Australians have become so obsessed with coffee that it’s hard to remember Australia was once a nation of committed tea drinkers. And while tea has hardly been relegated to the sidelines – there are tearooms and teashops in every capital city in the country – coffee is now the conversation. Where it’s from, how it’s roasted, who’s doing the roasting: these are issues of vital importance to discriminating coffee connoisseurs. Yet the café culture that has sprung up around this coffee bean obsession is about much more than a brew, with quality food an equally crucial ingredient in encouraging punters back. Here are some of the best cafés the country has to offer.
The humbling beginnings of Australia’s coffee lover affair
So how did we get here, to this place and time, when every capital city and great swathes of the country are awash with great coffee? Immigration is the most likely culprit, particularly the immigration that happened post World War II, when southern European migrants from strong coffee cultures arrived in Australia in great numbers.
There are multiple claims as to exactly where the first espresso machine hissed and steamed into life in Australia, but the best guess puts it around the mid-1950s. The little Italian espresso bars in Sydney and Melbourne of that time captured the imagination of the wider population and set the standard for our coffee drinking today. We know this because some of them are still around.
Some of these cafes opened after the 1950s, some even quite recently but, no matter when they began serving, these iconic Australian cafes illuminate the possibilities of cafe culture and pave the way towards what, for coffee aficionados, is a pretty spectacular ‘now’.