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Get your caffeine fix in Sydney

Matthew Gee used to be a nine-cups-a-day man. The Sydney-based executive is by no means unusual in a city that worships caffeine.

by: James Thornhill | 14 Sep 2007

Every weekday morning office workers line up for their daily fix in the city's myriad of coffee shops. It's a cut-throat market, with one bad cup often enough for a discerning drinker to shift loyalty to another barista.

Australian coffee consumption has boomed to 2.4 kilograms a head, or 1.26 billion cups a year, from just 300 grams in 1939. That's not far behind the United States, at around 3 kilograms, but still some way away from top consumer Scandinavia, where some countries get through around 10 kg a head.

A recent Australian magazine poll found 26 percent of respondents admitted they were addicted to caffeine, while about 12 percent said they drank four or more cups of coffee a day.

Gee loves the stuff so much he's dedicated his career to teaching people the art of making the perfect espresso.

"So many times when you go into a cafe the coffee is horrible. It's either too bitter, it's too hot or it's not hot enough. It's not that hard to teach people the elements of making great espresso and making it consistently," he said.

If you're looking for the best coffee in Sydney today, go to the Italian suburb of Leichardt, says Gee, where the baristas generally serve up a thicker, stronger blend than elsewhere.

But unlike other cities around the world, Sydneysiders tend to shy away from the big chains like Starbucks, preferring the intimacy of independently run coffee bars where they can engage in cheerful banter with the barista.

Competition between baristas is another reason why coffee has become such a booming business. It has evoked some type of culture and their work has been elevated to an art form and no longer just about the ritual morning cup of coffee.

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