Man-Bun Theatre

I was all set to write a post on international relations this week, and then a discussion on ABC24 Breakfast TV caught my eye and ear.

I have not managed to find the original source, but apparently, some well-known coffee identity has lashed out at Melbourne’s baristas, suggesting that they are way too laid back, happy to take a long time to carefully craft a coffee while a line stretches around the block.

The discussion soon turned to anecdotes, and it’s fair to say the presenters were also up in arms about this. It’s also fair to say that man-buns, beards and other hipster accoutrements were mentioned with a great frequency. I may have heard a whisper of facial piercings, as well.

As a barista myself, I think that coffee CAN be theatre. It can also be an industrial process, where a skilled operator punches out coffee in an efficient and timely manner*.

In defence of some baristas, there is a time lapse between order and delivery, and if you are shy and have no conversational skills, then that theatre can fill the time. Myself, I have spent those moments where a coffee-seeker and I are in orbit discussing archaeology, theology, Scientology, geology, astrology, biology, zoology, entomology, etymology and cricket, just to name a few of life’s more interesting points. All the while, my hands know what they are doing.

Before I move on from coffee, let me also say that there is less excuse in Melbourne than elsewhere for slow coffee, for in Melbourne, cool is cool. The more expensive and impressive the venue, the colder the coffee. They are just waiting for you to complain, and then you will be patiently lectured to by beardy-man that you are wrong, the coffee is the right temperature and it’s only your ignorance than made you expect it at an adult temperature.

Anyway, let’s move onto an adult beverage: tea.

Tea is always served somewhere between hot and boiling. It requires very little in the way of expensive equipment and training. You could train a spaniel to make tea, assuming it had opposable thumbs and could read a thermometer and use a timer. Well perhaps not a spaniel, but maybe a Kardashian.

Along with a far wider variety of tastes than coffee, it offers a wider range of gaps. Into those gaps you can prepare a scone, start the next order or – and this is the biggie- talk to the customer. After all, they are a tea drinker, so it will be a better experience.

Why? Because their relationship with their beverage is so much more mature and respectful.It’s fair to say that on some mornings, there is little difference between the line at an espresso machine and the line at a methadone clinic.

Tea drinkers (with one notable exception**) are not looking for that savage hit of mind-boosting stimulation. They are looking to incorporate a gentle boost and a sense of well-being into their day. They are not willing to forgive Mr. Skinny-Jeans-And-Cardigan if he feels he should be the centre of attention, because the tea is the centre of meditation.

This is why taking a flask of tea with you is a great idea. No lines. No risk of teab*gs. No Man-Bun Theatre.

Yes, each time you take a flask of your preferred tea anywhere and skip the trendy artisan*** café, you make the world a better place.


*For more information on timely and efficient baristas, look up “women” in the dictionary. It’s a good start.

** I mean you, Mr G. Norman, of Portland, Oregon.

*** In the self-congratulatory beardy weasel sense of the word “artisan”

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