Australia’s Specialty Coffee Culture

The specialty coffee industry in Australia has evolved significantly in the past ten years.
WORDS : Paul Bassett

Australians were introduced to espresso by the Italian migrants who settled here in the 1950’s. We enthusiastically adopted the Italian espresso culture and over the years have developed it into our own.

The specialty coffee industry in Australia has progressed significantly in the past ten years. A far broader spectrum of espresso interpretations now exists; a result of the industry challenging the notion of what espresso is and what it can be.

Major improvements have taken place across the board, from coffee selection and traceability through to increased precision in roasting and brewing methods and equipment.

Access to higher quality green coffee has increased as more roasters travel to countries of origin to develop relationships with growers and gain a greater insight into practices that impact on the cup. Consumers have come to expect more diversity in taste as a result of the growing number of single provenance coffees available. There has also been an increase in demand for more information about a coffee’s provenance. Ten years ago we were accessing coffees from broader regions with less recognisable identities. There are now many specialised coffee importers who work with exporters and growers to source single provenance coffees from specific farms and micro-lots. This focus on traceability offers a greater reflection of a coffee’s identity through expression of its terroir and variety.

The specialty coffee industry’s approach to roasting has shifted in recent years. Across the board, to varying degrees, coffees are being roasted lighter for espresso. The intention is to allow expression of the intrinsic characteristics of each individual coffee, highlighting terroir and varietal. Darker roasted coffees will impart more roast flavour characteristics to the overall taste. The challenge in roasting lighter for espresso lies in being able to achieve full development of the coffee’s characteristics.

Technological advancements have played a major part in increasing precision across all areas of espresso making. Improved equipment has allowed greater control of managing the variable elements involved in roasting and brewing. The ability to achieve quality and consistency in the cup has been significantly enhanced as a result of these improvements.

Barista training has become more prevalent in the last few years and coffee making standards have improved dramatically. Once seen as a part-time job for the university student, the barista is now acknowledged as a role requiring a specialised skill set. The general Australian public has a better understanding of coffee than ever before. Overall consumer expectation has increased, forcing widespread improvements in all areas.

Australia’s specialty coffee industry has evolved significantly in the past ten years and there are seemingly endless possibilities for its potential.

Part of understanding these possibilities is pushing the boundaries but the more important element for me is knowing when to step back. It’s an exciting time for specialty coffee in Australia and it’s vital that we use taste as our true guide as we continue to explore espresso’s infinite potential.

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