When I was packing to come home from our trip to San Francisco and Portland, I realised most of my coats and scarves smelt like coffee … lovely … and better than the turmeric smell I used to come home with when I was a fresh young PA working at Davis Trading in Petone – direct importer of food ingredients … every spice and flavour you could think of plus some other strange things I’d certainly never heard of until I spent 18 months there (rollmops, prawn crackers (yes I was surrounded by foreign food!)).
Anyway, reflecting on the cafes I’d been to in San Francisco and Portland – a general comment about baristas – they’re all about the same age, perhaps around 30 and seem really committed to coffee as a profession. Didn’t get the impression or see anyone following a recipe, taking shortcuts (with the extraction or reusing milk (in fact most times jugs washed out between customers)), or looking like they’d been rostered on and were waiting for the end of their shift. We’re getting quite a few places of this quality around Wellington now, but we still have our fair share of cafes slamming out the coffees to go with muffins or toasted paninis. Perhaps being about the craft and appreciation of coffee rather than primarily about food or getting through a morning tea rush is what makes the time taken to do it properly possible. And the customers there like me were waiting for a perfect coffee not a flat white that tastes different every time you visit.
As for the customers – there are always half a dozen people in a cafe whether together or on laptops; no-one wears a suit and those in meetings have a yellow work pad; all the cool dudes have little beards; the cafe smells of coffee, not whatever last thing was cooked on the sandwich press and is now lingering in the air. And this is definitely what I wish for in Wellington – no-one stays just 15 minutes or as long as it takes to drink coffee – they stay, they use their computer, they use the cafe’s free fast wi-fi, a group swells and trickles out as acquaintances come and go, whether it be bike couriers, students, other guys from the office; no-one clears the cups noisily (in fact you put your own cup on the bench when you’re done). Hanging out is serious business. I’m going to try more of this in Wellington – will be interesting to see how long I feel comfortable staying for.