by COLIN MCALLISTER & JUSTIN RYAN
IT’S NO SECRET that Canadians love (as do we) their coffee. Statistics proclaim it’s the country’s second most consumed beverage, after water. Literally all year round. Aye, whatever the barometric charts care to deliver, Canadians seem hell bent on lapping up their beloved bean juice at every single turn. Our own love affair with coffee started many moons ago whilst filming a TV show in Melbourne, Australia. Having snatched an afternoon free from our filming schedule, we ventured into Prahran, one of the city’s hipper enclaves.
Stumbling from our taxi to join the hoards of fashionistas promenading Chapel Street, we swooned at the Victorian architecture, the vernacular of which provided a stunning backdrop to our stolen hours. Later, settled in a cute wee streetside café, we tried not to rubber neck as Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett floated by on a cloud of Hollywood glamour. Wow, what a first impression… we so needed a coffee…
We soon learned that “bean juice” in Australia is a religion, and a highly fashionable one at that. The notion of coffee as a way of life springs from the hipster suburbs that have redefined the hallowed brew as a lifestyle choice, a mantra and as a vital component that adds personal pleasure, warmth and luxury to all who’re lured by its intoxicating aroma. Antipodean coffee bars, we learned from our time down under, tend not to be mass produced global brands. Australia, in fact, such is the love for independent cafes, respect for baristas and the drive for amazing coffee, is one of the few countries in which Starbucks struggled to make an impact.
But, of course we can’t tell the story of coffee without referencing Italy, and the country’s influence on the world’s caffeine appetite; which dates back to the 1940s, when Italian immigrants, taking with them their affection for coffee, scattered across the globe, post-World War II. In Australia, Italian café culture married well with the climate and laid back lifestyle, and, before long coffee drinking was established as a luxury leisure must-have.
Yes indeed, “at home” coffee consumption has come a long way. Transitioning from the humble stove top pots and percolators of the 1970s, to the oh so chi-chi French press plunging that proliferated the 1980s (and beyond) coffee is no longer simply a drink: it’s a way of life. And a seriously hip way of life at that. But which device should you choose?
For those of you who aspire to join the hipster coffee brigade, the Oracle Touch, from Australian manufacturer Breville, is the machine equivalent of having your very own barista in the kitchen. And its operation couldn’t be easier; a fully automated, touch screen simplifies everything into three easy steps: grinding, brewing and milk preparation.
Before long you’ll be adjusting coffee strength, milk “texture” and temperature and then, hey presto, saving that “pattern” under your very own name so that each delicious cup brewed, thereafter, is identical. It’s an undeniably clever contraption and a strikingly handsome appliance, to boot. Position one on your countertop and its chunky lines and stainless-steel cladding will joosh up your kitchen in the same way a shot of espresso would enliven your day.
Another appliance of which we’re particularly fond is The Elektra MicroCasa a Leva, a piston operated beauty available in three gleaming finishes to complement your existing décor. Operating this machine is a wonderfully hands-on experience that, whilst requiring a lil’ practice and commitment to perfect (essential characteristics for a professional at-home barista) is little short of a joy. And seriously: just look at those steam punk lines. It is, quite literally, one of the loveliest objects we’ve ever seen.
Before rhapsodising further, allow us to spool back in time, to a holiday we enjoyed some years past, in a cute wee town on the fringes of Rome. Back then, this coffee-loving duo found itself in a tiny café, flirting with an insanely glamourous woman who bore an uncanny resemblance, and was of a similar vintage, to Sophia Loren.
Boasting a gravity defying terracotta bouffant, exaggerated shoulder pads and a sexy Italian burr, she chattered animatedly (in broken, but compelling English) whilst brewing thick black coffee, for our thirsty delectation, from a spellbinding contraption around which her perfectly manicured hands danced. The memory of that device (and her scarlet fingernails) remains to this day, and the experience served as our first exposure to Elektra, all Belle Époque turn of the century styling and shiny metal finishes.
We tracked down an Elektra in Canada, and, as our assistant unboxed it in studio, we swooned. Seriously: in a world where many other machines have taken on a homogenous appearance, this shiny Italian stallion is next level gorgeous. And OMG, the coffee it delivers…
So a little history? Elektra, a third generation family-owned business, was founded in 1947 in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. But worry not – you can find the company’s feted devices, this side of the Atlantic, via respected Canadian merchants Zuccarini.
But an Elektra is about way more than simply hardware. Invest in the Rolls Royce of caffeine delivery, via Zuccarini, and you won’t simply be buying a coffee maker, you’ll be acknowledging and supporting the very people who brought espresso machines to Canada for the first time. In 1954, Giacomo Zuccarini opened his Sidewalk Caffé at Toronto’s Yonge and College, and so much more than coffee drinking began. Around the same time, the company’s distribution of the Gaggia line commenced, which led in turn to their becoming a primary distributor of several similarly exclusive marquees, not least the beautiful Elektra.
From the hefty lever that presses water through the coffee grounds, to the pressure gauge that tells you when the MicroCasa a Leva is ready, the entire experience is wildly rewarding.
It’s fair to report that coffee – and the burgeoning appetite for it – has become a revolution, with an arsenal of associated paraphernalia to satisfy the most style savvy connoisseur. Hey, these days (with minimal effort) you can dress your kitchen to resemble your favourite coffee bar without so much as breaking a sweat. The market place, quite simply, is awash with choice.
From Japanese slow drip contraptions by Hario that take a staggering seven hours to deliver one cup of cold brew coffee, to French press jugs (in 11 colours) by Le Crueset and monogrammed espresso cups, it’s now easy to nail a style story that’ll make your décor every bit as individual as your delicious custom beverage. Put simply, it’s all a matter of taste…