Enjoying Melbourne’s Café Culture
Cat Mills tells us about getting a caffeine hit in Australia's cultural capital, Melbourne.
Before I left for my 20 day stint in Australia I had consulted a few Aussie friends for recommendations. “Where are you going?” they asked. “Mostly Sydney and Melboune”, I replied. Their eyes would light up a bit when I mentioned Melbourne. “You’ll love Melbourne” they told me. “It’s the closest you can get to Europe in Australia; small alleyways, cool architecture and cafes everywhere”.
I’m not sure that I could say that Melbourne is similar to Europe, though I can see what they were getting at; classic train stations, trolley buses, narrow side streets and fashionable folk. But for me, Melbourne was in a completely different category. Professional graffiti coloured the streets throughout the city, reminiscent of Berlin and yet not. Cool architecture caught my eye; bold and inventive but not cheesy or tacky like many new buildings. Great shopping, bustling streets, lush green parks. I saw many similarities between Australia and Canada, but Melbourne could not have existed anywhere else. It’s its own entity, its own spirit.
I was getting caught up in my abstract internal ramblings about this cool city when I found myself wandering down Brunswick Street, a painfully hip street in Fitzroy that I fantasized about living on; a small one bedroom apartment with vintage furniture, empty golden frames on the mint green walls, and a cat lazily sleeping on a bright wool throw rug in the sun. These day dreams were further confounded when I sank into the couches at the Black Cat café, a cosy and eccentric nook and one of the original cafes in the area. Examining my surroundings I mentally added some rough wooden tables, orange throw pillows and some potted vines to the list for my new imaginary abode.
The most popular coffee in Australia seems to be the Flat White; a delicious mixture of frothy milk and rich espresso, much like a latte but somehow tastier. Being lactose intolerant (but still loving that creamy milk taste in my coffee) I opted for a “long black” with a bit of milk – which is basically the same as an Americano, except instead of adding hot water to 2 shots of espresso they add the two shots of espresso to the hot water, thus keeping the crema. While you might not think this makes a difference, it does. The long blacks were powerful tasting and knocked me off my socks, waking me up and leaving me craving more.
I managed to go to two cafes each day that I was in Melbourne; anymore and my body would have rejected the caffeine for eternity. Weaving through small shops close Central Station, admiring their collections of locally designed jewellery and trendy natural soaps (beer shampoo, anyone?) I spotted countless folks gingerly lounging outside of cafes, bent over the small tables engrossed in conversation. It seemed as though more people were drinking coffee than they were eating anything. I followed suit, finding a small green take-away diner with a few round tables outside. Sitting in alleyways drinking coffee is a familiar experience for me, but the fact that I was in a warm climate, on the other side of the globe, made it feel that much more exotic. As I sipped my long black and luxuriated in the feeling of the caffeine taking a grip on my brain, I wondered what else this beautiful city had in store…
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