• Foreign caffeine addicts can't seem to get enough of the way we make, serve and enjoy a coffee. (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images Europe)Source: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images Europe
We're an obsessed (and slightly addicted) bunch when it comes to coffee, and now other nationalities want in.
By
Dominic Ryan

29 Jul 2021 - 11:59 AM  UPDATED 26 Jul 2021 - 9:53 AM

--- Watch the final episode of Australia's Food Bowl with Stefano de Pieri Thursday 29 July at 7.30pm on SBS Food or stream it free on SBS On Demand. ---

 

Australia is sometimes considered a culinary question mark; what can we really claim as our own? It seems that slapping 'Australian' next to a cafe brand is the big thing.

In the US, Bluestone Lane has a network of 50 'Australian-inspired' cafes serving up home-grown classics such as avo toast with poached eggs, Singaporeans queue for Aussie-trained baristas, and the UK is spoilt for choice when finding cafes with Aussie roots. 

One of them is Climpson & Sons, a popular cafe in London's Hackney district. Owner and founder Ian Burgess was inspired to bring better coffee to his home country after a stint in Australia during which a love of a good brew grew.

"I went to Australia in 1995 on a working holiday as a door-to-door salesperson selling giant calculators and teddies,” Burgess tells SBS Food. "I used to work mainly evenings, so had most of my days free. Just before work every evening my friends and I would go for coffee."

"We made it our quest to find the best double-shot late in town. On my return to the UK, I noticed that coffee was a big thing with the big chains opening up, but it was just bad…really bad!"

Drawing inspiration from Sydney's coffee scene of independently owned cafes with dedicated baristas and a focus on character, he set about setting up his own Australian-inspired cafe in the British capital. 

"I started roasting in my friend’s garage," Burgess recounts. "And in 2014 I found a great little street in Hackney and decided it would be the perfect spot for the cafe I had always dreamed of opening."

He cites Bill Granger's avocado toast and flat whites as the cafe's big sellers — both Australian culinary stars, which are found on menus the world over. 

AVO TOAST?
Bruschetta with avocado and cured salmon

Inspired by the producers he meets, Stefano creates a modern gin-cured salmon, avocado and citrus bruschetta using Fosseys gin and avocado and citrus from the Goldups.

It's not just the coffee itself and social-media-worthy food that people around the world queue up to try; Australian customer service is another major drawcard.

Chilean-born Patricia Martin opened an Australian pie shop/cafe in the Chilean city of Curicó in 2015 with her Australian husband Jamie, whom she met when she moved from Chile to Brisbane. Selling meat pies, lamingtons, caramel slice and flat whites, they managed to make it even more 'true-blue' — by naming it Jimbo's.

"We wanted to serve the way customer service is in Australia," Martin tells SBS Food. "We greet everyone with the classic 'G'day, how ya goin' today?'.

"Some of our Chilean customers are surprised when they come in and receive such a warm greeting, it's not common in Chile."

Burgess agrees that Australian-style service is a way to make a cafe stand out in London.

"In the UK hospitality has generally been poorly paid and companies struggle getting employees to understand the importance of service and standard of coffee-making,” he laments. "In Australia, people take it really seriously and they take their coffee seriously."

In any case, a focus on fresh is what makes Aussie cafes novel. Now back in Brisbane, Martin reflects on what made their cafe unique.

"We would make the pies fresh every day from scratch, and I would bake the lamingtons, neenish tarts and vanilla slice in the morning for our customers to sell with the coffee."

"Chileans have never heard of these Australian classics before, and good coffee isn't a big thing in Chile," she says. "If they weren't sure about it, I'd say 'Listen, if you don't like it, it's free. But everyone always ended up enjoying it and paying!"

WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?
It doesn’t get much more Australian than the lamington
The classic sponge cake has a surprising history. Bakers are updating it by adding riberries, salted egg yolk and black ants.

As well as being a place to bring Australian gastronomy to the world, Aussie cafes are also a place to bring a taste of home to the ubiquitous vagabond Australian overseas.

"Oh yeah, we served a lot of Australians in Chile," says Martin. "Lots of the mining sector workers are Australians, they'd bring their kids on a Saturday morning after soccer for a pie and to have a decent Aussie coffee." 

Australians are often spotted around Climpson & Sons, as well. 

"We love serving Aussies," says Burgess. "They say it's like being at home."

And while our compatriots are sipping themselves back to the lanes of Melbourne or the beachside espresso bars of Fremantle, the world is opening its eyes to a hidden coffee and culinary gem.

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