Australians addicted to textured milk

Date Posted:2 January 2016 


Is the Australian coffee-drinking public addicted to textured milk ?

A funny thing happened on my recent holidays.

No, it wasn't some weird relaxed state of mind or the discovery of a new coffee innovation but an observation that came as a bit of a shock.

We stayed at the wonderful RACV resort in Torquay between Xmas and New Year - a great place and highly recommended, but the point of this article was the unusual display of human herd activity at the generous buffet breakfast sessions each morning.

Here is a place that puts on a massive scale brekkie - it's my favourite meal of the day and I'm guilty of having 4 or 5 full plates each morning until I'm well and truly stuffed from over-eating - it was Xmas every day for yours truly.

Near the juice and beverages section sat 2 large Nespresso commercial capsule machines - you know those automatic systems with fresh milk units found in large corporate offices and premium car dealerships. They use the higher dose proprietary flying saucer capsules not compatible with the domestic range of capsule machines.

So, what's so special about that I hear you say ?.........because they are literally everywhere in portion control hospitality these days.

Well, for a start it was the constantly long line up to use these big self-serve capsule machines.......a line that was always 3-wide and 8 deep with people waiting to grab themselves a capsule cappuccino. Obviously, the machines clogging and regularly running out of milk did not help the situation, nor was it helpful when people confronted by so many capsule choices would take minutes to work out which capsule they wanted.

The long faces on those waiting in those long lines - it never seemed to move or change.

This buffet offered a choice of 3 different coffee beverage preparations:-

1. the never-ending supply of fresh brewed filter coffee,

2. a self-serve capsule, or

3. you could purchase a cafe quality barista-made beverage for a few bucks.

So, what in fact was the attraction at the capsule centre that had obviously captivated the attention of the majority of coffee drinkers in the room?

As a person who detests lining up for anything, I was loath to stand in the line like the herd of caffeine-starved cattle. The abundant freshly brewed coffee was superb with a dash of milk. No sugar needed and it was clean, sweet and full flavoured - some of the best I've tasted in my opinion (take a bow RACV......well done!).

I'm sure it was not a novelty factor - people have seen capsule machines before and most have tried the result, but after the 2nd day of watching the herds struggle with their creations, I spotted a rare moment of shorter queue and made my dash. 10 mins later I was the proud owner of 3x concoctions - a double (2x capsules) of the most intense ranked capsule with milk, a single of the intense with milk and a mid-range capsule with milk.

Walking back to the table my dear wife was shaking her head and the faint sound of "tis tis" slipped from the side of her mouth. "Why are you doing this ?" bellowed at a volume that startled the couple nearby.........and in my defiant response I echoed back........."because I have to find out what all the fuss is about ".

To avoid desensitizing the palate, we started with the medium strength capsule latte - working from weakest to strongest.

First impressions - completely devoid of any sense of flavour........tepid cold and unpleasant. No need to take a second sample as the temperature was really unacceptable and the cup undrinkable.

Next onto the strongest single intensity capsule prepared as a lungo with a manual milk top up - ratio was say 50/50 coffee and milk. There were faint hints of coffee flavour but it was really a warm milkshake with a touch of coffee. On a fair comparison, it was nowhere near as good as the fresh brewed filter coffee dispensed from the vac flasks by the waiters.

Finally, the double (2x capsule) of the strongest capsule with milk. These were both made as espresso shot to retain intensity without excessive dissolved liquids from a lungo and then topped up the cup with foamed milk.

More presentable in terms of coffee, but again it was nothing close to what the staff had been dispensing from brewed flasks.

Begs the question - what was all that fuss about each morning.

The conclusion.......... customers were seeking something that resembled a barista made milk-based espresso without having to pay for it (strange considering the rooms were almost $400 per night).

These people were yearning for the warm, fluffy, creaminess of textured milk from the Nespresso capsule machine because it provided increased body and viscosity compared to a filter coffee that was 90% brew and 10% milk. Flavour and balance were not important......or so it seems.

A few days later I found myself at the beverage section at the buffet breakfast topping up my juice when I turned and asked a lady standing in the Nespresso line if I could please ask her why she preferred the capsule coffee over the brewed coffee ?

"because I like the way it does the milk with the coffee" she responded. Even if the milk was not, what a revelation.

I got to thinking about this some more.

One thing all of our most successful cafes have in common is they constantly nail their milk preparation - literally to perfection. Beyond having the best coffee in their area, they are more precise with their milk skills compared to their neighbours and I believe this has contributed in one of the many ways as to why they have more customers and their cafes are always busy.

Well prepared milk does wonderful things to coffee and its been said before by others that milk can hide a multitude of coffee sins.

There is an incredible amount of sweetness released from correctly textured milk and the body it brings to the cup means the experience is far more rewarding for the drinker.

So I tell you now.......there is no doubt Australians are actually are addicted to textured milk.