Tuesday 9 July 2013

Give me a coffee break

"Do you want to grab a coffee?" "Let's do coffee!" "Why don't we discuss over coffee?"

Sound familiar? Typical phrases we've all heard and said dozens of times. I myself have accepted and initiated more coffee dates and appointments than I can remember. The truth is though, I don’t actually drink or even like coffee... so how the hell did I get so caught up in this crazy coffee bandwagon?

I don't mean I can't have coffee, I don't have a caffeine intolerance or anything, I simply just can’t stand the taste. Now, before you baristas and coffee bean connoisseurs start frothing about how I obviously can't have tried the right coffee yet, let me clarify that yes, I have tried numerous different coffees over the years. 

I've even worked behind a coffee machine in my time, churning out perfect cappuccinos and lattes for punters with fancy foam designs that looked so awesome and smelled so delicious, I couldn't help but continually crack and keep trying them again (just in case my tastebuds had somehow magically got the memo at last about coffee being delicious). 

Unfortunately though, I simply do not and will never dig this drink. To me it tastes like dirt. Yeah that's right...dirt.

In fact, I detest the coffee taste so much that I can't eat or drink anything with a coffee flavour - chocolate, cakes, ice cream, even the liqueur Kahula is off the menu for me as it’s made from coffee beans. 

It’s possible this hatred stems from my childhood when I once raided the leftovers from one of my parents' dinner parties, unknowingly wolfing down handfuls of coffee flavoured chocolates before realising my mistake. Or maybe it was my old clarinet teacher standing too close with his stale coffee breath throwing me off my Mozart. Who really knows, all I can say is that I haven’t been able to tolerate even the slightest taste for as long as I can remember.

Luckily for the thousands of café and restaurant owners across Australia though, most Aussies are mad for the black stuff, slurping up 2.1 billion cups of coffee in 2012 alone – and this doesn’t even include ones drank at home or in the office. And it’s because of this, as the number one café drink, that people don’t say “let’s go to a café”, instead it’s “let’s have a coffee,” which makes no sense at all, unless of course you too are addicted to the liquid black crack.

Of course I don’t need to fall foul to this questionable modern terminology which forces me to lie about what I am drinking and doing, and there was actually a time when asked to meet for coffee I would reply that I didn’t drink it but would love to meet up anyway for a different beverage. 

As you might imagine though, this was always met with looks of both confusion – “what?! You don’t drink coffee are you crazy?!” – and pity – “poor girl, took me literally...of course I meant go to a café...” Well then why didn’t you bloody well say so?! And you think I’m the crazy one. So yeah, after a while it became easier to just ‘go along’ with this whole coffee thing (especially as “let’s have a drink” implies alcohol is on the agenda).

Sounds simple enough, but believe it or not I used to find not drinking coffee a major pain in the arse, particularly during work meetings. For instance, when I was a keen young professional starting out my career, I found it incredibly intimidating deciding what to order when out with someone like my boss or a client. Hot chocolate? Too juvenile. Tea? Too Nana. Milkshake? You can’t be serious. Water? Not serious enough. Sigh. I wanted people to take me as a mature and confident working woman, but I was damn well not going to drink a crapuccino just to prove it.

This awkwardness at coffee meetings followed me for quite some time in my career, even into the early days of running my own company. I realise this seems utterly absurd for someone who signs off on the payroll, but when everyone around you (even the spotty work experience kid), is swilling back their fourth coffee for the day and uniting in a caffeine fuelled frenzy, you feel kind of left out.

Thankfully, the breakthrough I was waiting for came somewhere around 2005 when chai lattes started popping up on menu boards. Hallelujah! Finally, a hot drink I could order that was respectable and looked almost exactly like a normal latte. Instead of funny looks across the table at my hot chocolate or lemon squash, people were intrigued by my exotic new drink and wanted to know what it tasted like. Mmmm...life was sweet again. Actually, it was too sweet. My love affair with chai lattes ended after about a year when I realised couldn’t distinguish the taste from a cup of liquid sugar.

It didn’t matter though because guess what? By this time I remembered I was a grown woman and could order whatever the hell I felt like! Stick your coffees people, I’m having an iced chocolate with whipped cream and ice-cream! Jealous? Darn right you are. Ok, so I still haven’t strayed too far from the sugar bowl and have a tendency to lean towards chocolate type beverages, but I am also quite partial to fresh juices and a pot of loose leaf chai, or any other teas for that matter (I married an Englishman so life’s one big tea party around our house).

And here we are. I’ve finally got the balls to order what I want, but now I’ve got another problem – most cafés cater to the coffee crowd only and do a terrible job with other drinks. 

Of course there are exceptions (like my mates at Shot On Military who do a killer house blend chai), but most cafés have a poor selection of teas, only a few soft drinks, cheap instant milkshake flavours instead of the real deal, and if I want a decent hot chocolate (not watery cocoa powder crap), well just forget it. For that I need to trek to a specialist place like Max Brenner or San Churro. Sure it costs a bit more, but oh boy it’s worth it. Unfortunately it’s not convenient enough though when there are perfectly good cafés on almost every corner that just need to lift their game.

I would definitely pay a higher price in a café for a genuine hot chocolate made with real chocolate and milk if it was offered. Hell even a good old milo for crying out loud if it’s too difficult to coordinate melted chocolate, but alas most just don’t seem to be bothered or are happy relying solely on their coffee cash cow. And you wonder why so many cafés go out of business...

I recently discovered even McDonalds doesn’t let you order a hot chocolate in their drive through, you have to go into the store for that. So obviously people who drink hot chocolates have a lot of time up their sleeves and don’t require their hot drink fix on the go. Clowns.    

Seriously though baristas, I’m not the only outcast in this coffee crazed world. There are more of us non-coffee drinkers than you realise, and guess what? Even your precious coffee posse like to ‘slum it’ occasionally with a nice hot cup of cocoa or freshly squeezed juice. I know it’s called a ‘coffee shop’ but c’mon give me a break.

Any other non-coffee lovers out there? Unite here!

photo credit: andylangager via photopin cc 


  1. Of course I can't agree with you here Suz. I LOOOVE coffee. You can't beat it. I even had "Must drink coffee" as one of my top 10 critera when completing the husband selection process. I generally don't trust those that don't drink it. Obviously with some exceptions.
    You may be in trouble in Sydney and some cafe owners are becoming puritans and removing tea, chai, soy and skim milk from their menus (not Shot). You may need to get your pickets out!
    Chai is lovely too. Must be fresh - not syrup or powder.

  2. Wow that's crazy about some cafes taking tea off the menu! A quick way to lose the poms for sure ;)

  3. First of all... you're crazy, coffee is very tasty dirt.

    Secondly, loved this line: 'people don’t say “let’s go to a café”, instead it’s “let’s have a coffee,” which makes no sense at all, unless of course you too are addicted to the liquid black crack.'

    Thirdly I agree - Aydin and the crew at Shot on Military know their tasty dirt!


Thanks for sharing your two cents with One Woman Circus!