The History of Coffee in Australia

The history of coffee in Australia dates back to the late 1700s when the first coffee plants were introduced to the colony of New South Wales by Governor Philip. However, it wasn’t until the 1850s that coffee cultivation began to take off in the country.

Did you know? Coffee arrived in Australia on the first fleet in 1788, being traditional tea drinkers, it was almost a century later that coffee became part of Australian culture.

In the late 1800s, coffee was a popular drink in Australia. The crop was so popular that even many streets and towns were named after the drink. During the gold rush era, many immigrants came to Australia in search of wealth and opportunities. Many of these immigrants were from European countries where coffee was a staple drink, and they brought with them their love for the beverage. As a result, coffee shops began to pop up in the major cities, and the demand for coffee beans increased.

By the late 1800s, coffee was being grown in the northeastern part of the country, mainly in the states of Queensland and New South Wales. The industry continued to grow throughout the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the Australian coffee industry began to modernize and adopt new technologies.

In the 1870s, coffee became popular due to the fashionable rise of Parisian coffee shops and the lobbying of the Temperance Movement, a movement of Christian women in Melbourne who protested anti-social drunken behaviour. This female-led movement forced pubs close at 6pm, which gave quick and easy success of the city’s coffee palaces. The coffee palaces were ornate and became the social grounds of Australian society, and the trend quickly spread to other cities like Sydney. Espresso first came to Australia in the 1930s with Italian immigrants, although espresso and the European café culture – which had existed for more than two centuries abroad – didn’t become popular in Australia until around the 1950s, following an influx of WWII European immigrants. Australian coffee culture grew steadily throughout the 70s and 80s, and increased exponentially in the 90s. The industry continued to grow throughout the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the Australian coffee industry began to modernize and adopt new technologies. 


Common arabica varieties grown in Australia

There are many different types of arabica coffee grown in Australia, specifically selected due to similar climatic conditions.

K7 – A Kenyan variety, the K7 is a Bourbon relation known for its resistance to rust and coffee berry disease, and is frequently used in modern breeding programs in Africa. It produces a large bean with good cup quality and high yield in production.

SL34 – A Kenyan variety, the SL34 is used for its exceptional cup quality and high yield in production, though it is higher maintenance than other varietals, being susceptible to rust, coffee berry disease and nematodes. It has a Typica-like genetic background and has adapted well to high altitude environments with plenty of rainfall.

CATUAICatuai is a Bourbon related crossbreed between Mundo Novo and Caturra, the result being a compact dwarf coffee plant, made by the Instituto Argonomico (IAC) of Sao Paulo State in Brazil. Its small stature allows it to be planted quite densely and is a highly productive plant. 


The Process of Coffee Growing in Australia

Of all the countries in the world, Australian coffee beans produces some of the most unique flavours, due to the soil, lack of pests and diseases (and therefore no need for the use of harsh chemicals), the climate of the country, and the coffee processing methods. Australian grown coffee is predominantly grown in Far North Queensland and Northern New South Wales, with dappled small pockets of micro-lot coffee grown between N.S.W, South East Queensland and through to the Central Coast of QLD as well. Coffee trees thrive in hot and humid climates. The climate in Australia is just right for growing coffee… if you can match that climate with the right amounts of heat and drainage.

Australia’s tropic and subtropical coffees are distinctly unique, offering their own individual flavour profiles, aromas and unique taste. The Northern half of the country’s tropical climate and its rich volcanic soil provide the perfect conditions for growing coffee, and these conditions contribute to the quality and flavour notes found in Australia’s tropical- grown coffee. The subtropics of Northern NSW with a cooler microclimate, allows the cherries a longer ripening period, usually 10-11 months. The cooler subtropical climate also inhibits fungal growths, so there is no need for pesticides. The volcanic soils and the longer ripening time play a significant part in the distinctive notes, nuance and flavours.

The process of coffee growing in Australia begins with the selection of suitable land and the right coffee varietals. Arabica is only grown in Australia.

Once the land and varietals are selected, the coffee plants are propagated from cuttings or seedlings. The plants are grown in nurseries for several months before they are ready to be transplanted to the field.

The coffee plants are grown in well-drained, rich soil that is high in organic matter. They are typically spaced about 3-4 meters apart and are grown in rows. The plants are pruned regularly to encourage branching and to improve the yield.

The coffee plants begin to bear fruit after about 3-5 years. The fruit, known as the coffee cherry, turns red when it is ripe and is ready to be harvested. The cherries are picked by hand or using mechanical harvesters.

After harvesting, the coffee cherries are processed to remove the outer layers and reveal the coffee beans (2) inside. The beans are then sorted, graded, and packaged for roasting.

The roasting process is critical for developing the flavour and aroma of the coffee. The beans are roasted at high temperatures for several minutes until they reach the desired level of roast. The roasting process can vary depending on the desired flavour profile and the coffee bean variety.

After roasting, the beans are packaged and shipped to coffee shops, retailers, and customers around the world. The process of growing coffee in Australia is labor-intensive and requires a lot of care and attention, but it results in high-quality, flavourful coffee that is enjoyed by many.


Coffee in Australia today

Contemporary café culture in Australia is typically third wave with increasing concerns over ethical coffee, an ongoing love affair with single origins and an ever discerning taste which requires roasters to pay closer attention to the desired roast and taste profiles their customers enjoy. Pour overs and cold brew coffee are becoming an expectation, rather than an exception, in the Australian market. With no sign of slowing down any time soon, our coffee culture and education in all things coffee is only just beginning in Australia.

Today, Australia is known for its high-quality, specialty coffee beans and is home to a thriving coffee culture. The industry continues to grow and evolve, with new technologies and techniques being developed to improve the quality and taste of the coffee. Australian-grown and roasted coffee is increasingly popular, not just domestically but also internationally, and the country has a reputation for producing some of the world’s best coffee.

But it’s today that really shows just how much Australians love their coffee. Almost 70% of the population drinks coffee on a regular basis, and many people make coffee a part of their breakfast routine. Australians also enjoy coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up or after-dinner drink. We are truly spoilt for choice here and have a reputation for some of the best locally sourced, high-quality, single-origin coffee, small-batch roasted unique blends, and techniques in the world. Experience the unique taste of Australian grown coffee with a conscience. Our ethically sourced Australian specialty coffee, from farm-to-table beans are sustainably grown by local farmers, ensuring that every sip is not only delicious but also supports our community.