Coffee v. Espresso

I would like to clarify something that really upsets me when I hear it: the coffee served in the USA is not worse than what they serve in Australia.

I come from a coffee city, so yes, I’ve been spoilt for choice. We have local roasters selling organic, fair trade beans ground to your specification on every other street corner in Portland. Maybe it’s not that way in rural Nebraska, but in your major cities you will always be able to find a handful of places to enjoy a tasty latte (and no, I am NOT referring to Starbucks!).

When I first came to Australia I was pretty appalled by the quality and (lack of) choice for coffee. There are the big chains here, like Zaraffa’s and Coffee Club, which are just like any chain anywhere – made to order cappuccinos and lattes and flat whites (which, as far as I can still tell after 4 years, are just lattes with slightly less foam and more actual milk so they’re “flat” not frothy. And they’re served in a mug whereas lattes are served in little water glasses) – but all coffee drinks here are espresso drinks.

This is, I believe, where the difference is. In Australia if you go to a cafe and ask for a coffee, you will get an espresso drink of some description – probably a flat white or cappuccino. If you go into a cafe in the US and order a coffee, you’ll get just that: coffee. Whether brewed in a French Press or a percolator (drip) you’ll get a mug or cup of ground coffee with water passed through it. Not espresso that’s been carefully measured, tamped and pulled in a high-pressure espresso machine, but medium-roast coffee.

The coffee isn’t bad, it’s just different. And sometimes it’s exactly what you want – ask David Sedaris, even he agrees with me. I want to go out for breakfast and drink unlimited coffee with sugar and creamer; I don’t always want an espresso drink with two shots that will keep me buzzing the rest of the day. And only one?!

So come on Aussies, quit bitching about the coffee in the US and make the distinction between coffee and espresso. Trust me, there is one.


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