Travellers to the fair city of Adelaide will find a good many things to be baffled by.
The first thing many notice is the driving, or more to the point, the maddening inattentiveness and sheer slowness of it. Then there’s the buses that run on some strange, teutonically named concrete track. Then there’s the fashion, seemingly stuck somewhere between 1997 and 2003. If the off-putting casual attire or abundance of prison tattoos fails to estrange you, there’s always the mystifying number of menfolk clinging to the belief that a small, triangular tuft of pubic hair beneath their lower lip somehow makes them look sexy and articulate.
Visitors from interstate will notice the more subtle oddities, like the “pommy sounding” accent, and names for things being different. Among them is the humble Deli – a name used by people who don’t live in Adelaide to describe a “continental” or Mediterranean gourmet food store. In Sydney, you’d expect to find pickles, or small goods, perhaps even imported cheeses in a Deli… but not in Adelaide. Also known as a “snack bar”, the Deli is where you would expect to find a hot pie and a coke, or a packet of Twisties, or possibly even a Golden Gaytime. But there’s also something else you will inevitably find, and here in lies, with the exception of numerous unsolved murders, one of South Australia’s greatest mysteries.
Outside most Delis you’ll notice a blue, brown, and white coloured sign, possibly depicting a small carton shaped object. The branding, “Farmer’s Union”, may lead you to believe that drought ravaged pastoralist Mafiosa have taken over the city, demanding protection money from snack bar owners – but you’d be wrong. Wronger than psychic John Nash, who in 1976 caused mass panic when he predicted a tidal wave would destroy the city of Glenelg. Farmer’s Union is in fact a brand, and a massively successful one at that… of flavoured milk. With marketing traditionally pitched at workers and tradesmen, Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee has near iconic status in South Australia. The advertising, while not overly witty, is usually entertaining… and it obviously works. Most Delis sell out several shelves of their drink fridges packed with the two most popular sizes every morning… while famous soft drink brands jostle for position.
So what does this massively successful caffeinated liquid confectionery actually taste like? Well… to say it possesses a hidey note commonly found in Kenyan varieties would be a stretch. The mere suggestion it lingers on the palate in the manner of a Dark Roasted Guatemalan would be laughable. Detecting a nutty aroma reminiscent of Costa Rican blends would be little more than the product of a vivid imagination. In spite of these obvious connoisseurial failings, it is not without its charm.
For a start, there’s a reasonable amount of coffee in each carton, the bitterness only offset by a sizeable scoop of white sugar. The “kick” this affords one is not to be underestimated – particularly after a night of heavy drinking. The sweet coffee flavour is also smoothed somewhat by a creamy smoothness that has the effect of homogenising your teeth, a sensation that is not displeasing. There is but one warning – shake the carton thoroughly before you open the spout.
Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee is best enjoyed between 9am and 11am, preferably on a building site or sitting in an idling truck. If accompanied by a hot Cornish Pasty with tomato sauce, it also offers the rare treat of enjoying two regional delicacies at the same time. And who knows… the experience may even give you some insight into one final baffling fact, that this humble milk drink outsells every other beverage in South Australia.
And before you choke on your Villi’s speckled donut… yes… that includes Coca Cola.
* Photo courtesy of Dudley Fuxton
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