While the rest of the English-speaking world has enjoyed something of a coffee renaissance in recent years, Australia has possessed a thriving metropolitan coffee culture for decades. Residents of Melbourne and Sydney enthuse about their favourite crop with the same zeal as residents of Rome and Milan. When Starbucks spread their stores to city centres in Australia, they were met with stiff competition from a string of long-established independent cafés, of the sort that are just beginning to crop up across Europe and the United States. Starbucks were forced to close the majority of their new stores just eight years later.
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Where did Australia’s coffee culture come from?
While corporate behemoths like Starbucks might have played a crucial role in spreading coffee across the world, the truth is that Australia’s long-thriving coffee scene owes far more to immigration from the Mediterranean during the early part of the 20th century. Stove-top espresso quickly spread across city centres in Victoria and New South Wales, where it’s been ever-present ever since.
Coffee has been grown on Australia’s North-eastern coast for more than a hundred years. It was first cultivated in Brisbane in 1832, and from there spread across Queensland, and made its way to New South Wales. By the 1920s, the industry was in sharp decline after coming under pressure from growers in other parts of the world, who could produce their coffees far more cheaply. With the advent of mechanisation, however, Australian farmers suddenly had the means to produce their crop at much lower prices, keeping yields and quality high. In 1998, a major campaign of expansion in Northern Queensland and New South Wales saw production quadruple over the next five years.
What’s Australian coffee like today?
That trajectory continued, and the country now enjoys a thriving coffee industry, whose total output is now north of 1,600 tones. Most plantations in Australia focus on high-quality Arabica, which benefits from soil that’s naturally free from pests. This is thanks to Australia’s island geography and infrastructure which allows it to effectively prevent pests from finding their way into the country.
In New South Wales, the cooler areas near the coast produce cherries which ripen more slowly, lending them a natural sweetness, a naturally lower caffeine content, and an assortment of unusual flavours whose causes are not yet fully understood. Along an area known as the Granite Belt, a range of highlands which straddles the border between New South Wales and Queensland, the soil is rich in volcanic minerals, and boasts a climate that’s akin to that of more equatorial nations. These factors combine to produce extremely favourable conditions for coffee farmers.
Most of Australia’s coffee plantations are entirely self-contained, with processing, roasting, and packaging all taking place on the same estate. The largest plantations are to be found in north Queensland. This part of the country enjoys special environmental protection from the Australian government – who recognise the importance of maintaining the quality of the nation’s coffee exports.
If you’d like to sample some of what Australian coffee has to offer, then be sure to take a look through the examples listed on these pages!
If You Like Australian Coffee, Give These A Try…
If you’d like to explore coffees from growing regions similar to Australia, try the following: