customs and café cultures happening around the globe right now
- Illustration by Hey Studio
- Words by Mr Mansel Fletcher, Features Editor, MR PORTER
These days food is probably more fashionable than fashion, art or even riding customised vintage motorbikes. In 2013 no self-respecting man can admit to being indifferent about what he eats and drinks, but if there's one element of gastronomy with which hipsters are particularly obsessed, it's coffee. The level of interest, the pursuit of marginal improvements and the amount of money involved would astound our Nescafé Taster's Choice-sipping forebears. However, the result is that the range of options available to a man in search of a good coffee is now so wide as to be thoroughly confusing for the uninitiated.
One of the striking things about the modern coffee scene is the extent to which the Italian tradition has been written out of the picture. The flat white has become so popular that it's possible to imagine that the espresso was invented in Melbourne, rather than in Turin. However, Mr Marco Arrigo, Illy's head of quality in the UK, believes that there's one element of Italian coffee culture that Anglo Saxons can't reproduce. "In the UK and the US you can have the coffee, but you still don't have the culture. You should enjoy a coffee with somebody else, sitting down, drinking from a real cup. To drink coffee on your own, from a paper cup, while sending an email on your BlackBerry is missing the point; it's like eating a meal in front of the television. It's sterile."
If the way it's enjoyed is changing, so are the drinks themselves. Coffee devotees are now moving beyond menus based around a long list of poorly defined, milky drinks. Ms Elyse Bouvier, head barista at new West London café Talkhouse Coffee, explains why: "Our menu simply offers espresso with milk, in three different sizes, rather than flat whites, cappuccinos and lattes. We just couldn't get anyone to agree on the difference between the milky coffees, beyond the changing ratio of espresso to warm textured milk. We liken them to gin and tonics, in that it's just about choosing how much gin you want, and how much tonic."
While this represents a mere refinement of the espresso trend, the real news in the world of coffee is the increasing popularity of a variety of different filter techniques. Read about them, and much more, in our global guide, above.