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Understanding Australia's Coffee Scene

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by Caitlin Pfohl (subscribe)
A travel junkie who loves to write, Caitlin Pfohl comes from central New York state and recently finished making her way around Australia on a one-year Work and Holiday visa. Read more about her travels here: cepiatone.tumblr.com
Published July 17th 2014
Because caffeine cravings should never be taken lightly
If you're visiting Australia as a tourist, you may be caught off guard when the hunt for your usual coffee leads you to befuddling menus boasting drinks such as a flat white and a long black. Before spending your long-saved sightseeing pennies on a mystery drink you end up not liking, here's a quick run-down to point you in the right direction.

A long black is a double shot of espresso poured over hot water. Similar to an Americano, a long black is made by adding the hot water before the espresso shot, not after. The theory behind adding the espresso shot to the hot water as opposed to the other way around is that this method helps to retain the layer of foam found on the surface of the espresso, also known as the crema. A goldish-tan color, the crema is an indicator of the quality of the espresso. Long blacks are commonly found in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, and are slowly starting to become common in the UK.

A flat white is a double shot of espresso with steamed milk and a very thin layer of foam. This drink was developed in Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s and is meant to be served in a smaller cup than its similar coffee-with-milk counterparts, thereby increasing its coffee percentage and making it stronger.

A short black simply refers to a shot of espresso, and a macchiato is a shot of espresso with foamed milk.

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A flat white at Campos Coffee in Newtown


A few other tips to remember:

In trying to decipher the difference between a latte and a flat white, you'll come across some very different opinions. These range from the amount of milk involved to the thickness of the crema to the temperature of the final drink and more. To the trained barista, I'm sure there are distinct differences between the two, but for the average non-expert, it can be hard to pinpoint. Without getting too technical, I'd keep in mind the following: When ordering to have in-house, a latte will generally be served in a larger glass than a flat white; however, this really depends on the coffee shop and may not always be the case. If the latte glass is larger, you'll have a milkier drink with a larger layer of foam on top. Keep in mind that as a takeaway drink, a flat white and a latte will often be identical.

Also similar to the flat white and latte is the cappuccino, set apart by the use of frothier milk and usually served with some chocolate sprinkled on top.

Craving something cooler? Be aware that iced coffee drinks in Australia are so called because they contain ice cream. Though this may be a delicious surprise, it's also decidedly heavier (and sweeter) than the chilled-by-ice-only mixture you may be expecting.

Menus aside, one thing is for sure: Australia has a thriving coffee culture and you won't be disappointed by the cafe scene you find here. Stick with something familiar or branch out with something new; every day needs a little caffeine, and there's always tomorrow to try more.
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Why? To demystify the Australian coffee menu
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