Australian Coffee Culture: A Blend of Tradition, Migration, and Quality!

When it comes to coffee, Australia sets a high standard. With over 20,000 cafes scattered throughout the country, it’s clear that Australians take their caffeine seriously.

Many Australian coffee cafes source their beans from local roasters or even from their on-site roastery, ensuring the freshest cup possible. Baristas are highly skilled and often compete in national latte art competitions. Even small towns often have multiple top-notch cafes to choose from.

Whether you prefer a classic flat white or something more unique, rest assured you’ll be able to find a high-quality cup of coffee almost anywhere in Australia. And for visitors, it’s just one more reason to visit.

How Coffee Took Over Australia

If there’s one thing Australians know how to do, it’s drink coffee. In fact, Australia is now the sixth largest exporter of coffee in the world, with almost half of all Australians consuming coffee daily. But it hasn’t always been this way. Let’s take a look at the history of coffee in Australia, from its earliest days to the present.

The Early Days of Coffee in Australia

Coffee was first introduced to Australia in 1788 by Captain Arthur Phillip, who brought seedlings with him from Rio de Janeiro to start a coffee plantation in Sydney.

The plantation was not successful and coffee did not become widely consumed in Australia until the 1830s when it was introduced by English and German immigrants. At this time, most coffees was consumed at home or in hotels and restaurants.

Most of the coffee grown in Australia was used for export, but as demand from local drinkers grew, so did domestic production. By the 1850s, over 600 coffee plantations were operating in New South Wales alone.

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The Rise of Espresso Machines in the 1930s

In the 1930s, there was a boom in espresso machines after Italian immigrants began introducing them to cafes and restaurants around Australia.

This increased the popularity of coffee drinking outside the home, as well as making it easier to prepare coffee drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes. The espresso machine remains an important part of Australian cafe culture today.

The Growth of Cafes During World War II

During World War II, American servicemen stationed in Australia introduced locals to the concept of cafes as gathering places for socializing and relaxing.

This led to a growth in the number of cafes around the country, particularly in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. At this time, instant coffee became more popular due to the rationing of fresh coffee beans.

The Rise of Independent Cafes

In the 1950s and 1960s, Italians immigrants began opening up cafes serving traditional espresso-based drinks. These cafes quickly became popular meeting places for locals, and before long there was a café on almost every corner. Espresso machines and café culture became so ubiquitous that by the 1980s, 80% of households owned an espresso machine!

The 1990s saw the rise of independent cafes serving specialty coffees. These cafes were often run by passionate baristas who cared deeply about sourcing quality beans and brewing perfect drinks. The popularity of these cafes spurred a renewed interest in coffee among Australians, and by the early 2000s specialty coffee was booming.

Today, over 2,000 independent cafes are operating across Australia. These cafes play an important role in local communities, providing a space for people to gather and connect. They also create jobs and support small businesses.

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The Ongoing Popularity of Coffee Today

Coffee remains an important part of Australian culture today, with nearly half of all Australians drinking it daily. The rise of specialty coffee shops and roasters has led to an increasing focus on quality, with many cafes now using single-origin beans and pour-over brewing methods. The industry is also innovating in areas such as sustainability and technology, with biodegradable cups and cutting-edge brewing equipment increasingly being used by cafes around the country.

How did coffee become such a big deal in Australia?

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, large numbers of Italians immigrated to Australia, bringing their rich café culture with them.

Those early Italian cafés laid the foundation for the contemporary Australian café scene. These days, there are more than 10,000 cafés across the country serving up flat whites, cappuccinos, and more—that’s one café for every 1,600 people!

What makes Australian cafés so special?

There are a few things that make Australian cafés unique:

  • First of all, Australians take their coffee seriously—very seriously. This is reflected in both the quality of the coffee served and in the baristas’ skill level.
  • Another thing that sets Australian cafés apart is how they’ve perfected the art of chillaxing. Aussies know how to relax, and that laid-back attitude extends to their cafes.

Australians also like their coffee strong and black, which is why you’ll often see “short blacks” on café menus. But don’t worry if you don’t like your coffee quite so intense; there are plenty of other options available, too.

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Whether you’re looking for a place to linger over brunch with friends or just want to grab a quick caffeine fix before hitting the beach, you’ll find what you’re looking for in an Australian café.

Canberra, Australia Coffee cafés

Coffee connoisseurs searching for the perfect cup may want to add Canberra, Australia to their travel plans. The small capital city is believed to have more high-quality coffee shops per capita than the entire island of Manhattan.

But why is this the case? Part of it may be attributed to Australia’s history as a major exporter of premium coffee beans. Australians take their coffee seriously, and they have high standards for both beans and brewing techniques. And with a focus on local roasters and independent cafes, Canberra offers a diverse range of unique coffee experiences.

The Evolution of Coffee Culture in Australia

From its humble beginnings as an instant drink to its current status as a must-have morning beverage, there’s no doubt that coffee plays a significant role in Australian culture.

Thanks to the rise of specialty cafes and the increasing demand for quality coffee, the economic impact of the industry is also significant.

For many Australians, coffee isn’t just a drink—it’s a way of life. Fueled by strong coffee and long workdays, the coffee culture in Australia has changed dramatically over the years.

From the humble beginnings of instant coffee to the rise of specialty cafes, let’s take a look at how coffee has become such an integral part of Australian culture.

Instant Coffee and Café Filters

In the early days of coffee culture in Australia, instant coffee was king. It was quick, it was easy, and it didn’t require any special equipment. Cafes were few and far between, and those that did exist were typically small businesses that served filter coffee.

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The Rise of Specialty Cafes

As tastes evolved and Australians became more discerning about their coffee, the demand for specialty cafes increased. These cafes focus on quality, with many offering single-origin coffees and artisanal brewing methods. The rise of specialty cafes has also been driven by a younger generation of Australians who are willing to pay premium prices for high-quality coffee.

The Economic Impact of Coffee in Australia

Coffee is big business in Australia. In fact, the coffee industry is worth an estimated $2 billion AUD per year. This figure is only expected to grow as Australians’ love affair with coffee shows no signs of slowing down.

Australian Coffee Culture – Quality over Quantity

Australians are known for their unique coffee culture that is all about quality over quantity. From meticulous bean selection to expert brewing techniques, they strive for high quality over quantity in every cup.

This attitude is reflected not only in the cafes frequented by locals, but also in the growing number of Australian-owned coffee companies and roasteries found across the globe. Visitors to Australia are often surprised by the wide range of options available when ordering a cup of coffee, including choices such as flat white or long black.

Yet despite their love for good coffee, Australians still know how to enjoy it with a laidback attitude – just ask for a “flat white with room” and you’ll receive your latte with enough extra space for a dash of milk on top.

The Failure of Starbucks in Australia

In 2014, Starbucks made the strategic decision to pull out of the Australian market, shutting down 61 stores across the country. This was a surprising move for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that Starbucks had been steadily expanding its international operations for years. So, what went wrong?

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Australians have a reputation for being coffee connoisseurs, and it’s not without good reason. The country has experienced a coffee revolution in recent decades, with both independent cafes and chain coffee shops popping up on every street corner.

Australia has seen a boom in specialty coffee shops in recent years. Australians have become much more discerning when it comes to their coffee, and they’re willing to pay a premium for high-quality, artisanal coffees.

There’s also a strong preference for locally-owned businesses, which presents a challenge for any foreign chain looking to establish itself in the Australian market.

So, while Starbucks may have been successful in other countries with similar coffee cultures (e.g. the United States), it simply couldn’t compete in Australia. This highlights the importance of understanding the local coffee culture before expanding into a new market.

Despite initial challenges, the failure of Starbucks in Australia ultimately shows that Australians are dedicated to continuously improving their coffee culture and supporting independent, specialty coffee businesses.

Thanks to organizations like ASCA, which are committed to promoting and improving the specialty coffee industry, Australia is well on its way to becoming a world leader in specialty coffee production and consumption.

The Role of ASCA

In response to the growing popularity of specialty coffee in Australia, the Australian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA) was founded in 2004 with the mission of promoting and improving the specialty coffee industry in Australia through education, events, and advocacy.

  • ASCA offers a number of educational programs and resources for both industry professionals and coffee enthusiasts alike.
  • They also host events throughout Australia, including the annual Australian International Coffee Awards (AICA), which showcase some of the best coffee and coffee businesses in the country.
  • ASCA advocates on behalf of the specialty coffee industry on issues like tax reform and food safety regulations.
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About The Authors

  • Mia Lombardi

    Mia Lombardi: Milan-born Coffee Content Writer for University of Chicago grad with a love for global coffee cultures. Learned unique brewing in Nepal; adores the Moka Pot from childhood memories in Naples. Award-winner by the Guild of Food Writers. A discerning palate enriching Coffeescan’s reviews.

  • Isidora Suarez

    Born in Cleveland’s artisanal brew hub in 1985, Isidora is’s Senior Coffee Content Writer and SEO Specialist. A Wharton grad with a CEH from the EC-Council, she’s a James Beard Awardee with a passion for inventive coffee tales. Her brew method of choice? The authentic, bold French Press. Every cup, a universe.

  • James Neubauer

    James Neubauer, born in Austin, TX (Feb 27, 1991), is the Senior Coffee Writer & Social Media Editor for A GWU grad with a passion for unique brews, he’s recognized for his Coffee Chemistry expertise. Author of an innovative cold brew manual, James’s favorite sip is the balanced Cortado. He steers Coffeescan’s content and social outreach with flair.

  • Matthew Bash

    Portland-born Matthew Bash is the Senior Coffee Editor for A Columbia grad in Food Journalism and a certified Q Grader by CQI, his passion for coffee runs deep, from barista expertise to Webby-winning content. Iced Latte enthusiast, he ensures authentic coffee insights for readers. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases by linking to and affiliated sites.

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