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Australians' love affair with coffee

Updated: Apr 11, 2020

Today is International Coffee Day and we thought we would share some fun insights on how Australians became a nation of coffee connoisseurs (or should we say - coffee snobs). We have the best cafes and baristas in the world and most of us have well-established relationships with our favourite baristas. Getting your coffee is part of our morning routine, no matter where you work or how big your paycheque is. The Australian coffee shop scene is dominated by 95% of independent businesses rather than global chains such as Starbucks, because Australians really do love their coffee and are very passionate about it!

Short history of the coffee drinking culture

The story began when the first ship fleet arrived in Australia, they were all tea drinkers like their UK ancestors. It wasn’t until the 1870’s when the Parisian-styled coffee palaces became a fashion, that the coffee shops of that time became the pubs of their day.

Adding to the new fashion was also the Temperance Movement, comprised of mainly Christian women in Melbourne, who protested about the drunkenness and anti-social behaviour of the city’s drunks. Eventually these vocal woman won and pubs were forced to close their doors by six o’clock! Their men now joined them for coffee in the coffee shops or palaces as they were called then. These palaces were grand rooms, with large ornate columns, drapings, and decorations where the ladies and their gentlemen came to socialize, without a trace of alcohol.

There were more than 50 coffee palaces in Melbourne by 1888. One such building, the Grand Coffee Palace, is now Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel, which still has the ambiance of the grandeur of days past. Apparently the “no liquor” trend didn’t last long and by 1897 most coffee palaces had to reapply for their liquor licenses. By the early 1930s, the espresso machine landed on our shore and although the Espresso was still pretty niche until the 1950s, Australians already started to appreciate good coffee.

After World War II with the influx of European immigrants, the age of the European café culture really started brewing in Australia. The culture ramped up in the 70s and 80s and by the 90s coffee shops were commonplace in laneways, on street corners, and in shopping centres.

Unknown facts about Australian coffee

  • Most Australian cafes start every cup with freshly-ground, quality coffee beans.

  • A good cup of coffee takes time and passion and Australian are willing to wait for their coffee.

  • Latte art is a big thing in Australia.

  • Australians invented the flat white coffee.

  • Australia grows their own Arabica coffee beans in the very north of Queensland and down south in NSW.

  • Coffee is everywhere and the list of options is the longest in the world. The Australian Coffee Decoder Chart explains what each of the coffees consists of.

  • Australian baristas go through long training courses and they know their art.

  • They are well accustomed to fussy coffee orders such as half-strength, decaf or with almond milk.

  • Many business meetings and catch-ups with friends take place in coffee shops.

  • Australian coffee shops is a whopping $8 billion industry.

  • Australians preferred non-dairy milk, alternative is soy milk.

  • On average, Australians consume 1.92 kgs of coffee per person per year.

For more fascinating coffee drinking statistics read the full 2018 Square Australian Coffee Report here.



Lulu Morris, 18 May 2017: How did Australia become the coffee snobs we are today? How do you take yours?

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