Ah, coffee

I’ve already written about my experiences with Australian prices. When I first arrived, I spent hours walking down supermarket aisles, monitoring, comparing in my head, how much each product costs in various stores.

Although it’s waned over the last few months, the habit has stayed with me.

That’s why when I heard a small cup of flat white with almond milk and an extra shot costs $5.20, I had a hard time masking my bitch face. I swallowed the anger that rose to my lips and smiled instead. Thank you for such unfairness.

$5.20 isn’t a lot of money, I admit. But it’s still a lot for a not-so-great coffee in a not-so-big-enough cup. And yet, I’ve noticed that it’s the standard in most places in Canberra.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived in Melbourne.

For $4.50, I got a much bigger cup of more satisfying coffee. And I fell in love with Melbourne. Well, not just because of the coffee, but it sure helped.

That said, even in Melbourne, alternative milks and extra shots of espresso cost an additional 50 cents each. Some places dare go even further and charge anything between 80 cents and a dollar. 

And that’s on top of the standard price of a coffee.

I couldn’t comprehend the reasoning behind it. I don’t even think there is a reasoning. Of course, almond milk is more expensive than regular cow’s milk, but that doesn’t justify charging extra over a commodity I didn’t ask for.

I could, for the sake of an argument, dissect the price points of each element that goes into a flat white and evaluate the fairness of the price. But that’ll get me nowhere.

So I chose to rant here instead.

In all honesty though, this elevated coffee prices has made me appreciate it more than ever. Now getting a coffee outside is special. It’s not the kind of pick-me-up you associate with takeaway cups and Hollywood heroins in a rush. Coffee means proper coffee, and that means treating it with the respect it deserves—savouring every sip as it travels down my throat.

Handmade jewellery at a shop in Melbourne

Modern society

Beauty in necklace—
intolerable in streets—
multi-colour skins.

Photo: From an interesting shop called Eclectico in Melbourne. They sell a range of jewellery, handicrafts, and attire from Mexico, Peru, Spain, Brazil and south east Asia. Great place to look around while waiting for the next tram.

Flowers at Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne


Darling buds look down,
as emperor on subjects
except, natural

Photo: Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne
Mornings in Melbourne

Fighting back

For every tree felled
another, spreading its wings,
defies challenger

Melbourne, a note

The moment I disembarked from the plane, I knew this was going to be an experience I’d never have imagined. As I walked into the chilly Melbourne streets shrouded by patches of dark and light clouds, melding into one, meandering through the skies, I fell in love. 

It wasn’t the first time that I’d taken such a string liking to a city. Melbourne is home to millions of heart beats, yet it thrives with a unique pulse that matches none other’s. Every iconic city is iconic for a reason, and I was about to discover Melbourne’s.

Sure enough, when I left my hotel ten minutes after checking in, it was still mid afternoon on a Saturday, and the central business district (or CBD) bustled with wanderers—tourists and locals alike—coffee or iced tea in hand, exploring the various nooks and crannies of the painted city. The first noticeable thing about Melbourne is the immensity of people. Though not as dense as Chennai, where I lived for six years, it’s still a haven for lots of shuffling bodies.

Stumbling into people from all over the world, I followed the directions on my map to an alleyway. Melbourne is the only place where alleyways are so versatile that they’re tourist attractions, shelters for the homeless, getaways for smokers, canvases for artists overflowing with talent—all in one.

One side of the city boasts vintage Victorian architecture, every brick instilled within screaming grandeur, while on the other side are rows upon rows of these oiled up walls carved with emotions, philosophy, and outcomes of deep-rooted fear of (and for) society. It was as if the artists of the city exclaimed, “Look, wall!” and went crazy all over it.

Nodding to a tune in my head and smiling at the tens of unrecognisable languages that floated through the air into my ear, I realised Melbourne is far more multicultural than any other city I’ve been to. And I’ve been to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Although, in many aspects, Melbourne resembled New York to me. The city’s weirdness reminded me of the vagueness and unpredictability that hung around me in NYC.

My gut feeling only solidified as the day wore off and darkness blanketed over the neighbourhood. All of a sudden, musicians popped up in street corners, strumming their creativity through empty glass bottles, metal serving plates, and brass cymbals.

Unsurprisingly, onlookers gathered, dropping jaws, filming videos, cheering on, laughing and dancing to the tunes. It was a carnival on the street, where everyone forgot their problems—overdue bills, medical appointments, insurance claims, tax returns—for a few minutes and surrendered themselves to the moment.

It was past 10 pm—bright, noisy, teeming with life. Wonderful.

The next day when I stepped out of my hotel, a pop-up coffee vendor greeted me with a wide smile and a “Hiya, mate!” I didn’t think—my mouth split wide in joy and I reciprocated with all the enthusiasm I could muster. His hello kept the spring in my step throughout the day and I felt myself bouncing on my toes as I walked down street after street, marvelling one moment at the brilliant architecture and then at the lack of creativity in naming roads—Little Burke Street came after Burke Street. Then came Collins and Little Collins—I felt amused, but also thankful for it was easy to remember.

While the CBD sported such names, a little further away, outside of the heart of all the bustle, weirder and quirkier names popped out at me. Hosier Lane was home to some of the greatest graffiti I’ve seen. Literature Lane, appropriately named, was rather glum and ignored. Chopper Lane sported a dog that watched a fish swim away, and AC/DC Lane celebrated the height of rock music that once moved the world. Colours bright and dark mapped faces, caricatures, buildings, and stories, narratives that’ve survived years of camera flashes, oohs, and ahhs, and pointing of fingers.

Melbourne turned out to be so much more than I imagined. It was bright and airy and cheery, but also dark, dreary, and gothic. I loved every bit of it.