The other day I jumped on a train and ventured out of the city to have coffee with some mates. When you think of heading out for a great coffee you would normally make your way into town, not out west, but it was all about the great company and these three guys I was catching up with were also coffee aficionados so with this in mind I thought the café couldn’t be too bad and was looking forward to the night out.
We rocked up at the counter to order and the line was only about 5 deep but it was hardly moving. It was worse than that over-priced chocolate chain which can easily have you waiting 35 minutes in line before someone takes your order. The reason it takes so long is that the one person taking the orders routinely wanders away from the register to do something else. See if I’m right next time you are in the mood for a chocolate pizza. Then it’s another 15 minutes whilst they melt chocolate into a cup. How long does it take to melt some bloody chocolate?
This wait at this café tonight was particularly annoying as there were three people behind the counter that could’ve taken our order but they were all busy looking confused and answering each others questions about which meal was going to whom. The barista stepped in and cleared up the “which sandwich is going to table 12″ conundrum. I didn’t like the look of this guy though. He was a lanky awkward looking man with long greasy dark hair tied in a pony tail. Not a nice sanitary one like on a my-little-pony toy, more like that of a travelling circus pony. In summary: he was a weird looking coffee-hippy. He also had an attitude.
One of my friends simply ordered a regular cappuccino and the hippy-barista corrected him and said “we don’t serve regular coffee here.” I nudged him and pointed to the coffee size chart which prescribed either a “short” “mug” or “bucket” was available for purchase. I kid-you-not, “bucket” was one of the coffee sizes. I couldn’t help imagining Betsy the black and white dairy cow squashed out the back between the pastry fridge and the wall with a look a sheer exhaustion on her face, praying her cow-god that no one else orders the “pail-of-chino” again tonight, where upon she will be milked directly into a “bucket”. My friend now guessed that he had not followed the hippy-size-metric-system and clarified that he was referring to the kind of milk. Regular milk as in not skim milk … please. I carefully ordered a “short” skim-latte and tried not to cause any trouble.
More trouble was to come. Our other two friends were not far behind us in the line and eventually joined us at a table. When an espresso arrived in a cold glass and was over extracted, the hippy was summoned to our table. He was very apologetic and offered to make a new one.
About a minute later he brought over two new espressos. One for my mate and one from himself. He grabbed a stool and sat down at the end of our table and began a conversation about coffee. He knew more about coffee that anyone I have met since and has been making it for about 15 years. He didn’t make the coffee that came out first, it was made by one of his volunteers in training who didn’t know to heat the glass beforehand or about the required pour time. He went on to explain that the whole café was run by young volunteers who had experienced difficult upbringings or for whatever reason were living in disadvantage, they were here trying to improve their lives. The next time I looked up from my latte I didn’t see a team of incompetent and slightly weird staff but rather a motley crew of previously un-skilled young people who had committed all their spare time to helping their friends make something of themselves and learning how to make fantastic coffee at the same time. The café was a not-for-profit community business model that simply endeavours to facilitate a community for people who have found themselves alone in life.
Needless to say we realised that when he said “we don’t serve regular coffee here” he was alluding to the cause behind his café and either hoping we would ask what he meant and engage in conversation or simply nod and smile if we already knew the back story. We didn’t have a clue and were humbled by the revelation of what was actually going on.
We agreed amongst ourselves to never again judge a café by its hippy.
PETE CAMPBELL is a Creative: Writer/Producer based from Australia, now based in LA. He has worked on projects for McDonalds, So You Think You Can Dance, Nikon, TEN, The Waratahs, Royal Bank of Scotland, Sydney Opera House, Bankwest, HP, Gumtree, Kijiji Taiwan and a stack more.