Australia is well-known internationally for its love of coffee, and the culture that surrounds it. You seldom see a latte lacking art (there's always a leaf at the very least).
It's a common millennial pastime to hang around at a local café drinking coffee, which will often warrant a picture to Instagram if the hangout and brew are aesthetically pleasing enough. I'm guilty of this, and take my love of coffee very seriously. I spent a day in Seattle a few years ago, and forced my mum to photograph me outside the original Starbucks with a caramel latte and a Starbucks T-Shirt.
You can often spot me wearing the same shirt around campus with matching Starbucks earrings (sometimes even my ‘Coffee Queen’ jumper too) and always carrying a Coffee Cart cappuccino. If I am not the most stereotypical representation of a caffeine-crazed Sydney local, then I don't know who is. But two months ago, I left my coffee comfort zone and moved to Germany for a year on exchange. The transition’s been tough. However, it’s given me the chance to compare Australia’s coffee culture to the German one, and taught me new ways to go about getting caffeinated.
Many people warned me about culture shock, and told me that exercising, socialising and keeping busy would help me cope. What I wasn’t prepared for was the difference in coffee. The first time I went to a café in my new home, Mannheim, I was surprised to discover that my cappuccino was missing its signature chocolate powder finish. I'm yet to find a cappuccino with chocolate powder on it, and I’ve travelled to almost ten German cities so far. I was lucky enough to find a local café at the train station that has a chocolate powder shaker at the pick-up point (in the style of my beloved Gloria Jean's).
If you’re a flat white drinker, I’ve got bad news for you: they don’t exist here. Coffee-to-go carts are commonplace around my city, and offer 99 cent coffees that are a godsend for my limited exchange student budget. One problem with this option is that if I’m in a rush I forget to add milk, which normally sits in a carton next to the lids. Maybe this will finally teach me to be on time (but probably not). A higher quality cup of coffee from a café is double the price of these quick coffees at around €2,30, but they are generally not barista-made. These are mostly brewed with coffee machines like those you find at 7-Eleven.
In my opinion, I consider Australia’s coffee standard higher than Germany’s, but I can only speak from my own experience. I visited Italy last weekend, where I got a great coffee that gave me some reprieve. My cappuccinos in Germany might have froth a bit bubblier than I'd like, but they’ve encouraged me to do my wallet a favour and make more coffees at home. I'm slowly but surely adapting to the German coffee culture that seems to favour efficiency over the carefully-manicured coffees I’m accustomed to in Australia. I admit that it's nice to be able to order, pay for and get a coffee within 30 seconds when I'm running late for class. At UNSW, I'd usually rock up to class at least 10 minutes late because of the Coffee Cart's infamous line.
I'd strongly encourage anyone else living overseas and suffering coffee culture shock to experiment, find out the local coffee norm and just roll with it. Australia might host the world's best coffee culture (in my humble opinion), but it's not the only country that deeply enjoys caffeine. Having a cuppa and a chat after class with friends is a universal hobby, and even if I prefer Australian coffee, I’m still getting that much-needed caffeine fix into my system. If you’re having fun socialising and gaining energy in the process, then you can’t really go wrong.
I've also found drinking more iced coffees has eased my transition, as supermarket iced coffees don’t differ too much internationally. I can get them for as little as 49 cents at my local grocer, and most are cheaper than a euro elsewhere. I recently took a 45-minute tram ride to a supermarket where I was told I could find iced Starbucks coffees, so now my fridge is stocked with hazelnut macchiatos.
I may not be able to visit a trendy Newtown café to get a perfectly frothed cappuccino, but I'm gradually coming around to enjoying the different caffeine fixes in Germany and what to expect when I order a coffee.