80km east of Torrems Creek, Queensland, Australia
Dear Coffee Lovers,
I am going to paint you a picture.
I am walking in downtown Melbourne and I do a quick google search for coffee shops. The first one that pops up is “Patricia”. As I approach the pin on my google map, I cannot find the coffee shop. I do not see any obvious markings (the first sign of good coffee, according to the locals/all coffee snobs). I turn off the main street onto a smaller street, which then leads me to an alley. I see some windows along a black wall, but no door. Finally, I make one more turn, off the alley, following the line of windows behind about 4 dumpsters. At the end of the black wall, before the empty loading dock, there is an open door. As I turn to look inside the door, about 4 men in suits walk out.
I step inside to find a coffee bar that takes up about half the room, the other half filled with men in suits, drinking coffee. No tables or chairs, just a bar to hold your cup and a floor to stand on. If Patrick Bateman were to get a res at a coffee bar, this is the place. There are 6 baristas working like bees behind the counter. But they are seemingly relaxed, enjoying themselves. Behind them is a giant menu on the wall featuring 3 choices: Black, White, and Filter. As I stand there like a kid in a caffeine shop, a cute, young barista approaches me. She is wearing a leather apron that looks like something a blacksmith would wear while making a sword for King Whoever. I notice they all sport the leather apron. She takes my order for one filter coffee, and 2 cans of local beans totaling around $30. I know.
I see the leather aprons on the wall for sale, $250. If only I were a butcher…
As she walks behind the counter she hands me a cup of mineral water. Supposedly to wash down whatever inferior beverage has entered my system within the past 30 minutes.
After my purifying cup of tingly water, cutie hands me a large card. On the front is a picture of a brown man. Clearly some kind of farmer. On the back, every bit of information you never would need to know about your coffee: First, the farmer’s name: Juan. Perfect. Second, his son and employee’s name: Jose. That sounds about right. Additionally I am reading about where the farm is located, the altitude the beans were grown, their prime harvest season, how they were washed, where they were roasted, and the beans political preferences.
I get my coffee after a short 10 minutes.
What do you expect? It was incredible. Well rounded was my first thought. It seems that the pour over filter coffee method has become the process for making coffee taste like tea and flowers. This cup was clean, but bold. It tasted like almond, vanilla, blackberry, all the hearty profiles. I love coffee, but you do not need to know much about coffee to love coffee.
Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, behind crude oil. I have traveled to some pretty remote corners of the world, and the last establishment I find, right before electricity becomes scarce, is a cafe. To some, coffee is purely a vessel for caffeine. Well sure it is, but I see coffee as an exponentially greater force. Coffee can justify getting out of bed at 3am for a photo shoot, even more than the shoot itself. Coffee can bring people together, and then ignite the conversation. Coffee is universal, it transcends cultural boundaries and finds its way into the most obscure situations. If alcohol is a social lubricant, coffee is a social catalyst. Sometimes, coffee is not coffee. Sometimes, coffee is an excuse to see someone. Sometimes, coffee is date without the implications of alcohol. You invite someone over to your home for coffee, you are inviting more than just their presence, you are inviting their company. You are looking for an engaging conversation.
While I love a finely crafted cup of coffee, I will accept a cup of instant brown dirt any day. And I did, in the Outback, at the bar I camped outside of. And I spent the morning with two complete strangers roughly three times my age, and I will never forget Peg and John and Tyson the dog. Or the 6 foot red kangaroos fighting outside my car in the middle of the night.
It is quite difficult to fully encapsulate the true essence of coffee, though I think this conversation from Seinfeld has always done it for me:
Coffee is a passion of mine, though I think we all appreciate it in one way or another. And if you do not drink coffee, I will have some tea with you. And if you do not drink tea, well then I guess I will see you at the bar.