We Australians are rightfully pretty proud of our coffee culture: while there’s still a strong degree of snobbery from ‘the Old World’ about Australian coffee (or wine, or dining, or film…), the fact remains that the Land Down Under boasts one of the most complex and discerning coffee and cafe cultures in the world.
Sometimes we let that get to our heads. We might be the recipients of snobbery but we also dole it out ourselves: we love to make fun of American coffee culture, with most Aussies keen to have a swipe at their love of filter coffee and Starbucks. Sure, the average espresso in Sydney might trump the average Seattle brew (and give the Romans a run for their money), but we can’t pretend we’re that much better than them.
Case in point: this absolute trainwreck of a coffee order one poor Byron Bay barista had to deal with that was brought to our attention by yuppie anthropologist @lordsofbyronbay. It’s one of those images that the more you look at it, the worse it gets – but this monster of a receipt also speaks to a broader issue within Australian coffee culture that’s worth being shamed out of existence.
Firstly, let’s talk about how long it is: this is an order for 16 coffees. More to the point, it wasn’t done in a linear fashion. Notice how the 9th order is a standard cappuccino. There were cappuccinos added to the order before it, but they weren’t standard. Fair enough. But then the 14th order is also a standard cappuccino…
There are two ways this could have played out. Option #1: the server was going around the group asking people for their orders. That meant that person #14 wasn’t paying attention. They could have made things easier for the server and just chimed in when #9 made their order – “I’ll have a standard cap too, please”. That they didn’t means that they’re either indecisive (weak!) or just entitled (rude!)
Option #2: the customer went up to the counter and did one big order all at once. That’s equally as rude and/or disorganised; they should have collated identical orders together to make things easier for the staff member taking the order, like how she did for orders #2 and #3.
Secondly, and perhaps more relevantly, take a look at the orders. It’s a veritable list of coffee sins: a latte with caramel syrup? Oat milk mochas? A skim cappuccino? And just too many cappuccinos, frankly. This receipt would be considered tantamount to a hate crime in most of Italy. And of course this happened in Byron, Australia’s new yuppie capital.
This brings us back to our main point: that we Australians are becoming far too entitled about our coffee – or more pertinently, far too entitled when it comes to how we treat cafe staff. Whether it’s popping yoga poses in the middle of a cafe during the morning rush to slamming baristas with outrageous orders like this one, there’s a growing feeling that Australians are becoming too entitled; imposing too much on hospitality staff.
It’s like we’ve exported the flat white and imported the toxic American “the customer is always right” attitude.
Maybe we’re working ourselves up into a lather. When we spoke to Sydney barista Max Groh earlier this year, he related that he’s not fussed by complicated coffee orders – “people can drink their coffee however they want.” What really bothers him (and most baristas) is when customers “don’t know their orders” and try to make modifications once he’s already started making their coffee.
While Australians remain some of the biggest per-capita consumers of dairy in the world, the reality is that plant-based milks are becoming more and more popular here as they are around the world. According to IBISWorld, plant-based milks account for approximately 7% of all milk consumed in Australia, a number that is only set to rise. Baristas have become used to this multi-milk landscape, so it’s perhaps less of an imposition than we think.
Soy and almond milk account for over 90% of the plant-based milk market, but other alternatives – such as macadamia, oat or rice – are becoming increasingly popular. Swedish oat milk brand Oatly stands out as a particular success story.
We also feel some sympathy for the customer in this situation. We wouldn’t be volunteering to dictate such a long and complicated order either – we’d surely make a few mistakes ourselves. This is also a takeaway order – did they also have to carry all these coffees themselves?
The fact it’s all billed on one card too means that they really took one for the team: it’s always a painful process getting people to pay you back, transfer you, etcetera. Maybe they’re really the unspoken hero in all this.
Still, we wonder if any of these coffee orders belong to a Range Rover driver…