The Australian Export Taking America by Storm

Sacha Strebe

Earlier this year, I joined the many thousands of Australians before me and made sunny California my new home—and absolutely love it. With good weather, world-class restaurants (including delicious vegan and vegetarian options), organic cafés, local farmers markets, and great fashion, what's not to love? But there's one crucial part of my Aussie life that I miss terribly—besides my family, of course—and that's the coffee. Now, don't get me wrong: Coffee in America is good too—your almond milk iced lattes are world class—but in Australia we worship good coffee, just like the Ethiopians do. Even the world’s best barista, Sasa Sestic, is from Australia’s capital city, Canberra—#justsaying—and Melbourne was voted as having the world's best coffee. So I guess you can say we take our coffee making and drinking very seriously.

But something has changed recently. I've noticed a few Australian-style cafés and coffee entrepreneurs popping up in the U.S., spreading their expat espresso cheer with coffee-loving Americans. From L.A. to New York and even Boston, Australian baristas are shaking up the local café culture with their new breed of lattes with crema on top. Take Paramount Coffee Project, which just opened in West Hollywood. This über-stylish café was created by three coffee-obsessed friends: Mark Dundon of Melbourne’s Seven Seeds, Russell Beard of Reuben Hills in Sydney, and Jin Ng of Paramount House, also in Sydney. We're not talking cold brew, drip coffee, or French press, either; this is what Australian publication Broadsheet describes as a "creative concept-coffee experience," where there's a real "emphasis on the quality of the coffee, paying tribute to all the hard work it takes to get the coffee to the cup." Even if coffee isn't your thing, the slick interior design of this café is worth dining in for. Be sure to sample its lamington-stuffed French toast or classic "avo on toast" and "scram."

PHOTO: Ariel Katz for Broadsheet

Aside from the City of Angels, Australian specialist coffee purveyors are spreading across the country too, serving up high-concept cafés in New York and even Boston. The New York Times said there's been an "invasion" of Australian cafés in the Big Apple, including Little Collins (named after a street in Melbourne), Brunswick (also named after a street in Melbourne), Bluestone Lane (named for the paving stones on a street in Melbourne), and Two Hands (named for a film starring Aussie Heath Ledger). It might seem crazy to think Australians have anything to teach our fellow Americans about coffee, but even The New York Times agrees with me, saying that "Australia—Melbourne in particular—has a dynamic and professional coffee scene." 

So why is the Australian café style suddenly exploding in popularity here? Rolando Schirato, managing director of Vittoria Food and Beverage, which sells popular Australian coffee brand Vittoria Coffee in the U.S., says, "Australian coffee in particular is incredibly successful because we’ve had a strong independent café scene for specialty coffee for over 50 years, whereas in the U.S., this new café culture is a recent phenomenon. We have experience, history, and expertise. We’ve been making coffee for a lot longer than most, and we have seen there aren’t many authentic specialty coffee players who operate on the level we do."
Vittoria Coffee are a third-generation family business that's been in the industry for 68 years and recently opened an office in Venice, Los Angeles. Schirato believes Australian coffee has been successful in the U.S. because there isn't a specialty coffee provider that caters to a broad-enough audience. “There’s too many companies trying to be a Starbucks, but then there’s a big gap with companies who know what they’re doing and those who don’t," he says. The café culture, like the beach culture, is big down under, and it looks set to make waves here, too.

Enjoy a delicious Australian-style brew in the comfort of your own home with our favourite coffee-making accessories below.

Have you been to an Australian coffee shop in America? Do you think Australian coffee tastes different? Let us know in the comments.

Opening Image: Wonho Frank Lee for Los Angeles Eater

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