I am on a work trip in Australia (a sentence younger Jess never thought she would type). We are staying at an amazing property, the Crown Entertainment Complex in Melbourne. This place is massive and every square foot–er, metre?–of it is gorgeous. There are so many restaurants here I could eat somewhere different for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of this 16-day trip and never eat at the same place twice. There is shopping, there are shows, there is gambling, there is a movie theater. There is everything your heart could desire, save for one:
I have been in Melbourne around five days now and I have yet to encounter a drinking receptacle that my java-addicted self would describe as a mug. I’ve been served coffee in teacups and steins and what we in the States would describe as a juice glass, but no mugs.
The Googled phrase “Where are all the mugs, Australia?” yielded little explanation. Asking the locals didn’t help much either.
Unlike my work trip to France last fall, the language barrier isn’t really an issue here. We all speak English, but trying to talk about coffee really is like trying to communicate with a koala.
My first attempt to order coffee started out easy enough. The waitress offered an option: “Black?”
“Yeah, with milk.”
“Oh, like a latte?”
After four more conversations that went the exact same way, I ended up with a latte every time. I have to say, I am not the biggest fan of lattes. They don’t really taste like coffee to me. The Australian ones seem even less coffee-like. They are like those lattes you order at Burger King when you are 14 and think, “Look how mature I am drinking coffee!” when what you were consuming bears more of a resemblance to a Baskin-Robbins Chocolate Blast than a Starbucks beverage (side note: There doesn’t appear to be Chocolate Blasts on the BR menu anymore. I haven’t had one in a good decade, but still, small sad tear).
These drinks are also served to you in tiny 8 oz glasses without a handle. Newsflash: glass does not hold heat particularly well. So, you are scalding your hand to drink a beverage that is juts barely a drinkably hot temperature.
Last night, my boss and I ordered coffee and decided it was time to investigate. In this good coffee cop/bad coffee cop routine, I played the role of bad cop.
“Hello sir, we’d like two coffees in your largest mugs,” my boss cheerily requests.
The bartender (yes, we were ordering coffee at a bar. Somehow in our heads, this seemed like the place we stood the best chance of getting a strong cup of coffee) offered us some options and we admitted we were clueless.
“Do you want black coffee?”
Oh no. Not this again.
“Yes,” I say. "But can we get it not all the way full with a little room for some milk?“
"Oh, so like a latte?”
“Well, no not really.”
“But you want milk?”
“Yeah, but we can just add it after you make it.”
This is where we cracked the case. I explained the concept of “cream and sugar” and the bartender was taken aback. His face scrunched at the phrase “then you just pour a little cold milk in there”, as if I had suggested the next step in the American process was to grind up babies and sprinkle accordingly.
So I drank another latte.
I’ve tried to take matters into my own hands. I took precautions and came to Melbourne armed with Starbucks Via and Splenda. I didn’t bring creamer though. After scouring three grocery stores and questioning some locals, I determined that, like mugs, there is no such thing as creamer in Australia.
I bought soy milk and crammed it in my minibar fridge and felt prepared. I found a hot water pot, I was good to go. Then I looked around the room and realized I was missing something very important:
A freaking mug.