It always amuses me when people sip their short blacks and satisfyingly say “oo, just like real Italian espresso!”. Primarily, they are offering a lovely compliment, the coffee they are drinking having met (or perhaps even exceeded) their expectations. But on the other hand, the barista in me smirks a bit: Australian coffee is wayyyyyyyyy better than Italian coffee.
Oo, ok hold on Rols. What word did you just use then? “Better”? What exactly do you mean by that sorry?
Hmm. I guess thats what this post is all about. Let me to explain.
Our espresso-based coffee industry did indeed originate from Italy, mainly from their ingeniously fandangled machinery that applied unprecedented levels of pressure to darkly roasted coffee, forcing a wild emulsion to take place and quickly producing a type of coffee the world had never seen before: espresso.
Australians cottoned on to this concept and seriously ran away with it, over the Dolomites and far beyond - you see, we use their machinery, but the quality of actual coffee that Australians buy far exceeds that which is drunk in the overwhelming majority of Italian cafes.
Here’s the thing though. We only took the physical product, and neglected to migrate some essential culture that was supposed to accompany it.
Take my word for it: if you go to Italy and drink espresso and expect to receive the diversity, consistency and quality of flavours we are used to in Straya, you will be massively disappointed. You might, however, notice that despite the often chalky texture and abrasively dark roasts that prevail, there is also a charming bar-like atmosphere and process attached to the entire experience.
In Italy, you order your espresso and the barista immediately turns around and makes it for you, only accepting your payment as they hand it to you across the bar. It’s much like alcohol in this way; Europeans are seemingly less afraid than us to acknowledge coffee as the ‘morning drug’ it is (before switching to booze when the clock runs into the PM).
And so I guess we sort of stuffed up here in Australia when we imported the concept of espresso, by somehow forgoing this incredibly potent social component of the coffee experience. Rather, it is far more common to order your coffee, pay for it, then wait an indefinite amount of time for it (obvs lightning quick here at TSE, longer elsewhere). There are some exceptions to this rule at strictly-coffee establishments but they are few and far between: Sydney’s Reformatory Coffee Lab and Melbourne’s Aunty Peg’s spring to mind as good examples, but for the most part the social nature of drinking espresso has been somewhat lost between Europe and here.
Enter the OCD…
It stands for “Over-the-Counter Demitasse” - demitasse being the fancy word for ceramic espresso cup, and over-the-counter being strictly how it is served.
When the line is long in the mornings, OCD drinkers bypass it and waltz straight up to the machine, pay $2 in coins directly with the baristas, who immediately slot a single shot of our house blend straight into their workflow without skipping a beat. It is then sent straight over the machine into the hands of whoever ordered it, completely unadulterated and mere seconds after ordering. No trimmings, no bubbly water, no waiting, no worries. It’s a real back-to-basics concept that we feel ticks all the boxes: cost-effective, timely, social and of course delicious.
Anyway that's the ins and outs of OCD. Our philosophy is that the high volume of both our beats and customers makes TSE feel more like a day-bar than a coffee shop anyway, and the OCD is a great opportunity to amplify this feeling.