History Of Australia's Coffee Culture

A Brief History Of Australia’s Coffee Culture

Any amount of international travel always reinforces that Australia makes the best cup of Joe. Yes, not even Turkish coffee or an Italian espresso measures up to the standard we have created here, and it seems to just be getting better and better. From the laneways of Melbourne to office coffee machines in Brisbane – it’s fair to say that Australians only start the day with one drink. Of course, Australia was not always in line to be the best coffee brewers, so let’s review a brief history to see what happened and where our coffee love has come from.

Late adoption

When the First Fleet sailed to Australia in 1788, coffee was on board and introduced to Australia. Although given that this new population were of English heritage, tea remained the dominant drink for about a century thereafter. There were many plants and beans cultivated on Australian land from the First Fleet, including coffee beans from Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, what the English did not account for was the harsh weather that ultimately didn’t allow the beans to thrive on red soil.

Coffee arrives, but not as we know it

By the 1930s coffee was established as a drink found in Australia, but there was often inconsistent supply, as the rest of the world surged in their food and drink exploration. Australians were also figuring out how it could be best enjoyed, and their preferred method was a far cry from what we order today. Journal entries from writers and historians record coffee being made by boiling it with milk and mustard. Yes, mustard. There are even reports of some coffee drinkers adding eggs and even dynamite to the brew – giving a whole new meaning to coffee buzz. By late 1930, there were coffee shops popping up around Australia, although fortunately, migrants showed us how it was done and made coffee closer to what we enjoy now, but not quite perfect.

WWII and American influence

During World War II, over one million Americans were either passing through or living in Australian households. This really accelerated Australia’s learning curve when it came to making coffee, and there were even articles in national newspapers teaching Australians how to make coffee for their American guests. Hard to believe when you now compare American coffee with Australian… Fortunately, these American servicemen insisted on having the coffee roasted at home and grinding the beans – which would usher in a new way to prepare and drink coffee long after the war ended.

The war also saw servicemen and households on tea rations, and so coffee was likely a welcome flavour variation and perhaps one that did not have the same connotations to wartime. Tea is still a very popular drink in Australia, but coffee has well and truly surpassed it and has become a delicious part of our cultural identity.

Present-day to the future

Well, it is hard to imagine how coffee connoisseurs can make drinking and enjoying coffee more creative, especially when you visit those cult-following cafes in Melbourne that have turned coffee into a science. There is a huge push to support ethically farmed coffee brands, and hopefully, this informs better global standards and working conditions for those working outside of Australia in coffee farms. It’s safe to say that Australia will probably remain on the cutting edge of coffee innovation, so keep your eyes peeled for the next moment in history.

We hope you enjoyed that brief history of coffee in Australia and inspired you to look into how your family enjoyed coffee in generations gone by. Anything we can do to make this love affair more ethical and environmentally friendly is going to be the future of coffee consumption in Australia.

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