Australian Coffee Culture
Australia may have come in late to the coffee game, but they’ve quickly caught up and created an ideal coffee culture to make all other coffee cultures jealous to boot. The best way to really display this unique regard to coffee is to compare it to the way Americans do coffee.
Starbucks is one of the most recognizable names in the coffee game. There are 27, 339 Starbucks locations throughout the world. They’ve practically trademarked mass production of coffee, especially in the United States, where coffee is fuel for survival. People want it fast, hot, and without much human interaction. Wi-fi and headphones are staples for Starbucks visits, which are basically spaces to work outside of the office.
Dunkin Donuts put it most succinctly with their marketing campaign, America Runs on Dunkin’. Caffeine is survival in the US and most people don’t question spending a fiver on an okay cup of coffee that they didn’t have to make so they can make it into work. Coffee shops are also popular as a second work location for many Americans, a solitary errand, a convenience.
Aussie Meets Coffee
The Italians introduced coffee to Australians after WWII and the ‘90s brought on a resurgence, but it manifested very differently than in the States, who had been drinking the delightful brew from colonization on. Roughly 95% of the coffee spots in Australia are individually owned and it’s an entire lifestyle for Aussies.
Barista’s are highly trained individuals who can make a decent income if their latte art is on point, and that doesn’t come without dedicated training and certifications. Latte art is something coffee drinkers over in Australia expect on a daily basis, but for reasons beyond just aesthetics—though, let’s be honest, coffee art is beautiful. Australian native, Caleb Cha, even won the World Latte Art Championship in 2015.
The presence of latte art is a big signifier of an ideally crafted cup of joe. If the cream isn’t steamed just right, coffee art is impossible. The milk has to be exactly the right consistency and the right temperature to create the delicate waves across freshly roasted coffee, and Aussie baristas need to have this skill down pat.
Stateside, latte art isn’t as common. Whether that has to do with the acceptance of lower quality coffee, lack of training for coffee servers, or the fact that most Americans won’t wait for a cup of joe long enough for even a skilled barista to adorn their drink is a toss up.
And that’s where one of the largest differences between Australian coffee culture and American coffee culture lies—the way coffee is treated. Australian coffee shops don’t often have Wi-fi and most patrons are there to socialize, not just to drink the delicious brew. It’s a multi-person activity, drinking coffee. It’s been neatly aligned with their surf-and-turf lifestyle and is a daily, enjoyable staple.
Each coffee joint is unique, partially due to being individually owned, but also because individuality is a requirement. Whether they roast their beans onsite, transform into a liquor bar at night, or provide a delicious brekky, each one has its thing.
Starbucks Won’t Cut it in the Land Down Under
Unlike in America, Starbucks failed to take off in Melbourne, or any other city on this continent in the Southern Hemisphere. Ambitiously, Starbucks opened 84 stores across Australia, only to shut down 61 of them no less than 8 years later. While that failure might not have been obvious the higher ups at ‘Bucks, most Aussies likely would’ve predicted it—Australia has a very distinct coffee style and Starbucks certainly doesn’t fit it. The fact of the matter is that Australians require better coffee than what Starbucks offers.
In the end, this international coffee chain may have ducked out of trying to make it in the land Down Under, but they’re still taking cues from these expert coffee makers. The flat white made its way onto Starbucks’ menu in 2010, while Aussies have been talking over this delicious beverage since the mid-1980s.
The one marked similarity between Australian coffee and Starbucks is the requirement of a barista—although there worth and expertise is obviously measured quite differently.
Australians don’t take any less than the best from their morning cup. High quality beans, excellent aesthetics, latte art, and a conversation partner are integral parts of Australian coffee culture. Enjoy a relaxing cup of joe before heading to the beach for the day to really feel like a part of the Australian lifestyle.
If you’re feeling a bit concerned about the poor folks over in North America, individually-owned coffee shops are on the rise in larger cities in the states, and many Americans choose to make their coffee at home, snagging primo bags of fine arabica like these.
With any luck, there’s a bright, full-bodied future filled with delicious brew available everywhere, like in Australia, soon.