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Barista Basics - Articles

Australians v Italians: Who Makes Better Coffee? - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 6, 2004

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Appearing in Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 6, 2004


Australians v Italians: Who Makes Better Coffee?




On Matthew’s recent trip to Italy after tasting much Italian coffee, he was surprised to realise just how good Australian coffee has become – not just in taste, but in product offering at the café level and presentation as well. If Italians are the grandfathers of coffee, as Matthew Gee explains, Australians may well have just earned their title of the young and vibrant upstarts.




I arrived at Milan airport full of excitement and anticipation. After suffering the cruel coffees that the French and the English had served up on my summer sourjourn thus far, Italy stood out like a beacon and promised espresso par excellance and nothing short thereof.

I rushed to the high-tech vending machine at baggage claim and ordered my first latté. The only problem was that the machine dispensed hot milk! I felt like kicking the machine to help the espresso out but suddenly remembered that indeed "latté" was "milk" and the machine did exactly what it was meant to do. I think I muttered to myself how stupid it was to offer such a drink (after all, when was the last time that someone ordered a hot milk in their local Australian café?) but I knew there was only one option now and that was to insert another one Euro for an espresso shot to put on top of my steamed milk. A latte at last! One Euro down - granted, but after a lengthy plane trip with a small child and lost luggage on arrival, money was no object at this point.

So my coffee experience in Italy got off to a bad start and whilst it would be untrue to say things never really recovered, I was surprised at just how close we have come to beating the Italians at their own game.

Before continuing, it should be made clear that this article is not about denigrating the fine Italian espresso tradition. One can only have utter respect for the Italians when it comes to coffee. After all, it was the Italians who discovered coffee as a black drink, the Italians who created and did a lot of the early pioneering of espresso machines and the Italians who made famous some of the stock menu items that we see at espresso bars all over the world today. A bit like cricket to the Aussies, coffee to the Italians is a sacred pastime and nobody has the right to say they do it badly. It’s just that these days it seems, in some ways we do it better.



When talking about taste, the coffee in Italy can really be separated into two categories: black and milk-based. The black coffees were brilliant. There were two places in the city of Como in the northern region of Italy (bordering Switzerland) that were complete standouts. The extraction was spot on and consistently so (many repeat visits ensued during the following week). The staff were efficient and mindful of how an espresso should look and (more importantly) taste. Their equipment was clean, the staff were all uniformed and worked together like a well-oiled machine. This was not uncommon in the good "espresso bars" that existed in most Italian cities.

Black coffees in Australia are, on the other hand, a little hit and miss. It seems that a fair percentage of cafés here employ the "don’t tamper with the grinder" rule to their ultimate detriment as rarely do they get that 30ml-in-30second extraction. Many Italian espresso bars obviously treat extraction very seriously. The proof is in the taste and presentation of their black coffees, especially their espressos.






Effective Barista Training, Tea and Coffee Asia, first quarter 2006
Coffee The Australian Way, Tea and Coffee Asia, fourth quarter 2005
In the End, It's All in the Blend, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005
Tools of the Trade, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005
The Starters Guide To Coffee, Bean Scene, Issue 9, 2005
Cutting Edge Espresso - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005
Postcards from Seattle - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005
Making Great Coffee At Home - Loreal's Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 2, 2004
Buying a Home Espresso Machine - Loreal's Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 3, 2005
Australians v Italians: Who Makes Better Coffee? - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 6, 2004
The Decline of Tea and the Dethroning of the Flat White - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 7, 2005
Coffee Indulgence - Loreals' Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 4, 2005
Coffee Appreciation
How to be a Gun Barista - Bean Scene, Issue 5, 2004
Affogato with a twist of Mocha - Australian Table, May 2004
Hygiene in the Café Environment - Bean Scene, Issue 3, 2004
Grind It, Baby - Eat Drink Magazine, May 2004
Coffee Myths, Dispelled!, Bean Scene, Issue 4, 2004
Coffee Art - Eatdrink Magazine, June 2004
Questions: Hospitality Magazine, May 2004


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