We have been travelling for the last four weeks around parts of Victoria and South Australia. Along the way we have stopped in cafes that looked like they served a good coffee. And I admit we’ve been pretty selective. It’s obvious to any of us who’ve driven around country Australia the number of cafes, pubs and bakeries serving coffee are flourishing, but not all of them make good coffee.
And at a once great railway town south of Port Augusta, we took a chance on one when there was no other option. We have recently bought a modest VW campervan with a homemade conversion that comes with some compromises. For example, to boil a kettle or brew a coffee, you slide out the stove top through the cargo door, which means it’s open to weather. This day, it was raining heavily, blowing a gale, we were cold and we liked some of the buildings in the town and so we pulled up.
There were two people serving and three people who were waiting for takeaways. When one of the staff asked who was next another assistant said: “That elderly couple over there.”
My partner and I burst out laughing but I do not think anyone got the joke. I explained with humour how we were indeed elderly and were not offended in any way by the comment, but that elderly people did not necessarily see themselves as being of a certain older age and being called that, may take them by surprise. I said this and meant it to mean that we knew the joke was on us.
But wait, there was still more to come.
I ordered coffees for both my partner and myself. I asked for two caffé e latte. The woman (who we assume to be the owner of the café) took issue with my order. Raising her voice so she could share her proprietorship with her two staff and the three customers waiting for their takeaways, she exclaimed: “What do you want? Oh, caffe lattes?” She emphasised. “We make lattes here. We don’t have fancy names like you city people.” More added emphasis. “You want two lattes? Is that what want?”
My partner meekly said that we would like two lattes. I felt the need to explain that as a person born in Italy, I don’t abbreviate the order to just latte because if you did this in Italy you would be ordering a drink of milk. I even apologised. Then she said that I was in Australia and needed to fit in with Australians if this was my home.
But wait for it, the performance went on. She said that all the tables inside were booked and we had to sit outside. We looked at the weather and tables under the kerb-side veranda. We meekly said that was OK. But where were these customers, when were they arriving, wouldn’t we finish a cup of coffee before they arrived? However, we didn’t challenge the wet-weather option, we knew we were in dangerous territory here and just turned the other cheek.
The coffee took ages to arrive, the assistant who carried it out to us spilled it in the saucers. She said that she was sorry about this and that we would have to sip it from our saucers. Once again we chose to be agreeable and said that we did not mind it being spilled.
By the way, the coffee was nothing like a caffè e latte, no froth whatsoever and very little taste of coffee or milk. We drank it quickly in spite of it being almost undrinkable and exchanged looks of unbelief between us.
I was in shock and made my way to the car. Not only were we elderly but were from the city and I was a foreigner. When my partner went to pay she was going to charge him for a mug sized coffee rather than a cup. He did mediate and pointed out that we had the smaller size.
I looked up the information on the web about this township and was greeted with the description of it being a friendly, peaceful town, a great place to live and visit.
This experience was worlds away from the experience we had when we ordered caffè e latte in Horsham at the Farmhouse Providore & Cafe which was packed with locals and travellers. The café had been recommended by another brilliant roadside stop in Keith, Henry & Rose. The attendant at the Farmhouse did not blink an eyelid when I asked for caffè e latte and asked how we wanted our coffees. Did we want more coffee than milk or the other way around because she knew people had preferences and she wanted to satisfy each of their customers.
I nearly hugged her!
I take making coffee and tea very seriously.
These are the camping coffee pots and teapot:
I sure do.