for those in the snow

North America ain’t no Italy

“So, you’re Australian, how are you coping with the coffee in North America?” asked the British woman at the breakfast table sipping a cup of  joe with cream deep in the heart of British Columbia, Canada.  Australian’s reputation as coffee snobs had clearly come before me.

I don’t care how much you pack it with caffeine, how dark you make it or how long you brew it, drip filter coffee is nothing more than black water and has nothing on a well made espresso, latte, macchiato or cappuccino.   The USA may think they created these four coffee styles but Starbucks and it’s sugar syrup flavourings  of faux almond and caramel served up by twelve year old baristas only fuels the nation’s coffee illiteracy.

Sure, I’ve had a good coffee in North Beach San Francisco but it’s a long way from Montana where a fine dining restaurant that prides itself on white linen tablecloths, degustation menus and silver service offered us filter coffee with our petit fours.  Why can’t the coffee bean receive the same attention to detail as the truffles, sturgeon and crafted scallion?  If I wanted filter coffee I’d drive through McCafe.

What does a British born, Australian bred woman know about coffee, you may ask?  The same as twenty two million other Australians who managed to put Starbucks out of business in a country where baristas are up there with personal trainers and hair stylists – everyone has one.

After sixteen days travelling the ski resorts of North America I have learnt that most cafes think a cappuccino is a mug of filter like coffee topped up with foam to the brim of the mega large cup and that in many places a latte is the same, only with less foam.  Yes, yes, I’ve been here before and made the same complaints but there’s a reason Victoria’s in Aspen has a queue out the front door filled with Antipodean accents begging for a decent flat white.

The owners of Victoria’s saw a gap in the Australian market in Aspen and went for it, installing a super espresso coffee maker and training the staff in the art of proper coffee preparation where milk is not overheated and coffee not burnt.

Australians are a lucrative market for North American ski fields. We’re the number one international inbound market into Park City, Utah and have been top three in Vail, Aspen and Whistler for years and we like good coffee.

Rossland, British Columbia may only have a handful of permanent residents but the Alpine Grind served up the only other decent coffee outside of Victoria’s that I have had at a North American ski resort.

Of course, I’m not here for a coffee tour, I’m here for powder and I’m not talking the tub of coffee mate that doubles as ‘milk’ in the tourist condominiums of Canada.

But there’s nothing like a good shot of well roasted beans in the morning before hitting the slopes.   North America may not be able to serve a good coffee on the ski slopes but unlike Australia, they can serve a good meal at a decent price but that’s another blog waiting to happen.

4 Responses to “North America ain’t no Italy”

  1. Claire

    I’ve just moved to Canada from Sydney – and I guess you could call me a coffee snob. You can get a decent cup if you know where to go in Toronto, but I think the best cafe I’ve found so far is a Kiwi one… And I wouldn’t even think about trying to get one out at the ski resorts.

  2. Mel

    I’ve tried so hard to accept the brown water… My least favourite is the big silver urn on offer (I was naive thinking Mrs Fields might have something ok).Thanks for the tip on Victoria’s! Love the blog

  3. Benito Virgona

    Tell me about it. I just got back from Whistler and I learnt my lesson last time! I took a Bialetti stovetop and bought some Illy… I survived the 2 weeks! Although I did have a good coffee.. can’t remember name! but it is right near the whistler gondola.. run by aussies.

  4. Japow

    There was a noted improvement in the cafe scene in Niseko this year as well. The barista (who owned the dog) at Hanazono’s coffee shed was on fire this year and pumping out some good quality latte’s.


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