How to Break Up with Your Barista

City Connect brings you our latest article from Adrian Fernand – Australia’s most stylish agony uncle and etiquette guru. This time Adrian shares his personal views about the coffee scene in his hometown of Melbourne. Check out Adrian’s previous articles here.

When travelling abroad frequently, one tends to make sacrifices—economy airfares for prolonged travel, forsaking a full wardrobe for a 23-kilogram baggage allowance, substituting a queen-size bed for a sofa shared with a gin-soaked stranger—but never should one ever compromise on the quality of a decent coffee. Being a Melbournian I’m the first to admit I’m a coffee (among other things) snob and the mere thought of imbibing inferior caffeinated produce sends me running for my skinny jeans and fixed-wheel bike and clutching them for comfort (not really). I’ve had my fair share of fair trade nonsense and just like an unwanted coffee, it leaves me bitter and cold. For desperation’s sake, Starbucks makes for a consistently terrible global alternative to a decent drop, but why feed the machine when you could achieve the same result with a carburetor and some road tar?

Recently when I returned to coffee Mecca for what has become an extended stay, I’ve relished in the roasted bean goodness that is Melbourne’s coffee scene. With any number of cafés from which to choose and a bevy of baristas at hand to get you your fix, there’s no excuse for effluent disguised cleverly in a takeaway cup. That is, unless you live in my street. You see, given the ageing population whose coffee tastes extend to International Roast out of bulk-purchased tin, the sleepy little suburb is a black spot in café culture. As the old crones finally kick the bucket, the couples with kids shall raze the Californian bungalows and replace them with shiny precast concrete-cladded monoliths and that’s when the circle of life shall recommence … five years from now. You mightn’t be able to fight progress, but you sure can’t expedite it.

This is, however, a small coffee shop (and that’s as much as I’m prepared to call it) just up the road, which on a number of times has served me incredibly mediocre caffe lattes, but as the saying says, any port in a storm. The foccacias are dry and overpriced, the cookies in the jar have been sitting there since approximately 1973 and the decor resembles a cheap B-movie set with a coffee machine. It was my saving grace over the Christmas party season when my eyelids hovered above my keyboard after far too many consecutive nights out, but I’ve had to put my foot down and decide that there will be no more bad coffee for this Agony Uncle.

Nowadays, I’m happy to go without or travel for ten minutes on the train to find one of superior quality, however, that means having to walk past the offending coffee shop in order to do so, which makes for an awkward wave and smile as I stream past in mock haste. I’m yet to have the post-coffee break-up conversation—the one where you revert to a series of cliché excuses and shuffle away as quickly as possible—and not that I’m dreading it entirely, it’s something I’d rather not have, like dandruff.

Breaking up with your barista is no mean feat and can be an often personal experience, despite the tenuous manner in which the relationship is formed. Although telling the truth should is always preferred, the occasional white lie to salvage their feelings is more important than the perfect cup of coffee. If you do happen to run into your barista and they mention that they haven’t seen you in a while, there’s many plausible excuses that can put them off the coffee defection scent. Cite changes in your schedule for your absence or perhaps say that you’ve given up caffeine for the time-being; but beware – being busted by your barista carrying a takeaway on their turf is far worse a crime. You want your beans not your behind to be roasted.

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