March 4, 2011
The world even in its normal state and without dire future climate changes is on a roll: floods, earthquakes, fires, airports are frozen, planes can’t take off, cars are bobbing about in raging torrents, people clinging to trees and revolutions are toppling tyrants. All this is happening almost as a daily event. No sooner do we climb out of our bed, switch on the telly, and it starts again. Some sparkling ABC journalist is interviewing either a bearded climate expert or a shiny faced business expert, both telling us the world is getting better or getting far worse. The weather girl isn’t all that optimistic either: storms in the Illawarrah, hurricanes are reforming and there is a map where there are little zig zags or windy signals flashing ominously. Nervously we search for weather warnings on the net. El Nina is going berserk.
Politically, we are divided not just by poor or rich, the left or right, the moderately accepting or the fanatically opposing: No the criteria for the good or bad for any of us now depends totally on our preferred beverage. The battle lines are now drawn on what might be found at the bottom of our beloved Wedgewood beaker or the Royal Leerdam wine glass.
The masked shaman poring over the bleached and knuckled bones of our coffee dregs or corks, the veiled future teller at her tea leaves. All now are studiously peering into the remaining dregs of our daily imbibement. This latest has now turned us into a divided nation, not based on just political leanings as in the past. All of a sudden we are judged by our liquid habits.
How did this ever come about? When did it all start? Can’t we just carry on without the lament of; “you are nothing but a latte sipper?” Or, the war cry from the others, the tea drinking brigade, shouting from roof tops, “if it aint broke don’t fix it.” Only as little as two years ago it was ‘chardonnay’ drinking that carried the wrath of the right. This issue has become blurred where now both sides, including even Queenslanders, accuse each other of belonging to the Chardonnay set, irrespective of left or right..One would not want to stand in the shoes of the sommelier trying to predict future trends in wine consumption.
Does this coffee drinking somehow point to a form of unruly benevolence bordering on socialism that the knee sock wearers& tea drinkers are so suspicious of? Does latte sipping encourage riotous behavior?
Years ago, someone remarked rather disdainfully,” Who are all those people sitting around drinking espresso?” “Haven’t they got something better to do?” This coincided when more and more shopkeepers started to display their wares spilling out on the footpaths. They were truly revolutionary times. Local councils were at their wits end trying to figure out the laws governing the public use of footpaths versus shopkeepers trying to make a quid. At first, only moderate and narrow bits of footpaths were allowed to occupy merchant’s wares. When this did not cause any breakdown of society or rioting pedestrians, more of the footpaths were given over to boxes of tomatoes, buckets of flowers and even hardware, including stepladders, wheel barrows. And so, the coffee drinking on the footpath was born.
These were also the times when dogs were still allowed to generously deposit their wares on the footpaths as well. It wasn’t uncommon to see brown foot-marks leading to the news agency on a Saturday morning.
Ah, they were such easy going times. Tolerance and community sharing and caring were still the norm.
Those walks to the news agency combined with the Vietnamese croissant shop are becoming a thing of the past. The piles of papers spilling out from News agency are becoming thinner. Instead, the tapping on our laptops in the solitary confinement of our home office are becoming the norm, and sadly without those flakey croissants.
But, the one thing that is not getting less and much to the chagrin of many still, is our relentless latte sipping. History tells us that this humble bean’s first entry into Australia were with those brave Afghans that helped Australia establish its first overland telegraphy between Adelaide and Darwin back in 1870’s. Ah, how they coped with heat and dust, the dark brew giving sustenance in the void of the outback desert.
It remains for historian to fill in the puzzle how this beverage got lost and how tea sipping became the norm. Alright, I concede that the vile habit of ‘Instant Coffee’ ingratiated itself just after the war. Real coffee was lost and when it reappeared it would be seen as something related to sub-ordinance or the opposite, subservience. Communism was hinted at during the Menzies period, and to be feared. But soon after, the Reffos from the Balkans and Hungary were, reintroducing it, disturbing the peace of afternoons with tea and the munching of lovely 1916 invention of the SAOs during Bingo.
Here and there in Sydney’s underworld regions of inner-west and Palmer Street the coffee drinking became more and more brazen. Now, some sixty years later, coffee has become mainstream. Yet, pockets of resistance are still around. We must remain vigilant.
Resist the shout; stand up ever proud; “we are the Latte sippers.”