Thanks to years of cliche-building commercials for a certain steakhouse, you might think the only things in Australia are koalas, cars zipping across the empty desert and big steaks. But Karen Wee Lin Tan Beckman, chef-owner of Makan Malaysian Café, which I review this week, begs to differ.
Born in Malaysia, Beckman moved to Australia as a teenager and later worked as a barista while studying architecture in Sydney. At her six-month-old restaurant, this multi-talented 34-year-old is now doing her best to promote not just the foods of her youth, but her adopted country's strong -- if little known --coffee heritage. See also: - Slide show: Inside Makan Malaysian Cafe - Makan Malaysian Cafe could turn you into a roti rooter - Turkish coffee in your own kitchen!
Some of her Italian-bean espresso drinks -- including latte, cappuccino and mocha -- sound familiar, but unlike what you'll find at Starbucks, they're not made with syrups or flavored beans.
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Others might need translation. A long black, for example, is essentially an Americano moonlighting under a different name. And the flat white? That's an Australian special, with a double shot of espresso, milk and a smidge of crema.
According to Espressole Caffe's Steven Fenno-Kelly, a master barista who's been in the trade 26 years and competed in the SCAA World Barista Championship, the flat white is similar to an Italian latte or a Portuguese cortado, though the latter is usually made with cream or half-and-half. You can find a flat white at either place - at Espressole, simply ask for a "no-foam latte."
But if you want to pair the strong, milky java with coconut jam-slathered kaya toast instead of a scone or chocolate croissant, you'll have to head to Makan.