Who are the latte sippers? Attempts at authenticity

Political commentary and pseudo demography speaks of a class called the latte sippers. This is a class of noisy, isolated, out of touch and elitist people; enemies of common sense and the common man. Apart from these traits they are also clearly defined by their beverage choice. To find a latte sipper, you need just find someone who sips lattes.

These are surprisingly widespread!

I found them in the inner cities wearing both suits and expensively pre worn-out clothing sitting in boutique cafes. Then I found them in work gear sipping take aways from bread shops in utes piled up with plumbing gear. Then I found a whole chain throughout suburbia and shopping centres owned by a board member of a prominent and growing evangelical church, not to mention alongside the pokies in every licensed club.

When I was wandering through my home suburb, devastated by storm, lattes were being sipped. A weatherboard settlement next to the steel works, home to the flanno clad and refugees, with no power and every shop front filled with mud, but espresso based coffee was still available.

And then, further up the valley in a takeaway in which all food was deep fried or on a bun, and whose servers all had accents as broad as the outback, that same silver machine stood on the bench.

There’s something to be drawn from this. Latte sippers are the urban-suburban-rural-middle class-working class-secular-religious elite that has insidiously infiltrated every strata of society, making chattering classes of the silent majority.

That or the epithet simply makes no sense at all for its intended purpose.

I wonder then what this says about those who are fond of the term. It’s obviously a short hand that can reduce time (and thought) communicating a given stereotype, but I’m fairly sure the people that use terms like this are merely showcasing their own alienation from anyone outside the political classes. Eager to signal their own grasp of authenticity in contrast to the failing of their fellow bubble dwellers, they are forced to reach back to the last time they operated outside the bubble, in aeons long past when espresso machines were restricted to trendies and Italians. “Latte sipper” is thus like “a fair shake of the sauce bottle”; an attempt to appeal to an Australia of the past that showcases the speaker’s isolation from the present.

So it is a good way of signalling how in touch the speaker is, just in the opposite to the intent.

About Richard Tsukamasa Green

Richard Tsukamasa Green is an economist. Public employment means he can't post on policy much anymore. Also found at @RHTGreen on twitter.
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Rebecca
11 years ago

Interesting observation of typical American over-indulgence. I often look at the things American’s take for granted and because of you blog, I now have one more thing to add to my list of millions.

Myrtle Beach Taxi

Myrtle Beach Airport Taxi

al
al
11 years ago

The espresso coffee represents the unique heritage of Australia, the struggle, dreams and ultimate success of migrants, a short break from a hard-working busy day, an appreciation for simple pleasures, whiling away some time with friends or catching up on the day’s news. I could hardly imagine anything less pretentious.

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
11 years ago

It’s a way for right-wing newspaper columnists to fabricate a camaderie with imagined “salt-of-the earth” outer suburbanites and regional Australians against an imagined inner-city, tertiary educated “elite”.

These are all artificial constructs – legacies of a now exhausted culture war that was used by Howard’s lickspittles in the Murdoch press to fool working class Australians to vote against their own interests.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
11 years ago

Real coffee drinkers have it black with no sugar …

Grendel
Grendel
11 years ago

I prefer my coffee without milk but never sneer at those who choose to support the dairy industry. Besides, real coffee drinkers have it however they bloody well like to have it!

I blog on this at least once a year as the repetition of this tends to irritate me unfailingly.

Other than proportions there is very little difference between a latte and a flat white – both coffee with a high proportion of milk.

I agree – every time anyone uses ‘latte sippers’ or similar they fall considerably in my estimates of their capacity to govern. Not that they care.

Guy
Guy
11 years ago

Indeed – basically everyone is partial to a latte these days. Witness Gloria Jeans.

Jason – I’d agree if you’re talking short black, but I think a latte is still the ideal breakfast coffee.

Nabakov
Nabakov
11 years ago

Classifying people’s socio-economic status and world views by what they ingest reminds me of a fun anecdote.

A couple of years ago, a group of us were motoring around New Zealand’s North Island on what was basically an eating and drinking trip. Pigging out on great food and wine at Kiwi prices.

After the first few days we made no plans, instead allowing the car to follow its nose, aided and abetted by suggestions from the locals. So one evening we checked into an old pub in a small and remote waterfront village and asked the receptionist if she could recommend a good place for dinner.

“Our bistro is quite good, eh? You wan me to make a booking now, eh? It gets quite popular, eh?”

So we booked and turned up. A certain rugged homespun rustic charm yet with freshly laundered tablecloths and quite a nice tableware turnout. Then we opened the menu and and were shown the blackboard specials.

“Louisiana style blackened fresh salmon in a herb and lime crust served with baby potato chips braised in an oak chip fire a with a sun ripened tomato and blanched spinach jus or wild garlic and chives aioli, etc, etc”

And that was just the fush and chups with ketchup or mayo. And the wine list ran to about a dozen pages. Did they just give us the menus reserved for taking the mickey out of furriners?

The place was now filling up the locals from this distinctly non-touristy town – weather-beaten, muscular and often tattooed loggers, fishers and truck drivers, and their husbands…or wives – all cheerfully and knowledgeably discussing their orders with the waitresses.

And being kiwis, they were all appallingly friendly with the table next to us (“How ya goin’? I’m Raylene and this is Daimen*, eh?”) taking it upon themselves to guide us through the bill of fare.

“Nah, you don’t want the Cloudy Bay pinot gris, they keep buggering it up, eh? But look, you can’t go wrong with a Otago pinot noir, eh? Goes great with the Moroccan style lamb ragout, eh?”

And yes the punchline. After dessert Raylene and Daimen ordered cafe lattes. And I ordered several triples of a local single malt whiskey – and then we all experimented with making Irish coffee out of these ingredients before being offered a joint for the road in the carpark.

In short, these seriously blue collar salt of the earth locals were living off the fat of the land and getting right into it being well prepared for them. It was very high-style rural European. I’ve pretty much given up judging people by what they eat or drink since then. However their views on the quality and preparation of what they consume, I think could be a good judge of character, eh?

%Probably not their real names but should be.

NB: I visited New Zealand at my own expense and no part of my trip was paid for the New Zealand Tourism Board.

Corin
Corin
11 years ago

Wine snobs are the worst … I mean just drink it. Strawberry notes!

What I find as well is that wine in Australia is very expensive. It should be cheap … but it is more expensive in my view than it is in London, even for an Australian wine.

I wish I was stupid enough to simply blame the supermarkets!

Nabakov
Nabakov
11 years ago

Though I did get pissed with some Kiwi pollies who picked up the tab.

Rationalist
Rationalist
11 years ago

I never knew Richard lived in the Hunter, welcome to my world :).

Andrew Norton
11 years ago

Like its predecessors the ‘cappuccino class’ and the ‘latte left’ this one isn’t heard all that often these days. Perhaps it is because as you suggest its allusive power is diminished by lattes being available everywhere. On the other English has many terms that have survived despite their references being obscure, eg ‘ivory tower’ for universities.

Incidentally when I wrote an article on political labels in 2002 the latte jibe was if not an Australian invention far more common here than elsewhere. Most labels are imported.

Jennifer Marohasy
11 years ago

interestingly there are a whole lot of Australians who still drink tea, and unlike the latte sippers tend to be much less interested in telling others how they should live. for example tea drinkers whould be much less inclined to advocate the regulation of light bulbs

MikeM
MikeM
11 years ago

Jennifer,

What is the margin of error in the poll on which you presumably rely to claim this?

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
11 years ago

Theory: sanctimonious change-the-world types tend to be young, tea drinkers tend to be older?

Roberto
Roberto
11 years ago

Latte drinkers used to be known as “latte lappers”….better alliteration!

Fay Helwig
11 years ago

Once people might have referred to the same group as the Chardonnay set.
Does it have something to do with trying to define tribal groups?

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

I drink soy lattes…which I guess just makes me a girl, rather than a ‘leftie’

Tim Richards
11 years ago

This was my attempt to analyse the outdated beverage insult conundrum a few months ago…

http://outlandinstitute.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/beverage-based-insults/

Tel
Tel
11 years ago

What I find as well is that wine in Australia is very expensive. It should be cheap … but it is more expensive in my view than it is in London, even for an Australian wine.

Hopefully no wine snobs round here demanding a maker’s mark on their goon.

Cleanskins sell for between $3 and $5 a bottle here in Sydney, featuring named grapes! Assuming you are drinking with a friend after sunset, ten bucks should have the evening sorted. If that’s expensive, the London bums must be a happy lot.

I’ve found that when you spend between $20 and $50 per bottle, what you are mostly paying for is consistency… when you open it you have a good idea it will taste the same as the last one of that sort that you opened. When you are down under $10 a bottle you are buying an adventure, sometimes every bit as good as the expensive wine, sometimes…

Bit of a grape supply glut this harvest for the second year running so expect balsamic vinegar all over the place before long.

Jennifer Marohasy
11 years ago

MikeM,

I didn’t claim to rely on a poll, I was just putting forward an opinion based on my experiences over the last couple of years…
I have travelled a lot in rural and regional Australia, NSW and Queensland, over the last couple of years. I am now living on the Capricorn Coast, Central Queensland, in a small town where coal miners keep beach shacks.

Only my friends in Brisbane and Sydney spend time in cafes and drink lattes.

Grendel
Grendel
11 years ago

Jennifer you fall into the same fallacy is the original post suggests – one cannot be characterised solely by the cullinary choices we make. If I were to suggest ‘Herbal Teas’ instead of just ‘tea’ there is a particular stereotypical drinker that would certainly be very concerned about such things as lightbulb choices. And he stereotype would still be wrong. You are relying on your contact with other people – could it be that you socialise with an older set? I too have spent a lot of time in rural QLD lived on the Central Coast for a number of years. Oddly I remember coffee – and espresso based coffee, being quite popular among all working classes.

Point is – we see what we are looking for – sometimes more than what is.

schleppie the sealion
schleppie the sealion
11 years ago

Coal miners don’t keep beach shacks, they build 2 storey, air-conditioned houses with inground pools at Yeppoon or Emu Park, and in these place you do indeed find cafes knocking out the inevitable lattes and cappucinos and people do spend time in them. Sorry to cut short those Summer of the Seventeenth Doll fantasies.

rog
rog
11 years ago

So tell me Jennifer, did you find that in the outback people were either jigglers or danglers?

Most of the coal miners I know have their own espresso machines, I guess they can afford it.

al
al
11 years ago

This reminds me of a fascinating blog post about coffee supplies in the 1950s military: http://www.slugsite.com/archives/1024
“The military bought one hundred million dollars of coffee in fiscal-year 1951.”

Corin
Corin
11 years ago

Tel, why is it that I can buy Montana Sav Blanc or good Chilean white wine in London for £6 in the supermarket but I can’t buy anything other than clean skins for less than A$10 at home ….. If I buy Oyster Bay Sav Blanc in Australia, its at least A$14 and lets face it it only travelled an eigthe of the journey …

I do accept that Dan Murphy have good clean skins for about A$6 to $8 but that’s no excuse for the high price you pay for any label wine. My guess is the tax treatment must be the key …… it’s not based on metric units but on price!

A 425ml glass of beer in Australia is now more than A$5 as well …. that’s crazy. A pint of beer in London is less than £3 ….

Getting a drink out is becoming a luxury in Oz ….. I blame the kill joys …

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