Searching for the perfect cup of coffee in the United States makes Dilvin Yasa a desperate woman.
For the past few years I have been firmly in the grip of a four-cup a day coffee habit. I won't utter a word until I've had my morning cup, I've broken into my child's piggy bank to pay for my habit and even as I write this, I'm not only drinking one but looking at the clock to book in a slot when I can have my next.
When you live in a city such as Sydney that celebrates cafe culture this addiction is not a problem. But for someone like me to go to the US for three weeks, considered by some to be the epicentre of coffee mediocrity? Well, let's just say it was never going to be easy.
I announce my travel plans and friends and family laugh as they picture the thought of me shrivelling up and dying by the kerb of a Starbucks. I am unnerved but I purchase my ticket anyway. Just how bad can it be?
I don't mind telling you that by the end of the first week I am sick and utterly miserable. Most of the coffee I've had is undrinkable and my stomach churns, my head aches from the reduction of caffeine.
In terms of existential questions, I realise it's hardly up there with anything Voltaire might have had to offer but the question remains: why is good coffee so hard to come by in a country considered the leader of the free world? In cafes across the country the same scene is played out where I request a cappuccino only to receive a cup of sludge which tastes as though it's gone through both a raccoon and a wash cycle. My husband is a hobby barista and offers assistance: "Just make it a double shot, fill up a third and then texture the milk." The barista looks at us with a broad smile (the service never falters), goes away for a minute and then reproduces the exact same thing. Lee offers to jump the counter to make it himself and we are soon asked to leave - but not before our five year-old is given their version of a "babycino" - a full cup of whipped cream. "But you put a man on the moon!" I scream inside my head as my husband pushes me out the door.
And then one day while stumbling around Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, I hear it - the unmistakable Aussie twang of a man cradling a takeaway like it's a newborn. "Oh my God, this coffee is AMAZING!" he tells his mate, stroking the sides the cup as though expecting it to coo. Dropping my bags I tear over to him. "Where? Where did you get it?" He directs me to The Cafe and as a passing comment, instructs me to download the Beanhunter app which will tell me which cafes have the best coffees in each city as rated by fellow Australians.
Well, dirt in my face. That day I discovered over and over again there is great coffee to be had in this fair nation - you just need to be willing to work hard to look for it. An app makes things easier certainly, but more than anything, it helps if you're an addict.