Coffee is the elixir of life. For the coffee drinker, Melbourne is perched atop the list of prime coffee culture cities. On many occasions the city has been listed as one of the world’s top coffee cities   . And if you’re one of those who hold in high regard the art that goes into making a skinny mocha flat white soyaccino, then there are few places in the world better suited.
For those like me however, Melbourne is a quite the caffeine dichotomy. I love coffee, I drink two cups a day. But here’s the deal, I couldn’t care less about latte art, the type of milk, organic, free trade or how beardly the barista’s beard is. I only care that it’s coffee and that there’s caffeine in it. Do I care how it tastes? Of course, but in the same way I like my beer: as long as it’s beer.
So how do I survive in the often pretentious coffee culture of Melbourne?
I grew up drinking two types of coffee: black with half n half, and instant. Products of my formative years in Indonesia and North America, both keep the majority of their coffee drinking to what’s important. Outside of home, my favorite coffee establishment is probably Tim Horton’s. Why? Because they keep things simple.
“A double double thanks”. Coffee, double cream, double sugar. Do you really need more than that? No, you really don’t.
It’s not quite so easy in Melbourne. There is a clear disdain for chain coffee and finding simple coffee additives like cream/half n’ half is near impossible. So I do the next best thing outside of opening a Tim Horton’s franchise. Buy yourself an affordable drip coffee machine (I got a Breville drip filter machine from The Good Guys for just $45) and substitute the cream with Nescafe’s Coffee-Mate. For beans I use one of two options, the first, the slightly more international, is to import bags of Tim Horton’s medium roast coffee (available either from Oh Canada or from helpful friends and relatives traveling to and from Canada). The second is to find one great local bean producer that keeps things simple and straight forward. For that I found that Padre Coffee from Brunswick suits my tastes- their “Hey Buddy” brew is strong, aromatic, but simple and without adventurous flavours.
In the office, I bring my Coffee-Mate and set the office machine to “long black” to closely recreate that home flavour. It isn’t quite there, but it beats paying close to $10 a day for take away brew, adding up to an expensive weekly habit when you add up the numbers. If you’ve got to get take away in Melbourne’s CBD, two places I do recommend would be Plantation at Melbourne Central (a regular for $4 is pretty good) and Brother Baba Budan. The latter quite possibly ticks every box of the hipster checklist, but if you’ve got to, you might as well get the best.
Savings aside, coffee should be an inexpensive ritual, one that shouldn’t concern itself with being trendy or hip. Melbourne cafes have been known to charge $4.80 for a small coffee because they know we’ll pay for it. But you really don’t have to, which makes the alternative options great ways to indulge in one of life’s great addictions without fueling the culture. Until Tim Horton’s international franchising arm stretches to Australia, I’ll happily take a homemade “double double” over anything else.