Many countries and regions are known for their unique ways of brewing coffee. Mexican coffee is made with piloncillo, South Indian coffee requires a Dabarah, and Vietnamese coffee uses sweetened condensed milk. In New Orleans, cold brew is popular, and New Englanders like their coffee milk. Australia, however, doesn’t have a signature coffee drink. Instead, drinking coffee in Australia is characterized by an attitude, rather than a beverage.
Australians recognize that hot, caffeinated beverages have their place. Many Australians drink instant coffee at home, opting for the easiest way to make something that will keep you going. The coffee culture in Australia, however, isn’t dominated by productivity and work, like it is in the United States.
In a typical U.S. cafe, you might see a few people conversing over lattes, but most of the people are likely to be working on a computer or studying a book. Coffee is something that Americans drink to keep us going. Even many of the people who are standing around talking are likely just waiting for a to-go drink that they’ll take to work with them.
Australian cafes usually feature a lot more people socializing. The cafe isn’t an office where you rent a space by purchasing a cappuccino. It’s a social gathering place, where you converse with others over cups of fine coffee. Many Australians will build a visit to a cafe — and not it’s drive-thru — into their weekends, and they’ll greatly enjoy their time there.
There are two historic influences that have had an influence in Australia’s laid-back coffee culture. They come from the country’s Italian immigrants and British history.
Italian immigrants came to both the U.S. and Australia, but the largest waves came to each country at different times. Many Italians moved to the U.S. between 1880 and 1924, and they’ve had a great influence on American culture.
Australia’s major wave of Italian immigrants didn’t occur until after World War II, in the 1940s and later. With them, they brought something that wasn’t in existence when Italians immigrated to the U.S. — the piston-driven espresso machine.
The espresso machine had a major influence on shaping Australia’s coffee culture, giving rise to the cafe. In contrast, coffee shops didn’t become commonplace in the U.S. until the 1980s or 1990s, well after Americans had been drinking coffee at work for decades.
Australia didn’t become independent until 1901, and the country remains closely tied to the United Kingdom — much more so than the U.S. Among the many things Australia inherited from England were breakfasts — big, hearty, hot and long ones. (Think the opposite of a Continental breakfast, which comes from the Continent of Europe as opposed to the isles of Great Britain.)
The beverages made using the espresso machine that the Italians brought to Australia as a welcome addition to the breakfasts that Australians were already enjoying.
If you want to drink coffee the Australian way, there’s no particular drink to order. Just grab a friend and go to a cafe for a cup of coffee. We’d love to hear about your outing, but don’t tweet to us until after you get back home. It’s a time to put the phone down and spend some time chilling with your mate. Cheers!