Coffee, like medicine, is an art and a science

coffee beans
I love a good coffee – and by good coffee I do not mean ‘international roast’ or ‘caterer’s blend’ but real coffee.  At least I can admit it – I am a coffee snob! Don’t get me started on ‘those’ who refer to my beloved brew as ‘eXpresso’, or ‘mug-of-chino’, or heaven-forbid ‘mug of tuna’ (that reference is thanks to my awesome sister-in-law Christy, from her days working in a Naracoorte deli).
eXpresso Cup-o-chinos
My love affair with coffee really began in my childhood when I would occasionally hang out with dad at his workplace, the Naracoorte Hospital, where he was the maintenance manager.  He would stop for ‘smoko’ through the day; however, as he was never a smoker, he would have a ‘cuppa’ and a biscuit, so for quite a while, I thought that ‘smoko’ was just a synonym for ‘morning or afternoon tea’.

Asking for smoko at school one day didn’t go down so well.

C is for Coffee - is good enough for me

Later as a teenager I also realised that ‘cuppa’ was a fairly loose term that my parents used to refer to either tea or coffee, and I am ashamed to say, instant coffee for that matter!

I drank coffee before it was cool

As I developed a taste for coffee I managed to transition the family to ground coffee made up in a French press (otherwise known as a coffee plunger) and started to experiment with grinding my own beans and using Italian coffee makers (Moka pots) on the stove for a different twist.

Look forward to bed because know coffee when wake up

Mum and I would share a cup of freshly brewed plunger coffee on my return from school in year 12 and I recall looking forward to this immensely!
I started working in my first job (earning about $6.30/hour) at the Blacksmith’s Cafe in Naracoorte as a waitress, kitchen-hand and barista, so finally learnt the art of real espresso coffee-making first hand.  I was so excited to really know the difference between a macchiato, flat white, short black, long black, cafe latte and a cappuccino.
I feel fortunate that it seems my gradually increasing love for coffee has gone in line with Australia’s growing coffee obsession – once upon a time it was unheard of to have your own coffee ‘machine’ at home, and now just about everyone has an espresso machine of some description, or at least a plunger somewhere in the house.  There has also been an ever-increasing cafe-culture, especially in Melbourne, which I was grateful to be a part of in recent years.  Apps on my iPhone like the ‘Melbourne Coffee Review‘ and ‘Urban Spoon‘ were helpful in finding real gems on the coffee scene to enjoy catch-ups with good friends.
Ermagerd coffee
I was reminded of the general rule of medical practitioners’ love of this delicious, warm beverage after a Twitter-storm around #BNL2013 – the annual GPRA ‘Breathing New Life into General Practice‘ conference held in Canberra from 17-19 March 2013.  There was a stream of online jealousy as one registrar managed to wrangle himself a nice coffee before the day in Parliament House.
IMG_4795
I later added to this by posting a photo of my mid-theatre-list coffee run in Clare:
IMG_4750
Coffee addiction and snobbery is rife in medicine – my time in Box Hill Hospital’s emergency department was peppered with coffee runs to Hudson’s at Epworth Eastern across the road.  The post ward round wind down was not complete without a corrugated cardboard cup of deliciousness in hand, and how could my co-intern Wen and I have survived our cut-throat surgical rotation (with hours usually from 6am until 7pm) without a (slightly burnt) cup of coffee from the Maroondah Hospital cafeteria?  Purchasing coffees in take-away cups is a right of passage in medicine.  It is a sign that you’ve made it to paid employment!  (Or is it a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep?  Quite likely.)
However, I have always found it is a welcome relief – a short break – from the wards or consulting room.  It is a good opportunity for bonding time with colleagues and debriefing after a tough day.
Coffee, like medicine, is an art and a science, as this website from Zurich confirms…

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 8.33.33 AM

“Latte art” is a competitive, passion-driven exercise.  I have taken my fair share of photographs of ‘beautiful coffee’ to, dare I say it?…post on Facebook (eek!)…this is not one of mine…
latte art
Coffee has even been shown to have several health benefits, as a recent article plugged on Twitter suggested
IMG_4794         The coffee is ready
Finally, a note on drinking soy milk – a part of me cringes & dies each time I ask for a (cue overly camp voice) ‘soy latte’, but this is actually for a ligitimate lactose-digesting difficulty I have developed as an adult (physiologically normal according to Saladin’s Anatomy and Physiology I’ll have you know!)
IMG_4786
I am not trying to be even more snobby, metro & annoying by ordering this, so please don’t just make it with regular milk and think I won’t notice. This is (not really) like giving peanut-laiden cakes to a person who has anaphylaxis to peanuts!
I actually drink coffee because I enjoy the flavour and the lovely creaminess of a well-made latte – the caffeine effect from coffee is likely negligible in me now anyway!
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3 thoughts on “Coffee, like medicine, is an art and a science

  1. Mel, great post. Oh I love coffee. Actually we just started using some expresso beans that I purchased in Canberra during BNL13 from Lonsdale St Roasters.

    Every so often I take a break for 1-2 weeks because it does get a little too much! At the end of the week, i find everything is just so sssssllow and my wife is begging me to start again!

    Kylie calls coffee now her “elixir of life” because with the baby and boy, we both ain’t getting much sleep at the moment.

    I think our love affair is going to continue and grow!

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