Why Australian Coffee is the Best on the Planet
Australia has the best coffee in the world.
And like pretty much everything, it’s Hitler’s fault. We’ll get to why in a minute.
First, let’s talk about Starbucks. Because in 2008, they closed over 70% of their Australian stores, after taking a grande $143m loss. No-one was buying their coffee. Presently, there are just 22 locations in the entire country, making just under one per million people who live there. For a company that has opened an average of two new locations every single day for the last three decades, it was pretty brutal. In fact, Australia is literally the only country where they’ve ever had to scale back their operations.
Because in short, Australians don’t buy crappy – or even average – coffee. Like we said, they make the best in the world. And there’s a long and complicated history behind it all, which we’ve condensed into an effortlessly easy, stimulating, and dark-roasted read.
Now back to Hitler.
See, after he bombed Europe during WW2, a whole lot of Italian and Greek families were forced to move out of their now-nonexistent homes, and made their way to the new land of opportunity: Australia. And they took their stovetop coffee-makers with them.
Those stovetop coffee makers are important, because the Italians & Greeks use them to make espresso. Not drip coffee, not filter coffee – espresso. Sure, it’s more time consuming, and yields less coffee, but it’s better. So when, during the ’50s, a networks of coffee shops & Italian cafes popped up across Australia, they all made espresso. And as the rest of the world languished in filter-coffee purgatory, Australia gradually created a cafe culture rooted in quality, rather than convenience.
A couple of generations later, and that high-caliber cafe culture is deeply entrenched, and 95% of the country’s coffee shops are independently owned, and all serving espresso-based drinks. Sean Mcmanus, head of Sydney’s Neighbourhood Specialty Coffee Group and champion barista told us, “Espresso is everyday, it’s everywhere, and it’s in every neighborhood”.
But the Italians have been doing that for generations, too. So what sets the Aussies apart?
Well, to put it simply: creativity. And milk.
Italian coffee remains staunchly, unwaveringly traditional. 60% of coffees sold there every day are simple espressos, eschewing milk, hot water, and other adulterants. Sure, they’ll drink a latte, but only in the morning, and rarely even then. It’s the same today as it was half a century ago. Italian coffee is high quality, but frozen in time. As Marco Arrigo, Head Of Quality for world renowned coffee brand Illy explained to us that, “espresso takes enormous skill and years to perfect… Illy have been making one blend for 90 years. It’s called consistency.”
Hell, the reason it’s called an “Americano” is because it was the American GIs based in Italy during WW2 who added hot water to their espresso.
Again, Hitler’s fault.
In Australia, however, they take that solid espresso groundwork and they build on it. They invent the Flat White, and the Long Black. They’ll serve you iced Vietnamese, strong Turkish, or sweet Mexican-style brews. They’ll experiment with beans, blends, and temperatures. And they’ll do it all with baristas who’re treated more like chefs than waiters.
So if you’re in the market for a near-perfect cup of antipodean java-juice in London, here’s where you want to go:
Workshop | The kings of science-based coffee making, the Aussies at Workshop use lab-like equipment to “dial in” the beans every morning, accounting for the age of the coffee, atmospheric conditions, blend type, and more. It’s all the more amazing, given that they do all this before they’ve had their coffee.
Kaffeine | Set in the space formerly occupied by a Jewish wine shop near Oxford Circus, Kaffeine looks pretty gorgeous. They also might be the only place in the city that serves ‘coffee flights’, with a lineup of espresso, single-shot cappuccino, and a small glass of cascara.
Ozone | Ozone are actually from from New Zealand, but then, the Kiwis have benefited greatly from the Australian sphere of influence in this regard. This place is a roastery, coffee shop, and restaurant in one. With a beer tap.
Lantana | A more food-focused spot, Lantana (and its sister joint Salvation Jane) offers hefty breakfasts, Aussie brunches, and solid lunches. They even have a cookbook. (And of course, delicious coffee.) READ MORE
Flat White | Named for the most famous caffeinated Australian import, this tiny Soho joint actually helped to popularize the style back when it opened in 2005. And they probably serve the best Flat White in London, for what it’s worth.
…And there’s one of these on every street corner in Australia.
Starbucks never stood a chance.
Main image: Flickr, Blu_Pineappl3
Like being in the loop about London’s newest bar and restaurant openings? Check out our excellent guide to new bars in London and new restaurants in London.