I am a South Australian, and as such the topic I now write is one of the utmost gravity and import. For 7 years now I have optimistically purchased milk-based drinks in British and European supermarkets, hoping against all hope to find anything which might come within 400 miles of satisfying my craving for that nectar of the gods – Farmers Union Iced Coffee.
For nearly 2500 days now I have scanned every café, deli, kiosk and supermarket fridge with hopeful eyes and spent pound after futile pound on all manner of substandard concoction, in a bewildering array of unfamiliar packaging. I’ve had fatty, powdery mixtures in clear glass, overly sweet drinks from slender tins, watery nonsense from foil-topped plastic cups, and repeated crushing experiences of thick syrupy tongue-coating awfulness from rigid plastic contoured bottles – whose very plasticity seems to cry “Here is a product designed for longevity rather than flavour. This milk came from no Earth cow”.
He seemed to find my urgency – or maybe it was the exaggerated waddle I performed upon spotting his stall – to taste his product comical, but it was a respectful recognition. Here too was a man taken by the wonder of the contents of the iconic white, blue & brown cardboard carton which we all revere.
Jimmy said he’d discovered & fallen in love with iced coffee whilst in Australia and was despondent that nobody had produced a comparable product here within the confines of the Empire. In particular – unsurprisingly, but then he seemed a man of taste & distinction – Farmers Union. After rounds of what started as negotiating with the company, right through to begging, he couldn’t convince them to bring their product to the UK market, so he figured “I know, I’ll make my own!”.
The carton – a 500mL cardboard tetra with plastic screwcap – is comfortingly reminiscent of certain iconic colour schemes of the category. It’s possible to muse over font choice and graphic placement, but what’s critical is the taste.
Let me be abundantly clear – this product is not better than, and nor is it a replacement for, Farmers Union. I think to make claims to that effect where I’m from is tantamount to high treason. It is however a fine, fine beverage. Immediately, the flavour is less intense than FUIC. This includes less sweet. Fearing disappointment, I held it in my mouth a little longer and found immediately that the creaminess of the milk balanced well with the genuine coffee taste (beans sourced from Honduras). The milk was pleasantly slightly thicker in texture than what comes out of a bottle of semi-skimmed, but not the evil viscous nonsense that hints of “powder in suspension” which other “shake” drinks provide. It’s sweet without being saccharine and as the last mouthful left my palate I mused happily on the way that the taste of the 3 main components – milk, sugar and coffee – were present and identifiable, but also united. At least, I mused on it until letting out a gargantuan sneeze on the train – scaring the shit out of about a dozen of my fellow commuters.
(Some post-consumption research showed me that Jimmy’s contains 1.1g of fat per 100mL and 6.0g carbohydrate, 5.2g in sugars – comparably, Farmers Union has 1.7g fat and 8.4g carbohydrate, 8.0g in sugars. I think it said 8. Might have been 6. It was a little hard to read on the highly appreciated photo my brother hastily sent over to me.)
I think Jimmy’s created one hell of a drink here. Distribution’s going to be his key challenge I’d say – he told me that his main London points of sale at the moment are The Australia Shop in Covent Garden, Harvey Nick’s, and Selfridges. Apparently there were some negotiations afoot with a major supermarket group, however their recent comment was “It’s not thick or sweet enough for our market” (i.e. it’s not the same as the other horrible cr*p we’re already peddling). They’re clearly idiots, and I can only hope that word of mouth ensures that Jimmy’s excellent product finds the demand it truly deserves.
Get into it!