Usually a pack of lycra-clad cyclists at a cafe means you’ve found a good coffee spot. But in a sleepy little village not far from Canberra (whose name may or may not start with M), this is not necessarily the case. Traveller beware.
Our timing probably wasn’t ideal, as we arrived behind a clump of people, including those cyclists. Maybe 10 all up. Not extraordinary for a cafe to cope with, you’d think. We waited patiently in line and watched with bemusement as the operations of the cafe unfolded before us. I kid you not:
Take an order on a pad, take the money, put it carefully into the open cash drawer laid out on the table, walk over to the kitchen area, pass on said order verbally to the guy out the back making coffee. Move as slowly as humanly possible. Go back. Take another order, pass that one on verbally too. Repeat. What could possibly go wrong?
What sort of biscuit is that? someone in front enquired.
Ooooh, I’m not sure actually. The woman who makes them often makes chocolate chip?’ was the hopeful response.
Or then again, maybe they were peanut cluster, not so ideal if you’re likely to go into anaphylactic shock from a peanut allergy. I guess you wouldn’t risk it if you were vulnerable, but best to know what food you’re selling to the public, I’d have thought?
‘There’ll be a little wait’, the woman told me when it was my turn, pointing to the small group of cyclists outside.
What, 20 minutes would you think? I asked.
Oh no, ten minutes most, we were assured.
Silly me, I believed her. How long could it take to make even 10 coffees after all, even with their rather bizarre technique of passing on orders? Because it’s a cafe, right, and they mainly make and sell coffee? I gave our order, and then we were committed.
Outside in the courtyard we took in the sun, sat back and relaxed, and then we watched a comedy of errors unravel as Ma and Pa Kettle attempted to cope with the morning rush.
The silver-haired barista (I use the term barista loosely) wandered out calmly every so often carrying two cups to deliver them. Sometimes the orders aligned with people, sometimes they didn’t. Bit like a lottery. Back he went to make the next two, perhaps to pick up another verbal order as we went.
At one point another woman, perhaps someone’s aunt, appeared, ferrying a tray with two more drinks wobbling perilously to a waiting table. This was an excellent sign. Perhaps another pair of hands would speed up the process and the barista could, I don’t know – maybe actually make the coffees?
A couple of orders were gradually delivered. Ten minutes went by. Couple more coffees arrived. Fifteen. We waited. Hmmm. Twenty. La la la. And waited some more. Getting anxious now. Little bit peeved actually. Some new people arrived. They ordered. Twenty five minutes. Then the new arrival’s order was delivered. Oh no. Not good. Where was ours?
Then the barista appeared and slowly shuffled off out the back, off into the distance and out of sight. Perhaps he thought his day was done. Or maybe he was taking a break. Who knows, but he was gone.
All hope was dashed. Time to cut our losses.
Umm, I think our coffee order might have been lost, I explained back inside, and the guy making coffees seems to have taken off. Might be best to just give us our money back and we’ll be on our way.
Oooooh, yeeeeees. I think I may have lost my barista somewhere.
Indeed. An issue when there’s only one of them.
Even the refund transaction was excruciating, interrupted halfway through by the protestations of said holders of the miraculously-quick takeaways, whose order was of course – completely wrong, and whose teas somehow became a chai and a coffee instead. Not sure what they decided to do, but we were gone.
That’s half an hour of my life I won’t get back. And no coffee to boot.
It could have been quaint, it could have been charming but actually it was just extraordinarily inefficient. Praise Lord there wasn’t any cooking happening out there to send the place into total meltdown.
If you’re heading back to Canberra from the south, dear travellers, I’d suggest this cosy little town might be good for a wine stop, but if you’re after a coffee maybe get your fix in Yass instead or hit the Long Track Pantry in Jugiong. Now those people know what they’re doing.