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Australian Coffee Culture 101: How to Order Like a Local

In a nation famed for its worldly gastronomies and vibrant multiculturalism, there is one beverage in particular that unites the entire nation: coffee. In fact, no trip to the land down under is complete without tasting not one, but many different Australian coffees.

From espresso to long black coffees, these caffeinated concoctions are the lifeblood of modern Australians. They power business people through their meetings, united millennials for socializing every weekend, and make a prominent splash in the bar scene!

Have no fear, we are here to guide you through the ins and outs of Australian coffee culture so that you can order like a local and have a true Aussie experience.

@raykheir enjoying a stylish coffee at Alibi Bar + Kitchen in Sydney, Australia

Where is Australian Coffee Culture More Dominant?

No matter where you wander around country, coffee culture is vibrant and hard-to-miss; however, you’ll notice a few key differences from city to city. One of the largest rivalries to claim the title of Australia’s coffee capital is between Sydney and Melbourne.

Statistically speaking, the residents of Sydney buy more coffee per kilo than any other national city. According to a 2017 study done by Lavazza Australia, on average, Sydneysiders order 4.41 cups of coffee from cafes each week. Whereas, residents of Melbourne only drink 3.91 cups of barista-made coffee. Nonetheless, the Victoria capital ultimately touts a higher percentage of locals that order their brew from the city’s plethora of cafes rather than making it at home.

All across the country, you’ll find thousands of cafes that serve phenomenal coffee and hundreds of thousands of locals lining up to enjoy it. Are you ready for a sip?


The Most Popular Coffee in Australia

There are three main coffee drinks that dominate across Australia- the Flat White, Cappuccino and Latte. While each beverage involves a single shot of espresso and steamed milk, they offer a distinctively different drinking experience that Australians adore.

While you’re guaranteed to find this holy trinity of coffee on every single café menu, each drink’s popularity varies ever-so-slightly from state to state. While the latte is officially the best-seller across the country, folks in Melbourne and the surrounding state of Victoria prefer cappuccinos. Across Western Australia and Queensland, the flat white reigns supreme. What is the least-popular coffee drink in the nation? The piccolo, a 100ml glass filled with a ristretto shot and topped with warm, silky milk.


Learning Australian Coffee Names

What’s the difference between a flat white, cappuccino and late? What is a long black coffee? Do two ristrettos make one espresso?

While most of these caffeinated beverages involve a single shot of espresso and steamed milk, they each offer a distinctively different drinking experience and therefore have particular names. Don’t worry, here is a breakdown of key Australian coffee names so that you will know exactly what’s on the menu.

  • Latte: Australia’s most popular coffee drink is always served in a glass and prepared with espresso, mostly steamed milk and a small dollop of froth on top.
  • Flat White: While some argue that this is exactly the same as a latte, others will distinguish that flat whites are made with a shot of espresso and steamed milk that is an equal blend of liquid milk and micro-froth. An Australian Flat White is a must-try!
  • Cappuccino: This Italian classic is made with one shot of espresso and steamed milk that has a much thicker layer of froth. Oftentimes, it is served in a cup and sprinkled with chocolate dust.
  • Long Macchiato: Traditionally, a macchiato is just a single shot of espresso with a dollop of steamed milk served in a small glass; however, a “long mac” includes two shots of espresso instead.
  • Long Black: Similar to an “Americano” this Australian classic is made with a double shot of espresso that is topped up with hot water.
  • Short Black: This is essentially a long black without the water, so simply a double shot of espresso.
  • Ristretto: Often mistaken as simply one half of an espresso, a ristretto is actually a short shot of espresso made with the same amount of ground coffee but half the amount of water. The final result is a more concentrated shot of coffee.

Notice something is missing on this brief list? That’s right, filter coffee is largely uncommon across the land down under. You’ll rarely find drip or filter coffee at cafes, and if you do the locals won’t be ordering it.


How to Order Iced Coffee in Australia

Especially in the summertime, it’s perfectly sensible in most countries to drink an iced version of your usual coffee; however, the cold coffee movement has only been adopted more recently in Australia and is not nearly as common. All year round, Australians like their coffee hot! Nonetheless, you can find artisanal cold brews at a few special special spots, like Monster Kitchen + Bar in Canberra, which miraculously serves filter coffee too! Additionally, you can also request your long black to be iced, but do not expect to find “iced coffee” on a menu.


Soy, Almond or Coconut Milks

All over the world, non-dairy milks are spicing up our coffee orders. Whether it be for health reasons, environmentalism or simply taste, new types of dairy-free milks are on the rise, offering an entirely new coffee experience. Since Australians tend to prefer milky coffees, most cafes now offer a few additional milk alternatives, with soy being the national favourite.

Don’t worry, locals love their nut milks too as well as coconut milk. Whether it be an almond milk flat white, macadamia milk macchiato, or coconut milk latte, the possibilities are endless for you to explore Australia’s coffee culture.

A bartender at Salon De Coin Brisbane, adding the final touches to an Espresso Martini

Espresso Martinis

Eager to get a bit more playful with your coffee? Espresso Martinis are all the rage across the nation, with just about every bar offering their own twist on the classic.

We love the latest caffeinated cocktail concoction at Mister Percy, a darling wine bar in Sydney with a Mediterranean flair. They shake their new Espresso Martini with Tried & True Vodka, Nola Coffee Liquor by Street George, one shot of freshly brewed espresso, sugar syrup and a pinch of salt. Stop by during the day for a classic coffee and stay for social hour, where you can continue to taste a new boozy brew!