Ristretto, Café Grumpy, New York

This is Café Grumpy in Chelsea: stop number one in my See Manhattan While Walking Between Espressi Until I Have to Go to the Airport self-guided tour. I walked here from Chinatown. It felt like my nose was about to fall off from the cold when I walked in the door. En route, I saw a very long queue outside an American Apparel store. It was an open casting call. There was a sign instructing people to walk in and to the right, and leave their resumé on the counter. SWPL. I really wanted to take a photo of the queue and the sign, but I was worried the people might think my impromptu iPhotography was part of the audition and start stripping down to their simple unbranded t-shirts and risk unnecessary hypothermia.

Synesso. Two clover™ machines. For the tea drinkers some sort of instant-hot-water machine; a few rungs up from the Tefal, though many rungs down from the Über Boiler. The espresso comes with the tagline "triple ristretto", though I think the overtly festive colour scheme of the cup and saucer is also worth mentioning.

I also had a cappuccino shortly after, which I assume was also made from a triple ristretto. Does that mean I had six cups of coffee in twenty-four minutes? No, that's not really how it works, but it would explain why my head started spinning as I walked back down 20th. That couldn't have just been the cold weather.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cappuccino, Ground Support, New York

"Yeah, it was called Ground...something. Oh, shit! GROUND! I get it now!"

Yes, it's the past-tense of grind. It would be even more apt if this place was at an airport. On the tarmac. You have to wear a hi-viz tabard and get waved out there by a dude with huge ear muffs and those semaphore hi-viz squash racquets.

Back to reality: I found this place by switching on Data Roaming (which I still may regret - haven't had my next phone bill yet...gulp...) and searching Google Maps for "intelligentsia", and then walking toward the nearest dot. About four blocks in the rain without an umbrella took me to Ground Support. Then I realised I had no US dollars yet, and walked another block to some pizza place with an "ATM" sign out the front.

I hate using those backwater, fly-by-night ATMs when overseas. Know what I mean? This one was particularly suspicious-looking, with a sign on the front proudly saying that it will not dispense receipts. For some reason I though it was safe, because there were a bunch of cops in the shop too, ordering slices of pizza at 11.00am. But credit card fraud is dangerous. It's like your wallet caught a venereal disease. You can't just go sticking your credit card in any old cheap, back-alley, fly-by-night...

Okay that metaphor is too disgusting to continue with. Back to Ground Support. Their range of cup sizes confused me.


I ordered a small cappuccino, and made sure that it wasn't going to be made with 400oz of milk. Luckily for me, a "small" is the fourth one from the left.

Nice.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Espresso, Espressolab, Quebec

"What time are you open until?"
"10 o'clock."
"Yesss!" (accompanied by Lleyton Hewitt-style victory gesture)

We ducked in next door for a pho first, had trouble pronouncing French approximations of Vietnamese words for "soup", then came back to Espressolab.
At first, I hoped an "espresso lab" would look a bit like this:


But no, it was more like a huge empty café, tastefully decorated though. You know, furniture made of wood, concrete benches. Kind of minimal. It's what Starbucks could look like if they ever reconsider their patented "the 90s just vomited into a green bucket" look.
The lack of customers added to the minimalism too, though I found out they hadn't been open for long.
Beans from 49th Parallel. It's good to see that stuff is making it out this far east.
My espresso was pretty happening. Danny said his latte was a bit on the weak side, though the giant cup may have something to do with that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Espresso, Café Santé Veritas, Montreal

There's an old saying.

"Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time."

I agree, but there are a few exceptions. If it's snowing, nowhere is walking distance. That's the problem I ran into in Montreal. I planned on visiting Caffe in Gamba.
I started walking.
It was a good 45 minutes each way, but I had the time.
It got colder.
It snowed a bit.
It got even colder.
It snowed a bit more.
Then it snowed a lot.
That was all in the first ten minutes.
I decided it wasn't worth either the walk or a taxi (I was still recovering from the one-way $20 cab I took in LA solely for coffee only a few weeks ago), so I turned back.

So I wasn't going to make it to Gamba. I went to Veritas instead. The coffee was great. Excellent, actually. The service was a little abrupt. Not rude, or appalling or anything like that, it just didn't make me want to go back there. The place was deserted when I walked in.
"Hi. I was just after an espr..."
"Can you please order at the register?"
I took three steps to the left, to the other side of the pillar, and repeated my order.
Back in my day, she would have taken my order and my money and not really given a fuck where I was standing.
And it's not a French/English thing. No. My experience in Montreal (though not necessarily all of Quebec) was that everybody will start a conversation in French, but will happily continue it in English - if you clearly speak no French - without swearing at you.
I don't speak any French, and expect to be sworn at and/or spat on accordingly, so anything less impolite than that is always welcomed.
But that's not important. The coffee was serious. And photogenic.

The teaspoon is in the photo for scale, so you know the cup is only slightly larger in diameter than the length of the spoony bit of a teaspoon. Or is that a coffeespoon? Either way, it was never going to balance on that saucer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ristretto, Caffé Artigiano, Vancouver

Caffé Artigiano has a lot going for it:
- Every winner of the Canadian Barista Championship, since the competition began in 2003, has been from Caffé Artigiano.
- They have a rather intimidating five-group LM machine:

- They are big on non-espresso business too, with french press and (from memory) a pourover of the day (I think - let me know if I'm wrong about that).
- They have this sign:

Well, there was no need to take advantage of their generous returns policy. This ristretto was amazing. It even prompted me to use the #godshot hashtag on Twitter.

I'm not sure if it really qualifies as a godshot, but this is one of the few times my whole flock of tastebuds stood up and said, "Dude, what the hell was that?!" I wish I could remember more, but, er, I'm writing this nearly a month later so it's a bit hard to remember the taste.

Cappuccino, Uva Wine Bar, Vancouver

A lot of hotels have some sort of coffee in the lobby, or in the bar/restaurant attached to the lobby. It is rarely any good. Even rarer still, is those hotels with lobby coffee so good that you would come back and visit again even if you weren't staying upstairs. I gave Uva a bit of a scout when we checked in today, and noticed the Synesso and the fact that they were using 49th Parallel beans. This place seemed to be worth checking out, and I could get there without walking outside. And that was a relief. It had been raining since we got here.


Nice. Danny tried to order a flat white. The guy hadn't heard of them. It's nice to know that the great wave of flat white* hasn't yet swept through Vancouver. The water was served in a jar too, which reminded me a bit of Greenhouse, although I later found out these jars aren't recycled. Buying brand new jars to use as water glasses seems a little strange, but the coffee was pretty happening. I came back about five times while I was in town.

* Flat whites, known and loved and consumed in Australia (ordered by me often as a safeguard against getting a too-foamy cappuccino or a too-weak latté), seem to have made people go mental in London recently. Specialty coffee in London is awash with Kiwi and Aussie baristas, they make great coffee (some of which are flat whites), and lots of punters are enjoying it. Unfortunately, some of the bigger chains have gleaned from this that the key to success is not making better coffee, but making a drink called a flat white.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Espresso, Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, Los Angeles

It was going to be a long
long
long
long walk. Dealbreakingly long. No matter which Intelligentsia location I chose - and I made a pact with myself to visit at least one of them - they were pretty bloody hard to get to from where I was in West Hollywood. Los Angeles has a lot of great bits, but they are all so far apart as to make walking between them almost an impossibility. It seemed I could walk for an hour and still only just cross from West Hollywood into Hollywood. I found one place that seemed to rent out bikes, and it didn't seem far away on the map.
But it was.
And it turns out they don't rent out bikes. They only do that at their other stores, in more bike-friendly locations. If I was at all inclined to write passive-agressive negative reviews on Yelp, I would protest that this bike shop's Yelp listing said that it hires out bikes. But where do you go to complain when Yelp's information is incorrect? Who Yelps the Yelp?
I walked a bit further down Melrose, unsure if I was really going to walk for three hours to Intelligentsia way up the other end of Hollywood proper where Santa Monica Blvd meets Sunset (as far as I knew those two boulevards were parallel - would I have to walk INFINITE miles to reach their intersection?), recoiling at the numerous Ed Hardy crimes being committed around me, when all of a sudden, outside a vintage t-shirt store (if it has a URL on it, it ain't vintage in my book) I saw a taxi.
Crisis averted!
I got in, and gave him some fairly confusing directions. He executed a confusing series of U-turns, forgot to switch on the meter for a while, and soon we were tearing up Santa Monica. On the way I saw a poster for Point Break Live, which sounds like a great idea until you search for it on YouTube.
The cab ride cost me $20. Ouch. I was going to have to rethink my return journey. Later. First: coffee.

Here we are. Just slightly around the corner from where the taxi spat me out on the pavement, I'm a little horrified to admit that I knew which way to walk because I remembered that Google Street View showed that the place I was looking for was across the road from some sort of leather fetish shop called Rough Trade. Intelligentsia was alive with delicious coffee-related sounds, aloof white person conversation, a stampede across Macbook Pro keyboards, and the smug clatter of iPhone-on-marble. I'd come to the right place: it seems you can't have one without the other three. And not a single Ed Hardy t-shirt in sight.

Above, you can see two Synessos, two clover™, many grinders (including a doserless one that seemed to dish out the same weight every time - I was happy to not have my queueing accompanied by the CLAK CLAK CLAK CLAK empty doser soundtrack) and a queue that goes all the way out the door. I queued up. For a long time. A very long time. Not only do these customers know it's worth coming all the way here, they know it's worth queueing for too. To avoid queueing again, I ordered an espresso and a cappuccino.

Delicious. I downed the espresso first - it had a much shorter shelf life - but that meant I couldn't really taste the cappuccino afterwards. My tastebuds had set their coffee threshold so high after the espresso that they didn't even see the cappuccino come in the door. But I gave them time to settle down. It was worth it. Easily worth the journey. And possibly the $20 cab ride. But not another $20 to get back. I got on the bus instead, which cost $1.25 and took me almost exactly back to the hotel. But bus rides in foreign countries are always terrifying when you don't know how the fares work.
"Er, just down to La Cienega."
"$1.25."
That sounded made-up. Whatever. I tried to hand the change to him.
"No. The machine."
I put my money in. It gladly accepted it. It didn't spit anything out though.
"Er..."
By this point we were at the next stop and angry people who knew how to ride a bus were lining up behind me wondering what the problem was.
"What do you need?"
"I put my money in, nothing came out."
"No ticket."
I couldn't tell if it was a question or a statement. Was he asking if I had a ticket already? Did that mean I was supposed to buy one before I got on?
"Can I buy one?"
"No. No ticket."
"Oh."
He meant I just put the money in, and it doesn't issue a ticket. I guess that's a good system, if you can only enter through the front doors. I slunk to the back of the bus like a tourist. A very caffeinated one.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Espresso, Starbucks, West Hollywood

It begins. I didn't really want to order or drink this, but I needed something to force myself awake to combat the jet lag. That, and the caffeine addiction thing.

The first of many, I'm sure.
Damn addiction.
On the bright side: I've had much worse Starbucks espressi than this one in the past.
But the caffeine had other effects. It almost convinced me to buy a Seeburg Rhythm Prince from the Music Thrift Store. It's a drum machine from the 60s, which involves some sort of rotating drum, the speed of which is controlled by the "tempo" knob. Very proto-steam-techno-punk.
But it was bigger than my suitcase. And the online version is just as entertaining and doesn't require that antiquated AC lead.

note: The date/time I entered for this post is not correct. I probably had it at about 4.00pm, but that would put it before the one I had on the plane on the way here. That west-to-east dateline crossing is the closest thing we have to time travel.

QANTAS, Melbourne to Los Angeles

I'm not quite sure who is to blame for me not getting any sleep on this fourteen hour flight. But the cup pictured above may have something to do with it, aided and abetted by the short mac from Macchinetta and the Aeropress I had at home.
While we're on the subject: I didn't bring the Aeropress with me. I've been planning to for weeks, but I couldn't crunch the numbers. It would have meant bringing a bigger suitcase. That's hard to justify.

Short Macchiato, Macchinetta, Melbourne Airport

"Just a short mac thanks."
"Warm or cold milk?"
Nice. That's a new one.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Latte, Dancing Goat, Ray's Outdoors Carpark, Preston

Did you mean 'rays outdoors'?

No. I did not mean that. I wouldn't have gone to so much trouble to type the apostrophe if I didn't mean to, you stupid phone. Unless of course you're being clever. Sun rays. Outdoors. RAYS OUTDOORS. Geddit?
No, of course not.
I did mean Ray's Outdoors, because Dancing Goat have a van in the carpark every morning, and I've been meaning to check it out for a while now. But they're only open until 10.00am, and it's very rare that I'm driving down Bell St before then on a weekday.

Just be careful exiting via the "NO EXIT" driveway. I confused the hell out of an old guy in a 626. Who knows, maybe he's still there, hovering in the left lane at 5km/h wondering why the carpark has two exits but no entry.

Yes, my car needs a wash. But unfortunately under level 3a water restrictions if I want to wash with my car, I can only use a bucket, and even then only to wash windows and mirrors. To wash the whole thing I have to go to a car wash. Unsurprisingly, car washes seem surprisingly expensive. Were they always that way?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

On Stencils: Latte, home

A note to advertisers:

You are not going to win me over with stencil art. Stencils jumped the shark when Microsoft used them to launch the original Xbox. That was in early 2002.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ristretto, Proud Mary, Collingwood

To tip me over the three-coffees-in-an-hour line, I just had to go for a 'spro or a 'stro before I staggered, shaking, back out into the daylight. I went for the Ipanema. And downed it before I had time to get the camera out.

I was informed that the bean from Ipanema had been roasted 14 days ago, and stored in a modified bar fridge, that was pretty much a wine fridge, but allowed higher humidity. Fascinating. And it involves hardware hacking. But I didn't quite know how to say, "Oh, I know, I read that on a blog this morning before I came here."

Another Flat White, Proud Mary, Collingwood

Interestingly, the menu here includes a lot of beverages that serious third-Google-wave-of-summer coffee places often shy away from. There's a white hot chocolate. There's two ways to order a mocha - I saw them constructing one of the more elaborate ones while I was here. It's interesting. This seems to be one of those serious coffee places that will attract even non-coffee drinkers, and at least they'll be able to order something too. It kind of makes me want to see how they tackle a hot chocolate, I'm sure it would be distinctive. But that would mean I wouldn't be ordering coffee, and, in the immortal words of Anthony Kiedis in Point Break, that would be a waste of time.

Another décor note: this place also ticks the two-turntables-and-a-microphone(and a mixer) box. The walls are also adorned with the three patron saints of pawn shop consumer-grade hi-fi speakers: Sansui, Technics and Kenwood. I like to think this can only mean one thing: everybody hangs out here and listens to Creedence after work.

Flat White, Proud Mary, Collingwood

There has been quite a substantial amount of tweet/blog hype about Proud Mary. I managed to get down there on their third day of business. Here's what you need to know, and possibly already do know if you follow the same people I follow on Twitter:
  • It's the new place from Nolan "Liar Liar" Hirte.
  • It's in Collingwood.
  • They have an enormous coffee machine.
More specifically, it's a six-group Synesso. I mean, c'mon. Having a Synesso is impressive enough. But this is a really, really, really big one. One of its three steam wands is pedal-operated too, I hear. You might be thinking, "Yeah, a big coffee machine, that won't impress me," but seriously, it's pretty intimidating when you walk in the door. Even if you don't care what a Synesso is, and don't drink coffee, you'll probably just wonder how heavy it is and how they got it in the building. But if you are into that sort of machine-spotting behaviour, you'll be glad to know they also have a clover™, a pretty serious siphon setup, and many grinders. I went for a flat white while I waited for the breakfast.

Magic. It just made me want to drink more. So I did. See the next post for more details.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Espresso, DOC, Carlton

I got pretty excited yesterday when a horse named Shocking won the Melbourne Cup. I couldn't wait to see the headlines the next day. Those headline kids were going to have so much fun with the pun. "Shocking result", etc. If ever there was an opportunity to get everyone vomiting in their muesli at the so-predictable-it's-unexpected hilarity of the pun, this was it!

The Age's actual headline was a little lukewarm, really. It would have been better put to use at the top of a story about a guy getting electrocuted trying to jump an electric fence to steal a slab of Toohey's New.

Most importantly, somebody got paid to come up with that. I'm gonna kill my guidance counsellor.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Latte, Michel's Espresso, Barkley Square, Brunswick

Barkley Square. It sounds familiar. Wasn't there a standard about it?

Oh. No, there wasn't. It all depends how you pronounce "Berkeley" I guess.

Anyhow, this Michel's cracks me up every time I see it. It's mainly because of what happened the first time I came to Barkley Square with LLL. We walked in through the food court, past a Baker's Delight, a fish shop and a butcher's, on the way to the Coles. There was a guy selling books on some trestle tables in the middle. It not only sounded familiar, it also looked exceedingly familiar.

LLL: Woooah, this is like Fountain Gate!
R: Yep, it's got everything that every other shopping centre has. Look out, there's a Flight Centre coming up on the left. Just this side of EB Games.
LLL: What's next, a Michel's Patisserie?!
R: HOW DID YOU KNOW?!

We rounded the corner, and there was Michel's. Of course, she didn't know it was coming. But if you take notice of this sort of thing, it's easy to predict. I see it in the distance as I walk into EB Games every time I go to Barkley Square (that's pretty much the only reason I go there), and I often consider trying their coffee, unless I'm too busy wondering why a Coles and a Safeway decided to open right next to each other. But the coffee always seemed like a good idea. After all, Michel's Espresso is a pretty substantial blip on Instaurator's CV, is it not? Yes, it is. I figured a visit to Michel's would play out like a This is What Happens When you Train Staff Well instructional video. So, I tried to go there three times today. Really. Three times.
  1. After buying Brütal Legend from EB Games (OMG! So freaking Mëtäl!!) I thought, "That's it. Today's the day. I'm going to have a latté from Michel's, be blown away, then go home and play Brütal Legend." But I saw the $3.40 (from memory) espresso price, and realised Toby's was just on the other side of the car park. So I left.
  2. Toby's was closed. It's hard to know who's going to be open on Cup Eve. So I headed back to Michel's again. I got spooked by the queue. So I left.
  3. I drove to the fish guy on Nicholson St. He was closed. I remembered the fish guy at Barkley Square was open. The only way I could justify driving back there was if I also had a coffee. So I went in.
I must have looked psychotic, almost ordering a coffee twice before finally having one. Of course, we have to map that against the psychoticity associated with taking photos of a cup of coffee in public. Yes, that was a plural. Photos. I'm still not sure how the multi-tap autofocus biz works.

It was pretty good. You could do a hell of a lot worse, especially at a cookie-cutter mall-alike like this. If you're about to drop in at Coles because you forgot to get carrots at Safeway after picking up some Baker's Delight bread on the way out of Flight Centre after a quick peruse through the second-hand PSP rack at EB Games, be assured that Michel's is on the safe list. Of course, I cannot guarantee chain-wide trustworthiness. That kind of research needs a whole blog dedicated to it.
Anyone game to review every Michel's in the country?

Friday, October 30, 2009

1500th post!

1500. The big one-five-oh-oh. That's a whole lot of coffee. It's also a whole lot of writing either about, or not about, said coffee. I started this blog for a weird reason (a strong latte being served in a larger vessel than a regular latte, from what I remember), but what I really liked after I started was that it forced me to write every day. Writing, when there's no pressure to do so, is something I find it hard to make time for. So the write-something-for-every-coffee strategy was a pretty simple way to force myself to put pen to paper. "Finger to key" just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? Anyway. Some issues came up with this recently:
  1. Pissing off café owners. I figured it was only a matter of time. I dealt with this problem about fifty posts ago, by deciding not to give bad reviews. To avoid looking like I was only giving good reviews, I stopped writing them too.
  2. I changed the outcome by measuring it. Looking at the tags could be a good way of analysing my coffee consumption habits, if it weren't for the times where I think, "Nah, I can't go there again, I've blogged them ten times already."
  3. Catching up. It's not fun. The time it takes to write about a cup of coffee is usually much longer than it takes to make and/or drink one. The drinking and writing seldom happen at the same time. The writing tends to want to take up spare time that I just don't have every day. This means I have to sit down every few days and catch up on maybe nine or ten coffees, which involves answering the question, "Oh crap, what did I do on Tuesday morning again?"
  4. Ideas. And running out of them.
So this all points towards posting less often. And yes, that kind of goes against the "I blog about every coffee I drink" idea, which is what this blog is all about. But I'm going to go for quality over quantity for a while. I'd much rather write one or two good posts in a week than three okay-ish ones and a dozen YouTube embeds. But this is all extraordinarily bad timing: I've got a better camera now.

Oh. Actually, it looks about the same at that size doesn't it? Make sure you click on it to see how in-focus it is.

Anyway, consider me on part-time posting duty. It should get interesting in about two weeks. I'll be in Vancouver. I'll freeze my tits off, but some of the coffee was spectacular, from what I remember from last time I was there.

(I'm also going to Whistler, which is where I've had the most blogworthy stupidly-served coffee ever. That should be, er, interesting to blog about too.)

Latte, Mart 130, Albert Park

Three tips for finding this place via tram:
  1. It's at stop 130. Hence the name.
  2. The stop is called Middle Park. Though technically it's in Albert Park. Confusing.
  3. If you forget the name and number of the stop, just watch out the window until you see a huge café on the platform. But make sure you look out the right window!
I ended up on Fitzroy St because I only looked out the seaward-facing windows. And then I got rained on.

"Can I get you a coffee first?"
"Yes! Just a latte thanks."
"I haven't been making them for long, it might not be very good..."
"Okay. Do I still have to pay for it?"
A frank warning deserves a frank question, I guess!
Of course, that warning is infinitely preferable to, "I've never made one before, the guy who usually does the coffee couldn't come in today, I'll see what happens." At least I know there's been some training.

Yes. Nothing wrong with that. It wasn't the most micro microfoam I've seen, but otherwise a pleasure to drink. And I almost got in three coffees before midday. That's very rare for me. The corncakes were absolutely spectacular, and it seems like the staff have fun here too. I mean, they were listening to Belle and Sebastian! Surely that's the mark of someone enjoying their job.


Okay, but maybe the guy in that video enjoyed his job slightly more.

Espresso, MSAC, Albert Park

MSAC stands for Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.
It's in Melbourne. It's the only one in Melbourne. I think the M is extraneous. They should have just called it the SAC.
But I guess if any city can get away with too many letters in the acronym names of large buildings, it's Melbourne. We do, after all, have the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria), a building whose name defies explanation. Is it really national? If so, why do we need to specify that it's in Victoria? How can it be the gallery of the whole country and just of one state at the same time?
All that aside, the MSAC café had an interesting notice that I should have taken a photo of. I can't remember it word for word, so a rough paraphrase will have to do:
"All our coffees are made with skinny milk. Please specify if you would prefer full-cream or soy."
That's a new one.

Aeropress, home

Well, it's pretty easy to get excited about this:



Director Tim Schafer (co-wrote Secret of Monkey Island, among other things) had this much to say about the idea behind Brütal Legend:
"I've always seen this overlap between medieval warfare and heavy metal. You see heavy metal singers and they'll have like a brace around their arm and they'll be singing about Orcs. So let's just make a world where that all happens."

Metal.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Flat White, Sweet Source, Carlton North

The sausage rolls here are $9.00. I assume they're amazing. One day I'm going to find out. Mark my words.

Aeropress, home

I spotted this one last night:


I hope the coffee is more consistent than the spelling.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Espresso, St Ali, South Melbourne

Some time between now and the last time I used the West Gate Bridge, they moved the lanes around. Coming over from Flinders St and Docklands and turning right onto the West Gate Fwy is a lot easier now that the lanes are labelled much earlier. But coming back to the city from the wesside is a bit confusing. I'm not sure if it's still a work in progress, but you need to plan REALLY far ahead if you want to get off at that Lorimer St/South Wharf exit. I felt like I was in the appropriate lane after following the signs, and then all of a sudden I noticed there was another lane to my left, whose cars were all peeling off to South Wharf while I kept going straight ahead. There wasn't much I could do other than get off at Kings Way, the end of which is a left-turn only situation. It's as though that whole segment of road has been redesigned by someone who wants a lot of traffic to be directed to South Melbourne. If you want to go north of the city, you still might accidentally go south first. That's what happened to me today. But as I did a U-turn on Kings Way (or is that "King's Way"(or "Kings' Way"?)?) I realised that the West Gate had spat me out pretty close to St Ali. Thank you, gods of traffic.

Email from 7-Eleven: Latte, home



I assume a "Hot Brazilian" is a hair-removal technique that involves pouring hot wax on something. Call me crazy, but I don't ever want to "wake up with" one of those.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Aeropress, home

Well, the dishwasher is gone. For at least a week. It will either get fixed, or replaced. Until then, we have somewhere else to keep the vacuum cleaner. I didn't discuss any of the issues of my previous post with the dishwasher guy. Mainly because I hadn't written them yet.


This could motivate me to go out for coffee a lot more than usual in the next week. At least cafés have dishwashers.

Latte, home

The dishwasher guy is going to be here between midday and 5pm.
Man, I wish I could give people time windows like that. It might make it annoying for everyone else, but it would really relieve the pressure of being late to things.
"Okay, I'll meet you somewhere in the city between one and three o'clock. See you there."
That just wouldn't work. So why do we put up with dishwasher repair guys doing the same? Don't they know in advance how many jobs they have, and roughly how long each one will take, and thus be able to offer maybe a thirty- or forty-minute window? I'd be happy with that. At least I would be able to leave the house.
But I guess occasionally they have a day where all the jobs are in the same suburb, each job takes less than ten minutes, and they can knock off from work seven hours early. That would be nice.

This leads to another question. How do people with jobs get anything done? I find this hard to understand. The post office is only open during business hours. You work during business hours. When exactly do you go to the post office to pick up that package that got delivered to your house three times last week while you were at work? And if you live nowhere near your work, that makes it even harder. But let's get back to the dishwasher: if it breaks down, and you work five days a week, what do you tell your boss?

"Sorry about the late notice, but I just got a call from my real estate agent, and it turns out I'll have to take the rest of the day off."
"The real estate agent?"
"Yes."
"The rest of the day?"
"Yes."
"It's 10.30 in the morning."
"I know. But a man is coming to look at the dishwasher."
"Your dishwasher at home?"
"Yes."
"Why can't they come on the weekend?"
"Because it will be the weekend."
"But why will that take all day?"
"There's a very small window in which he can come to the house today, and it is between midday and 5pm."
"It's only ten-th..."
"It takes an hour to get home. With traffic and waiting-for-the-next-train time, I'm still cutting it fine if I leave now. If he turns up before I get there, it might be weeks before I get another appointment, for which I'll need at least another six hours off work."
"Dishwasher-related work absences costs Australians $6 billion annually. Each cycle washes more of our economy straight down the drain. It may be a labour-saving device, but just think about what you could be saving."
"Australia?"
"Precisely."
"Boss, you might want to check your business card."
"Oh shit. We make dishwashers. Damn. Take the rest of the week off. Your job depends on it!"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Espresso, Foxy Brown, Northcote

Okay, I won't write too much about this place. I'll save that for next time I come here. Y'see, the espresso was nice and it came with a Tiny Teddy on the side and I love the tranquil (when there isn't a train coming past) surrounds and the outdoor couches and everything, but that was BEFORE I realised they have a two-page coffee menu. I'll dig a bit deeper next time I come here.

Flat White, Kent St, Fitzroy

We're talking about Them Crooked Vultures again. Yuri saw them at Austin City Limits a few weeks ago. He said they were rad, despite being at a festival where the Intel billboard over the stage was bigger than the stage itself.

Espresso, home

Mum just used all of the following words in one phone conversation:
  • wan
  • cordial (as an adjective)
  • swanning
We also discussed the lyrics to Bryan Adams's Summer of 69. Complete the blanks in the following lyrics:

Me and some guys from school
Had a band and we tried real hard
____ quit, ____ got married.
Should've known we'd never get far.

The first blank is pretty universally Jimmy.
But the second one is a bit harder to pin down.
Get on Google. You'll find Jody, Joey, Johnny, Julie...who really knows who got married?
After a few dozen listens, I can hear either Joey or Jody - that slight "d" sound could just be a bit of Bryan Adams's spittle hitting the microphone.
But would he have said "some guys from school" if it was "Jody"? Is that a common male name in whatever bit of Canada Bryan Adams is from?

Oh, that brings us to the fourth Jane-Austen-spec word from that phone conversation. Julie can also be misheard as...

Jimmy quit, duly got married.

Duly. Adverb. "As might be expected or predicted".

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures: Espresso, home

Them Crooked Vultures definitely fall under the superband category:
  • Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age)
  • John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
  • Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana)
Wow. Wow. Wow. They've been doing a fair bit of touring (at least, for a band who hasn't released anything yet), and I hear they are coming to Australia. Here's some footage of them in the studio. It's like a trailer for an action movie, with the editing getting faster at the end until you just want to scream, "WHEN IS THE ALBUM COMING OUT ALREADY?!"


Latte, home

Here's some interesting cross-promotion. It's great to see Burger King combining everything that's wrong with American fast food with everything that's right with Japanese fads, but why is it all in the name of Windows?

Beware. I think what they're saying is if you install Windows 7, your computer will become as sluggish and bloated as you would feel after eating this burger.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Does Anybody Really Know What the Timing Is: Aeropress, home

Well, I just remembered that I was supposed to write about extreme haircuts in this post, rather than the one earlier today. That one was supposed to be about timing. I'll just write about it here; assume the title of this post is more along the lines of Does Anybody Really Know What the Timing Is: Latte, home.

Well, Wayne Coyne from Flaming Lips is programming Rage this morning. He promises to play music we've never heard before. That has a nice ring to it, but it's a weird thing to say when you follow it up with The Church and Split Enz. Especially when you're broadcasting to an Australian audience. But anyway, later on he played Rainbow Connection. LLL insisted that I not make any obtrusive coffee grinding/tamping/espressing noises until the song finished. I stared down at the empty cup, and the button that pumps water through the coffee into the empty cup, and the portafilter that was sitting on the bench ready to go, and at the thermostat light that had just gone out, and cursed Kermit the Frog for delaying this coffee and possibly wrecking the whole temperature scenario I had just planned. After all, some guy on the internet said I should wait EXACTLY thirty seconds after the light goes out! Damn you, Kermit!

Well, the song finished, I pulled the shot, and it was pre-tty good. Like how Larry David says it. Take that, internet!

Espresso, Brother Baba Budan, City

I left the house, planning only to go around the corner and come back (and so didn't bother bringing my phone), but ended up walking to the city and going to BBB.
So there's no photo of this one.
But I've just heard about another new place in South Melbourne called Dead Man Espresso. They use Seven Seeds coffee, and have a blog. That ticks enough boxes for me, I'd better add them to my increasingly-increasing-in-length must-visit-soon list.

Extreme Hair Part 2: Latte, home

Or, How to Get an Extreme Haircut.
  1. Get a haircut.
  2. Get up and leave before they're finished.
Hey, presto. Extreme hair.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Manitoba vs Manitoba: Aeropress, home

I walked past and thought, "Wow, that Caribou album really looks like Manitoba's first album."
Upon rifling through the Caribou section, "WOW, that other Caribou album really looks like Manitoba's SECOND album!"
I soon realised a trend was developing. "Er, actually, they have the same names and track listing too. Right. So when did Manitoba change his name to Caribou?"

Wikipedia stepped out of the shadows and said, "A few years ago! Around about the time he got threatened with legal action!"
I masked my surprise (at being ambushed by a website, in public no less) with more questions.
"By who?"
"Richard Manitoba."
"Who is that?"
"The current lead singer of the MC5."
"But Wikipedia, how do you know that for sure?"
"Oh, some people told me. That's as good as fact, as far as I'm concerned."
"But that's so retarded! Just because a guy in Canada is using your surname as his stage name, you shouldn't go around suing them! That's like John Smith suing The Smiths!"
"HEY! Stop quoting me without citing me as a reference!"
"Oh shit, sorry.1 Is that better?"
"That's more like it."
"Richard Manitoba is still a Dick though."
"I know. Nominative determinism at its finest, etc. But what can you do?"
"Er, I dunno, start a petition?"
"A petition to convince whom to do what, exactly?"
"To get the Province of Manitoba to sue Richard Manitoba for stealing its name?"
"Great idea. Do it!"
"Nah, it's much easier to just edit Wikipedia to say it already happened, then cite my own blog as a reference, thus creating an impenetrable citation loop that can only be broken by..."
"THWAP."

That's when Wikipedia knocked me out cold. I guess I had it coming. As in most situations, I went home and got out the Aeropress.

1. Source: Wikipedia.

Espresso, Atomica, Fitzroy

I love these flat, wide La Marzocco espresso cups. Terrible photo. Delicious coffee, though.

Extreme Hair: Latte, home

I was going to compile a list of Things to Gimage* if You Want a Laugh, but the first one was funny enough:


In particular, this guy:



This one is good value too.

*I'm talking about Google Image Search. In my last post, I decided the word "gimage" was easier to throw around than "google-image-search". So my use of gimage has nothing to do with this.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Latte, Victoria Lounge, Richmond

This is my second latte from Vic Lounge today. To make up for there being no photos of either of the occasions, I Google-image-searched* victoria lounge richmond, and sure enough I found one of my own photos.



That one is pretty relevant though. I did have two today.

* It's a shame there's no easy-to-implement verb for that. I propose "gimage". E.g. "Stop gimaging yourself, you'll go blind!"

Latte, Victoria Lounge, Richmond

Well, it turns out they actually had a coffee machine at the shoot this morning. A real espresso machine. It had a pretty cool way of getting water too. You know those big bottles that people plug upside-down into water coolers? I'm sure there's a technical term for them, but I've never had a job that involved a water cooler. There you go folks, that's something to discuss around the water cooler tomorrow morning: "What is this thing we stand around called, anyway?"
Anyhow, this coffee machine had one of those upside down water bottles plugged in the top. Genius. It had a separate grinder too, Dymo-labelled with a chilling warning: "DO NOT ADJUST OR WE LOSE THE GRINDER."
Imagine that! One click of the dial, and ZAP. It's gone.

Espresso, home

I'm up frightfully early today. It's not often I have a gig this early. This one is pretty out of the ordinary though: miming double bass on a TV show. Not only are we miming to an early version of the track which will eventually be re-recorded, but the track doesn't seem to have double bass in it. So of course this didn't surprise me at all:
"I just noticed that the bass doesn't come in until the second verse. But do you want me to play in the first verse anyway?"
"Yes."
Well, that's TV I guess. If they wanted someone on double bass even if there wasn't one playing, then obviously they wouldn't mind if I was seen playing in a section where the bass isn't doing anything. Though the track did have some tubular bells. I wished somebody had mimed those. That would have been totally tubular.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flat White, Auction Rooms, North Melbourne

Two.
They're cupping here today at the bar. I think one of the guys has a glob of coffee stuck to the end of his nose. It's always a danger, when you're smelling that much coffee.
Generally, I think I'm going to have to come back here a lot. The breakfast menu has so many good things on it.

Flat White, Auction Rooms, North Melbourne

One.

Aeropress, home

I'm really getting into riding my bike again. Not necessarily for transport. I don't need to be on my way somewhere. It's more of an "I've got nothing to do for the next two hours, I might go see what Coburg Lake looks like" situation. It's outdoors, it's strenuous, it makes me want to buy and eat vegetables (possibly from a farmers' market) and I just may get slightly fitter by doing it. But shared path etiquette is really getting to me. The amount of passive aggressive fucksticks who hurl abuse at me as I pass is quite alarming. It is a shared footpath, and I like to think that not crashing into somebody or their dog is a given, rather than a courtesy. Here's the main two situations where I get in trouble:
  • If I pass without ringing my bell, I get yelled at for not ringing my bell. This usually takes the form of the person talking about me overly loudly to their friend, dog, toddler, or inanimate object if they don't have any of the above.
  • If they see me coming and get themselves and/or their kids and/or their dog(s) out of the way and I don't thank them, a sarcastic, "You're welcome!" usually follows.
Either of these, and more, can be easily retorted with a derisive ring of the bell.
"There's another one, not ringing their bloody bell!"
"Bring bring."
Ah, the bell-ring. So ambiguous. So final. There's no comeback for it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Treehugging Happens: Espresso, Tre Bicchieri, Carlton North

Something a little embarrassing happened yesterday while I was riding my bike along Merri Creek. I caught somebody doing something. They were doing it out in the open. They were not expecting to get caught. They thought nobody was watching. They were alone. That's right, if you've joined the dots correctly, you'll have guessed that when I came around the corner, I saw a girl hugging a tree. Really. I didn't realise people really did that. Sure, some of us go around calling hippies treehuggers, but I never thought that people actually did it. She saw me coming, looked a little embarrassed, started walking away from the tree, and gave me a bit of a scowl as if to say that I interrupted a beautiful moment between her and the tree, and I should have known better than to ride past. I didn't have my camera on me at the time, but I went back the next day. I'm pretty sure it was this one:
Just in case anyone wants to get their hug on after seeing that photo, it's on the Merri Creek trail somewhere between Rushall Station and Dight Falls, roughly where you can see the flats on Heidelberg Rd.

Flat White, Tre Bicchieri, Carlton North

Next time you're in the Carlton North area, check out a shop called Belki. It's a handful of doors up from Tre Bicchieri. Anyway, it's worth a look because of the window. It looks like someone has traced a circle into it. You know, like in Tom and Jerry cartoons, when someone wants to break in and they just draw a circle with a penknife a few times? That's what this window looks like. All it needs is a good sturdy Acme™ Suction Cup and that handbag's as good as stolen. It does make me wonder what spooked them though. They got this far. The circle was completed, all they needed was a few more laps. Unless, of course, those cartoons were exaggerating.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Espresso, Brunetti, Carlton

I just noticed today that brunetti challenge is the most popular search term for users finding this blog via Google. Wow! I'm surprised that, based on that, more people aren't sending their times in! However, I'm not surprised at all that less people want to get a stopwatch involved with what should be a pleasurable experience. But still, I figured I was well overdue for another trial. Today's time was 4 minutes 10 seconds. The woman in front of me with the two kids was ordering a hell of a lot of stuff, which slowed me down, though it was amusing to see the look on the face of the daughter who had just realised she was slightly too tall to stand under the lip of the counter.
"Oh no. I used to be able to stand here. For a while I could stand up straight and my head would quite comfortably reach the counter. But now I have to duck slightly. What's happening?"
But luckily for me, the second till opened for business and I scooted across and ordered. I was order number 1. That's very rare. That must happen, oh, once per till per day I guess.

Drinking vs Tasting: Latte, home

Some helpful material for the caffenoob in all of us:
Jim Seven's article on developing your palate.
And this video (that Jim Seven recommends) on tasting vs drinking:


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Espresso, Marios, Fitzroy

Oops. I forgot about this one.

I remember it came out pretty damn quickly. Maybe I should bring the stopwatch to Mario's next time.

Latte, Tre Bicchieri, Carlton North

This post has nothing to do with Tre Bicchieri.
But honestly, I've been there a lot. Their coffee is great. It almost always is. I'm sort of running out of things to say about them. But luckily, something else takes precedence today.
New Super Mario Bros Wii!



Wow. Four-player simultaneous side-scrolling radness! It's out November 14.

"Sax Solo": Latte, home

Flat White, home


Dr J.Mo also bought us some cups from Ismail in Tunbridge Wells, which Dr J.Mo has mentioned on this blog a few times.
"Have you seen their website recently?"
"No, why?"
"They've linked to your posts about them on the coffee blog."
"No way!"
"Yes way! And also, remember your post about how they are looking for Australian baristas?"
"Ryan, stop hyperlinking mid-conversation."
"Oh, sorry. I just wanted to make sure that when I recount this conversation on the blog later, people will know which post I'm talking about."
"Right."
"So that's why I did those hand-actions."
"You mean "these" ones?"
"No, that's a quotation mark. I mean more like this."
"What did that one link to?"
"You'll have to find out later on when you read this again."
"Oh."
"Anyway, remember that post?"
"Yes."
"About Ismail looking for Australian baristas?"
"Yes!"
"You wouldn't believe how many people have googled "barista tunbridge wells" to find the blog."

I just checked. There were five people. That's still a lot, really.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Piccolo, home

Thanks to DrJMo for the coasters made from recycled circuit boards.

Before you ask: yes, the gold contacts have been scraped off.

CEO to zero: Latte, home

The cover of today's MyCareer section in The Age:

  1. That graph seems to plot a catastrophic career landslide to the bottom, rather than a meteoric rise to CEO. Unless of course we are supposed to read the graph from her point of view, in which case she is drawing it on a transparent whiteboard. Oh, that's commonly called a "window".
  2. Is anyone else as confused as I am by the cliché "meteoric rise"? Don't meteors commonly burn away to nothing as they plummet to the ground? That's not a "rise" in my book. Or this guy's book, for that matter.