How Did Australia Become the Coffee Snobs We Are Today?

How do you take yours?

Soy, cappuccino three quarters full, cold drip coffee with mineral water on the side, piccolo half strength in a large cup.

Australia is an island of coffee connoisseurs.

An average Australian will drink about 9 cups of joe a week.

But were we always this addicted to coffee?

Coffee may have travelled over on the first fleet, but just like our UK ancestors, we were all about tea. It wasn’t until the 1870s when the fashion became Parisian-styled coffee shops that our love for the bean really grew.

Coffee shops during that time were the pubs of their day. The country was becoming more health conscious and so switched their beer for coffee. The Temperance Movement, comprising of mainly Christian women of Melbourne protested the drunkenness and anti-social behaviour of the city’s drunks. Surprisingly the ladies managed to get pubs closing their doors by six ‘o’clock.

And so, ladies sat preened in cafes with their suited men sipping coffee in coffee palaces.

Discussing the War in a Paris CaféImage: "Discussing the War in a Paris Café", The Illustrated London News 17 September 1870

These palaces were grand rooms, with large ornate columns, drapings and decorations where ladies and gents came to socialise, without a trace of alcohol.

There were more than 50 palaces in Melbourne by 1888. One such building, the Grand Coffee Palace is now Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel.

But the ‘no liquor’ trend didn’t last long and by 1897 most coffee shops were forced to reapply for their liquor licenses.

By the early 1930s the espresso landed on our shores. And thus our obsession with the coffee bean continued…

The traditional espresso was invented by Luigi Bezzera from Milan 1901, but Melbourne got its hands on an espresso machine by the 1930s. Espresso was still pretty niche until the 1950s, when Australians really started to appreciate the bean.

Maple Leaf Cafe, Rundle Street, Adelaide, c1950Image: Maple Leaf Cafe, Rundle Street, Adelaide, c1950 | by State Library of South

When World War II brought an influx of European immigrants, so did the age of the European café culture. Espresso bars were places for meeting migrants and socialising.

Our coffee culture ramped up in the 70s and 80s and in the 90s, coffee shops in laneways, on street corners and in shopping centres were commonplace.

Which brings us to our current obsession. No longer ok with just a long black or just a latte, we’re a gourmet coffee country, with cold brews and single-origin roasts, with almond milk or soy, in a cup or deconstructed, Australia loves its coffee.

So what’s next Australia?

Here are some choice coffee facts, to share over your morning coffee:

- Most popular coffee in australia is the Cappuccino with an average 50,000 sold every 30 minutes during daylight hours.

- Beethoven needed a precise 60 beans in one cup of his daily grind

- The coffee taster for Costa coffee has his tongue insured for £10m

-A single Aussie spends an average of $494.59 annually

- Optimal coffee consumption is between 9.30am to 11.30am because of your cortisol hormone - the one that regulates your metabolism and immune responses - the levels of this hormone naturally plummet and caffeine raises these levels.

Header: Matt Hoffman, Upsplash

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