Thanks to the large number of Italian immigrants who migrated to Australia after World War II, the continent is home to a thriving coffee cafe culture—one that is slowly making inroads in the U.S.
Meanwhile, American coffee giant Starbucks attempted a major Australian play in 2000, before shuttering scores of under-performing stores just a couple of years later. As of today, the chain has just 27 coffee houses in Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Melbourne. (Gloria Jean’s, in comparison, has more than 400 Australian units.)
Experts say Starbucks was viewed as “too arrogant” when it arrived in Australia.
“The Americans assumed that Australians would fall in love with an American brand, and that just didn’t happen. Australians are not anti-American, but they are anti-arrogant American brands,” business professor Paul Patterson told the Australian news site news.com.au.
Americans, however, are embracing Australian (and, occasionally, New Zealand) chains as part of the growth of third-wave coffee here. Australian coffee shops are known not only for the drinks, but for their robust food menus. Here’s a look at several concepts that are bringing Australian coffee house classics like “flat whites” and “short blacks” to the U.S.
1. Limited-service & full-service brand
Bluestone Lane is the big dog of Australian coffee brands in the U.S. The chain made its New York City debut in 2013, running both limited-service coffee shops and full-service coffee cafes. The brand has since grown to 17 U.S. locations, largely in NYC, with more on the way. Bluestone recently opened a 10,000-square-foot roastery in Brooklyn to supply its U.S. units. Its coffee shops serve a limited food menu (which includes the signature Avo Smash Toast), while the cafes feature extensive seasonal menus, as well as beer and wine. The chain bills itself as a “classic Australian cafe experience” with a focus on light dishes and Australian coffee drinks.
2. Focus on hospitality
Proud Mary has just one location in Australia. But the brand recently launched its first U.S. unit in Portland, Ore., hoping to bring some Aussie warmth to the city’s coffee scene.
"It's pretty brutal, the service in coffee shops," operator Nolan Hirte told The Oregonian newspaper. "How can you let someone be stone cold to a customer as a business owner? You can't do something special if you're going to be like that."
Proud Mary features counter as well as table service, and a coffee bar that includes sunken, built-in machines so customers can chat with baristas as if they’re bartenders. The concept serves coffee flights with beans sourced from a single farm, as well as premium brews that run $10 to $20 a cup.
3. 'Steampunk' pours
Mojo is technically from New Zealand, not Australia. But the chain, which has several dozen units around the globe, recently debuted its first stateside location in Chicago. The chain is known for its steampunk brews, which are soft-brewed coffees with single-origin roasts made in specially designed immersion-style vacuum brewing machines.
4. Australian-inspired cafe
Not all of the Australian coffee cafes in the U.S. were born Down Under. Denver’s Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen was founded by two travelers who lived in Australia and wanted to bring the continent’s culture to America. Stowaway’s menu features traditional coffee drinks, as well as an extensive menu of breakfast offerings, salads, bowls and sandwiches.