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How Australia is reinventing the humble latte

Red velvet, green matcha and even blue algae lattes are invading Instagram feeds. When it comes to reimagining coffee, Australia leads the pack.


By Dan F. Stapleton
Published: 24 March, 2017

Australians love coffee – in fact, you could describe it as a national obsession. Baristas train for years to perfect the art of the espresso shot and roasters source beans from far-flung corners of the globe to ensure the best flavour. Australia even has its own unique style of coffee – the “flat white” – an espresso coffee with hot steamed milk. But even the most faithful caffeine addict needs a change eventually. Maybe that’s why, in 2017, a new craze is sweeping the country and dominating Instagram feeds: weird and wonderful flavoured lattes that may or may not contain coffee but always pack a punch. Some are sweet, some are savoury and many are made with exotic milk varieties.

 

Matcha lattes and golden lattes

80/20, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

The new Australian latte craze began with these two drinks, which now grace the menus of forward-thinking cafés around the country. The visually striking matcha latte is made with green tea powder while the golden latte’s key ingredient is turmeric. At 80/20 in Canberra, both lattes sell briskly. “The matcha latte is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of drink,” says owner Klarisa Cengic, “because the matcha powder has an earthy flavour, and we serve it unsweetened.” The golden latte, meanwhile, has become a firm favourite of health-conscious customers. At 80/20, Cengic blends the turmeric with cinnamon, ginger, honey and cracked pepper, and uses almond milk. “Turmeric has great anti-inflammatory properties,” she says. “If you’re sick and you’re trying to deal with sinus inflammation, a golden latte will definitely help you.”

 

Blue algae lattes

Matcha Mylkbar, Melbourne, Victoria

When cult Melbourne café Matcha Mylkbar introduced its smurf latte, made with live blue algae, in 2016, word spread quickly. The drink is now popping up in cities all over the world, but there’s only one place to try the original formulation, which the café makes with E3 algae, ginger, lemon, coconut milk and brown rice malt. “E3 is the most nutritionally dense superfood on the planet,” says Matcha Mylkbar co-owner Nic Davidson. “It’s got a really high level of antioxidants, and it’s a source of vitamin B12.” Davidson admits that the smurf latte has an unusual taste, but says most drinkers are quickly won over. “People love the kick of ginger in a smurf latte,” he says. “We have customers who come in for it every single day.”

 

Red Velvet Lattes

Local Mbassy, Sydney, New South Wales

Unlike many of the next-gen lattes you’ll find in Australia, the red velvet latte makes no special health claims. In fact, there’s no universally agreed-upon recipe: the only criteria is that the drink must be warm, sweet and delicious. One of the best-known proponents of the red velvet latte is Sydney’s The Local Mbassy. The café creates its version with espresso, raspberry powder for both colour and sweetness and extra-frothy milk. “It’s like you’re drinking a warm liquid marshmallow,” says owner Sam Clarke. Other Australian baristas use ingredients like beetroot powder, cocoa and vanilla essence to create their own versions.

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