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Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
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Sabo
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Posted Tue Jun 12, 2007, 12:00am
Subject: Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
 

Cafe Culture Downunder
by George Sabados

George Sabados, in his regular column "An Australian Viewpoint," talks about cafe culture in Australia and New Zealand - how it developed, how it compares to the US, and where it's going.
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wushoes
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Posted Wed Jun 13, 2007, 12:31am
Subject: Re: Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
 

smackdown.......*jab jab*

I believe because the Aussie market is sooooo saturated and that we've only ever really known espresso, we're dropping the ball. A lot of cafes I wouldn't even want to order because of a bad experience in the past. What I want to see is being able to walk in to any cafe and have an average to good coffee. It's still hit and miss with a lot of places putting PBTC (persons behind the counter) behind a machine.

Roasters need to work more with their customers to continually train the people such as PBTC's and baristas.  I'm not talking just once off trainings...maybe say, once a month or once every few months. That said there's only so many times you can train a person.

What I'm saying reinforces podcast 55. Whilst there are some small-ish franchises actually doing pretty good coffee, a lot of it is still rubbish. Just look at full grinder dosers when you walk past a cafe at 4am at night when you stumble out of a nightclub.
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Jun 13, 2007, 1:00am
Subject: Re: Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
 

George did layeth down the smack down a bit vis a vis N. America and all the third waver talk, didn't he though?

Thing is, I know he can back it up, and I know just about every Aussie I've ever met who's done barista time can too - but there's a caveat there - I've met them all over here or in Europe - not on their home ground. So it stands to reason some of the best are the ones who get out of Aus and travel to other coffee hotspots and events...

One can't really know if what George says is true unless we actually visit the country ourselves.

Re the national certification program Australia has for baristas - just how good is it? I think it's brilliant in theory....

Mark

 
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wushoes
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Posted Wed Jun 13, 2007, 1:16am
Subject: Re: Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
 

Not really...it sets the minimum standard which is a good thing! But people aren't really looking to see if you have a certificate or not...who cares? People need and want experience...if you don't have it, you're not going to get the best barista jobs that offer $$$.

There's 2 certificates that I know of. One is a hospitality course called, "Serve and Prepare Espresso" and is a nationally accredited TAFE course. The other is done by AASCA (our national specialty coffee association.) This one is the better of the two, because it raises the minimum bar considerably and also includes the former certification, "Serve and Prepare Espresso".

Here's a cut n paste job straight from the AASCA website....skip straight down to the requirements section....you'll probably be floored!:

OBJECTIVE
The objective is to:

   * recognise the outstanding skills that set apart the barista from the espresso operator;
   * reward the passion for coffee excellence that keeps the best of Australia's baristas up with the world's best;
   * encourage Australia's baristas to pursue and maintain espresso excellence;
   * endorse quality work practices; and
   * provide a further path beyond "accredited barista training" to "accredited barista"

The scheme will be known as "AASCA Barista Accreditation", and individual's will be issued an "AASCA Certificate of Accreditation", as an "AASCA Accredited Barista".


REQUIREMENTS
To achieve accreditation, a barista must meet all of the following requirements:

   * Have been awarded a Certificate of Competency in "Prepare & Serve Espresso Coffee", issued by a Registered Training Organisation under the Australian Quality Training Framework (by either coursework or recognised prior learning);
   * Complete 120hours espresso operation in an Australian place-of-work, confirmed by authenticated logbook, timesheets, or employer certification;
   * Achieve a minimum of 85% in a coffee knowledge quiz, covering coffee history, horticulture, harvesting and processing, blending, health & safety, extraction, and diagnosis; and
   * Either
     a) Completion of World Barista Championship-based performance evaluation with a minimum score of 208/357, comprising three “orders”:
       i) four espresso;
       ii) three cappuccino and one espresso; and
       iii) mixed order of four different espresso-based drinks (eg espresso, cappuccino, café latte, and macchiato);
       to be completed in 15 minutes, after a 15 minute setup time. Note extraction volume should be managed manually.
       See Assessment Form for details.
     Or
     b) Completion of an Australian Barista State, Open or National Championship, with a minimum score of 175/300; and
       a)iii) above.
   * The order of completion of these four requirements is not critical.
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PatriotSmith
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Posted Wed Jun 13, 2007, 7:31am
Subject: Re: Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
 

This article is full of the often absurd nationalistic rah-rah rhetoric that, while sometimes tolerable from Italians who have the history to back (some of) it up, is far more off-putting in this instance. Due to the frequency of comments such as: "It is important to note that Italians prefer to drink espresso coffee only, always with sugar and without milk," (I must know a lot of fake people from Italy) and other deceptive statements of opinion as fact, this article is hard to take seriously. People will argue with placing Italy as the current top espresso country; certainly placing Australia and New Zealand (?) right up next to it will drawl some deservedly "inspired" comment (but maybe that is all he wishes to do?); the whole concept of a top "espresso-country" is absurd, and reeks of an issuance from the likes of "our dear leader."

This article has (so far) received only one comment besides Mark, and it just happens to be someone from Australia dismantling a good deal of George's castles in the clouds. George's comment about the "national mandatory minimum" seemed to imply that one could not work as a barista without a minimum amount of government mandated training; this seems hard to believe. Does he mean to say, as it suggests, that one is not allowed to serve espresso in a commercial establishment without government intervention? Geez, I knew you Aussies were buddy-buddy with the U.S. recently, but that sounds a bit draconian! The commenter's example of a voluntary accreditation  program established by/in partner with the Gov. (and also specialty association, though George denounces the SCAA similar programs, preferring Gov. work) sounds much more reasonable and realistic, although as it is voluntary it does not give one the opportunity to imply any nationwide increase in quality, an implication George seems desperate for. Forget the country stuff, let's talk specific coffees, roasters, stores, and baristas. I do not doubt there are plenty great Aussies in coffee, many  as well outside their homeland, as Mark mentioned. Bottom line, I don't think any country as a whole fulfills George's rosy-eyed picture of country wide coffee performance, not the U.S., not Italy, and not Aus.

The only smack-down we need here is of George's nationalistic fervor and pride, so he is hopefully able to see what I suspect if the far more mediocre reality of the Aus. coffee landscape.


And if this is the article the response to the super-auto essay produced, I can't wait for the follow-up to the comments that are sure to come; I can see it now...."Attention: The Imperial Majesty of World Espresso Dominance George Sabados issues the following Unimpeachable Decree Regarding the Superior Espresso Production of the Divine Motherland..."
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wushoes
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Posted Wed Jun 13, 2007, 7:54am
Subject: Re: Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
 

Australia is absolutely, definitely 100% espresso. I challenge any country to come forward and claim their market is 100% espresso. North America does have a lot of catching up to do in the espresso market.

AASCA includes the nationally certified TAFE certificate for "Prepare and Serve Espresso", but that is less than 1/4 of the AASCA requirements for accreditation. So I'm not really sure that AASCA is working with the government, but rather requiring the barista to complete the nationally certified course on top of AASCA's requirements.
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Grounds
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Posted Wed Jun 13, 2007, 8:19am
Subject: Re: Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
 

Funnily enough I just read this thread, but a few days ago posted a comment on the CG Forums (as an Australian travelling in France and Italy) where I posed the observation that French coffee really isn't up to Italian standards, and that NZ and Australia, in my opinion, are "up there" in any rank of espresso quality and cultures.  

I added that while I have had stunning espresso in the US, it's harder to find on a consistent basis. I think George is right in many of his observations - especially his comments on the impact of franchises.

@Patriot - you're right, you'll find mediocre coffee in any country (I imagine here in Italy too) so it's pointless for any of us to start a "my country does it better than your country" debate, but it is 100% correct that the NZ and Australian culture is entirely espresso based, and it's a discerning one so quality espresso is easy to find (and so is medicore of course - you just have to pick and choose).

Must say though, I'm blown away when even the gas stations here in Italy have full-on quality espresso service. One I was in today had both a four group, and a three group machine - and the staff were going flat out keeping up with the espresso orders.  You would only find crappy coin-in-the-slot auto dispensers in gas stations back home in Australia - hence my comment that yes there is poor coffee is available in Australia too, but as George rightly notes, a very high standard can be found elsewhere)

Oh, and one last thought Patriotsmith, you wrote, "The only smack-down we need here is of George's nationalistic fervor and pride" while not considering the irony of your own nickname??  :)

Bye,
Jay
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pstam
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Posted Wed Jun 13, 2007, 9:33am
Subject: Re: Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
 

MarkPrince Said:

......

Re the national certification program Australia has for baristas - just how good is it? I think it's brilliant in theory......

Posted June 13, 2007 link


Just reading till here, I cannot wait to tell my opinion.


Anout their certification, Chinese people made a similar one, and they do not really know what to do.

They only give some days of claases for "so-called theories", and send to us for skill training, only for one day.  But, in fact, we have only a half day for it.  That is it.

Does it work?  Or destroy the market?  If I were the owner of a cafe, I would ask who can compensate my losty of the investment if we use their certificated "baristas"?

Before, it was only a "Golden Role", and now it comes to a certificate.  Are they going to distroy everything totally before they stop?


What can I say about it?

 
Peter in Beijing
-------------------
http://www.kaffa.cn/
-------------------
I am looking for the way and the place to extend our trainning courses.
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slidingmike
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Posted Wed Jun 13, 2007, 1:32pm
Subject: Re: Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
 

Great article.  My time in Australia and New Zealand certainly matched up to your description.

In the US, the major market focus is still on building and keeping the brand.  Quality is given great lip service by the big brands, while only a few smaller brands are truly delivering.  Independent cafes can still rely on location to keep them in business, since true quality is not well understood by the consumer.

However, I do have one question about the Australian approach to quality.  Since it's very rare for anyone to drink espresso straight, how is quality really judged?  Are Australian blends skewed to cut through milk, like Peet's is here in the US?  Does it force a darker roasting stlye?  From one point of view, it can be harder to take quality quite as seriously when the espresso is diluted in so much milk.
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Luca
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Posted Wed Jun 13, 2007, 4:59pm
Subject: Re: Cafe Culture Downunder by George Sabados
 

Hi all,

Mark and I talked a bit about this in podcast #55.  I think that George's facts are mostly right, but the impression that I got from the article was that he was saying that Australia has a generally high standard of quality.  I don't think that that is true.  There are still probably only a dozen cafes that I know of in Melbourne that I would actually drink coffee at ... but I have stratospherically high standards, as someone once told me ;P  Like I said on the podcast, it is very infrequent that I drink coffee from any of the big chains.

I'd like to just re-iterate a few points about the Australian coffee scene:

1)  No, we're not 100% espresso.  More like 99.9999998%.  Like I said on the podcast, you see drip in two places; McDonalds (never gets ordered; most McDonalds have superautos now, but have kept the drip brewers) and convention centres/hotels (you try serving 1000 people espresso at a convention during their 10 minute break ;P).

2)  Like George said, we have reached a point where the market is absolutely and completely saturated; at least here in Melbourne.  Problem is that it is mainly saturated by coffee that is, to put it bluntly, stale.  As a result, like George said, in Melbourne we are now at a point where serving quality coffee makes good business sense for cafes.  That doesn't mean that we are at the point where you can get a decent cup anywhere, but I think that it we will continue to see rapid change in that direction over the coming years.

3)  From my brief experience of Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, their markets aren't quite as competitive as Melbourne and Sydney.  I suspect that this is because Melbourne was really the birthplace of espresso culture in Australia and it has spread to other cities.  As a result, I don't think that these cities have become quite as saturated with stale coffee and sole specialty roasters have become quite big; almost commonplace there.  In Adeliade, Rio coffee is everywhere (partly because of the Cibo chain) and Five Senses is all over the place in Perth.  I don't know, but I suspect that companies like Intelligentsia and Counter Culture have similarly grown large because of a relative absence of competition.

4)  Like David said, yes, we have a TAFE (tertiary and further education) espresso standard.  No, it's not compulsory.  No, it isn't a particularly high standard.  No, it isn't particularly useful if you want to get a job.  Much of the training for cafe staff is provided by roasteries.

However, I do have one question about the Australian approach to quality.  Since it's very rare for anyone to drink espresso straight, how is quality really judged?  Are Australian blends skewed to cut through milk, like Peet's is here in the US?  Does it force a darker roasting stlye?  From one point of view, it can be harder to take quality quite as seriously when the espresso is diluted in so much milk.

Good question!  But you'll forgive me for suppressing a giggle at the fact that you live in the land of the "veinte" ;P

Our average milk-based drink is no more than 7oz; 5oz in some places.  This will usually be based on a single espresso, but sometimes on a double.  Takeaway coffee tends to be 8oz or 12oz, with the latter always based on a double espresso base.  I have some barista comp sized "tulip" cappuccino cups on top of the machine at work and a lot of my customers are starting to have a WBC style cappuccino in those; sometimes even with a double shot as a base.  But that's not typical of Melbourne; it's more because we're quite heavily involved in local barista comps and push the specialty coffee angle.

In terms of quality, the saturation of stale coffee has certainly gotten people used to an ashy aftertaste from their coffee.  So perhaps "civilians" judge on the absence of that taste.  This means that there is quite a bit of variation in the fresh-roast scene ... not all of which is good!  As a general rule, I think that it's fair to say that you see more non-milked coffees consumed as places that are geared towards specialty coffee and more milk-based coffees consumed, for example, near office buildings.  I'm quite pleased with the fact that every shift that I take at work usually ends up with me using every single demitasse on top of the machine.

In terms of roast level; no; we don't see many really dark roasts.  I suspect that this might be, at least in part, because a lot of the coffee consumed will sit around for a month or two before the cafe opens it (yeah; nasty), so roasters don't wan't to take it too dark because you'll open up the bag and pour out a puddle of oil!  To give you a frame of reference, just for kicks people here have ordered Black Cat from Intelly numerous times and we have always though that it was relatively dark.  But I don't know ... maybe air travel does that.  That said, espresso is quite a big market (at least as far as anything can be a big market in a country of 20 million people), so you see a fair bit of variation.  At work, we have several blends and our most popular amongst cafes is the one with 5% robusta, precisely because it has been desgined to make a killer milk drink.

I would be interested to find out what portion of espresso is served in cafes in the US relative to milk drinks.  It would also be interesting to find out what the espresso to milk ratio of a typical milk drink in the US is.

People will argue with placing Italy as the current top espresso country; certainly placing Australia and New Zealand (?) right up next to it will drawl some deservedly "inspired" comment (but maybe that is all he wishes to do?); the whole concept of a top "espresso-country" is absurd, and reeks of an issuance from the likes of "our dear leader."

Frankly, that strikes me as quite racist, offensive and ignorant  By per capita consumption, I think that it is pretty hard to argue that Aus and NZ aren't in the top three, as our market really is practically 100% espresso.  That's a comment that's easily borne out by statistics.  I think that that was what George was trying to say, but I agree that the whole tone of the article makes it sound different.  If you interpret the comment to talk about ratings by quality then I agree that the idea of rating countries is absurd.  But I resent your shock that our espresso would be any good.  As with any country - and as I have treid to say above - we have a fair bit of mediocre stuff.  But we also have our crop of top cafes.  I don't have a good enough frame of reference to say that they are the best in the world, but I resent what seems to be an implication that they are not.  And if I have misinterpreted your post, I apologise.

I hope that provides something of a balanced perspective ;P

Cheers,

Luca

 
General ramblings about coffee: http://www.pourquality.blogspot.com/

Reviews of Australian coffee: http://www.coffeereviewaustralia.com/
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