Friday, May 11, 2007

in search of the bean - Khandallah

The guy at the counter scribbled my order – “short black, long mackiato” (sic). He stumbled over the last word and after a quick bite on his lip, passed it onto the barista. The café cum foodstore was approaching it’s peak hour. 10am pulls in mums with bubs and workers demanding their midmorning break. A capital city the public servant mentality reigns supreme, despite the long demise of the unions. Coffee breaks remain sacred. In this small suburb workers crawled out of unseen businesses. The short main street displayed a vet clinic, podiatrist, physiotherapist, a medical surgery and a hairdresser, but that didn’t explain the influx. It would depict a rather ill local population perhaps but the clientele looked healthy enough, lapping up lattes by the bucketful.

The owner proudly deposited a ristretto, as if wanting to demonstrate he spoke coffee even if the guy behind the till didn’t. Though it wasn’t exactly what I ordered (a full mouthful short of the espresso), that and the long macchiato were a decent brew. Thankfully.

Back on the street the 2 Asian takeaway joints remained closed at this early hour, also the local pizza chain, boutique brewery (show casing a well respected local brew) and an establishment that didn’t know if it was a café, restaurant or bistro – it called itself all three.

The next suburb, 2 minutes away features a slightly smaller shopping strip. There’s a homemade curry business, selling freezer packs of mild Indian meals. The only café appeared packed out with a mothers group. From every direction you could see women advancing towards it with a baby capsule on their arm or pushing a stroller. Their looks were identical – ‘come hell or high water or sleeping babies, I’m going to make it to group on time!’.

Though familiar from my childhood, as an adult the suburbs have become increasingly foreign to me. If you are the only café in the neighbourhood you can revel in mediocrity, as long as you are near the school/kindergarten/play centre – you are assured a morning and afternoon rush. On the weekend the café will be full for breakfast and lunch, of those who don’t want to get in their cars and travel. A captive audience. How I itch to shake them up.

The city has got the message. A place now stakes its reputation on choice of beans and skill of the person behind the espresso machine. But the suburbs are doomed to be random in the coffee stakes but can still knock up a mean afghan biscuit.

For now, it’s great to be home – knowing I can have a short black whenever the urge takes me, perfect every time and delivered to me by the cutest barista in the neighbourhood.

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