Last night, on the way to the bus stop after work, I stopped by one of the Gloria Jean’s Coffees on Queen Street.

I’d noticed a few GJCs around Melbourne when I was there, but I never patronised any. The name conjured up an image of a 50-year-old woman with sun-damanged skin, big bleached hair and a deep smoker’s voice (yeah, like Madge from “Neighbours”) saying, “Hello, I’m Gloria Jean and these are my coffees. This is my cappuccino, this is my latte, this is my flat white…”

But the reality was much scarier: Gloria Jean’s Coffees is like Starbucks having a manic episode.

(Part of the appeal of Starbucks is how surly the staff can often be. Like, when you’re foaming your 50th jug of milk for the day, it’s hard to maintain any enthusiasm. But I’d rather have someone who’s being genuinely shitty instead of someone who’s copping some corporate line required them to pretend to be “passionate about coffee”.)

As soon as I entered Gloria Jean’s Coffees, a guy asked me what I wanted. I picked out an item from the food cabinet, then he asked me if I wanted anything else. I had to reply, “Yeah, I want a coffee, but I haven’t decided what I want yet.”

After I decided the girl at the till asked me if I wanted a some syrup in my latte. I said no. Then the guy came over with my caramel slice and also asked me if I wanted some syrup. I had to lay down the law and told him that I just wanted an unflavoured latte, kthx.

Over at the pickup counter another guy told the barista chick that her jug of milk was “crap” and needed to be done again. They laughed about it, but there was a weird tension. And it occurred to me that with all the training I’ve done in my new job, if anyone had told me that something I’d done was crap, well, it wouldn’t make me feel like I was making any progress.

While the new milk was being foamed, the guy “crap” attempted to make small talk. He asked me if I’d just been watching the rugby or whether I was just hanging out in town. “I’ve just finished work,” I replied. “You’ve just finished work,” he responded.

Finally the new milk was foamed and my coffee arrived. I took a seat and noticed that the instore music was almost uncomfortably loud. Perhaps they make things uncomfortable to discourage people hanging out there for too long.

The coffee was good, the slice was good, the service was freaky, the atmosphere was not relaxing. I may go there again, but I think it would be takeaway only.

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