Place: BearBrass restaurant, Southgate, Melbourne, Australia
Date: January 13, 2011.
Camera: BlackBerry Curve.
When I moved to London all those years ago the thing I missed most about my homeland wasn't the weather or the friendliness of the people, but the wonderfully rich Italian coffee I had so long taken for granted.
I remember spending weekends trawling the cafes and eateries of Soho and the West End with a fellow Australian looking for that perfect flat white. The closest thing we came to finding that little bit of heaven was the Cinnamon Bar in Aldwych, but it still wasn't anything like a good cuppa from home.
Nowadays London is awash with coffee chains -- Starbucks, Costa, Cafe Nero -- and getting a half-decent coffee is no longer the trial and tribulation it was back in the late 1990s. In the past 12 months some of those chains have even introduced the "flat white" -- although they still don't taste quite as good as the ones produced Down Under.
How lovely, then, to enjoy silky smooth coffee after silky smooth coffee when I took myself to Melbourne for a bit of a mini-break last week. The best bit was not having to step into a corporate coffee chain to enjoy them.
That's because Melbourne is awash with independent coffee shops, thanks to the Italian immigrants that rocked up on our shores in the 1950s. Indeed, coffee chains don't seem to have much success here: Starbucks shut down 61 stores in 2008 because those stores struggled to attract customers.
The only coffee chain that seems to have a good reputation for good coffee is an Australian-owned one -- Gloria Jean -- and even then it has less than a dozen in the CBD, so it hasn't saturated the market.
The other added benefit of drinking coffee in Melbourne is that every establishment, from the smallest sandwich bar to the biggest restaurant, seems to know how to make a decent one. And the coffee used is always top-notch.
In four days of coffee supping I did not have one bad coffee.
The only downside was a slight overdose -- three flat whites in the space of one morning (I was thirsty!) -- that left me feeling slightly jittery and nauseous from too much caffeine. But even then I wouldn't swap the experience for the world: sometimes you just got to make the best of a good thing while you can.