Australia's coffee scene exploded over the last five years between 2010 when I left the country and the summer of 2014/15 when I returned. Below are my observations in brief on what happened over the summer.
- Microroasteries are springing up. The old guard (with Italian names like Veneziano, Cisco's or Dimattina, or the rapidly growing Toby's Estate) still exist and produce great coffee as they have consistently done, but newer roasters are popping up, including Single Origin Roasters, Double Barrell, The Little Marionette, Clandestino Roasters and many others too numerous to mention here.
- Brewing hardware is getting to the next level. In 2010, it was all about espresso and variations on the theme. The 'in' drinks were magics, piccolos and other milky espresso drinks (is anyone still drinking flat whites?). Single origin hadn't really materialised as a widespread concept. Now, not only are cafes pushing single origin lattes (as to why, that's another story), but most decent cafes offer hand drip, Aeropress or Chemex options with their in-sourced beans. The next level again is specialty hardware like Modbar low profile espresso machines, Alphadominche Steampunks and the BKON craft brewer.
- It's no longer a hassle to get specialty-grade coffee anywhere in the major cities. In 2009/10, while cafes existed on the Sydney scene (http://www.meccaespresso.com was an early starter), they were sometimes a hike due to Sydney's enormous scale. Not any more. Cafes are springing up in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane too (more than just Dandelion & Driftwood!), with reviews commenting on the 'fruity' character of the specialty beans they're using. Now, a cursory glance over specialty coffee sites finds hundreds of specialty cafes in Melbourne and hundreds more in Sydney.
- Australians (and our neighbours in NZ) have become major culture exporters in cafes and coffee. Those who have travelled to Southeast Asia may have come accross the odd cafe named 'The Antipodean'. Many cafes claim to provide 'Melbourne-style cafe culture'. One roaster in Beijing told me the best coffee in the world could be had in Portland, Seattle, Melbourne and Wellington. Coming back, it is easy to see the style notes that are being exported, from the interior and graphic design styles, the ambience and food/sweet selections... Australia has become a hotbed of innovation in this field and it appears it will co-lead the way with other major global style exporters for some time.
Over time I'll put up reviews of beans, cafes and roasters - though I can't hope to cover them all.