Coffee – Nectar of the Gods

Life begins after Coffee. I cannot espresso how much you bean to me. There are so many people in the world that couldn’t even contemplate life without a coffee first thing in the morning. In fact, 75% of the entire Australian population drinks coffee. Of those, 28% have three coffees or more each day. Is coffee just a drink? Let’s explore.

I believe it’s a social lubricant, which contributes to a healthy workplace and life.

I didn’t discover coffee until my mid 20’s, I’d never even thought about a cup before then. My mighty mate Patrick Wright started my coffee odyssey. This story is an ode to my great mate Pat, for guiding me through this wonderful valley in life. I have greatly enjoyed it, and it’s helped me out so much since then and recently bought me so much happiness in a tough time during my cancer journey.

My Coffee Odyssey started when Pat and Lorinda bought a fancy coffee-making machine for their house, and I just loved to watch him make one. They even bought a machine for Lorinda’s hair salon. What a great idea, to serve customers coffee whilst they got their hair done. Caps off to them for great cappuccinos. It inspired me to buy one, including a bean grinder, and I eagerly learnt how to make the perfect brew. I considered doing a barista course, but I then quickly asked Dr. Google, and it turns out to be fairly simple.

Kitchen scales are helpful to get 180g of ground beans into the puck. Then you use 13kg of force to compress the ground beans into the puck. Then time how long it takes to strain 30ml of coffee into a cup. If it takes longer than 30 seconds, then your beans are ground too small. If it takes less than 30 seconds, then your beans are ground too big. So just adjust the grind settings on your grinder, until it takes 30 sec to strain 30ml of coffee, easy. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s good. So I still google-searched extensively for the best coffee in town, then went to try it out and I wasn’t happy until I found the best brew in town. I did this constantly and consistently wherever I went.

When I did find the perfect brew, I became a regular customer and it was so nice when you didn’t even have to tell them your order because they remembered who you were and what type of coffee you had. One day I stopped in at one of my regulars and had offered to buy a colleague one as well. When I picked up the takeaway cups they’d written, “yours”, “someone else’s” on the cups, LOL.

Great service when the baristas know you well and have a sense of humour!

History of Coffee

Coffee started in Ethiopia in 700 A.D. when legendary goat herder Kaldi noticed that his goats were dancing strangely. He eventually realised that it was because they were eating a red berry. When he tried these berries himself, they gave him a kickstart too! He shared his discovery with a monk, who disapproved of their use and promptly threw them in the fire. The magical aroma of freshly roasted coffee soon emanated and a mighty legend was born. Thank you, Kaldi!

Coffee production then commenced on the Arabian Peninsula in the 15th Century, spreading to Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Russia in the 16th Century. Coffee Houses, called qahveh khaneh, soon appeared across the Middle East and they became social hubs, known as ‘Schools of the Wise’, where patrons conversed over a brew, played chess, and were entertained by singers and dancers.

In the 17th Century, coffee spread across Europe, where some saw the hot, bitter, black brew as the ‘bitter invention of Satan’, which led the clergy to ask Pope Clement VIII to intervene in 1615. However, after tasting a brew he was very impressed, giving it his papal blessing. Coffee faced similar bans across the world, including being banned in Mecca in 1511 because it was feared that it incited radical thinking and hanging out. In Constantinople, Murad IV forbade coffee when he claimed the Ottoman throne in 1623, with the first offence resulting in a beating and a second offence resulting in being sewn in a leather bag and cast into the waters of the Bosporus Strait. Sweden banned coffee in 1746, also confiscating cups, saucers, and pots. Fredrick the Great of Prussia issued a manifesto in 1777 claiming beers superiority over coffee. He feared many of his countrymen would abandon their morning beers for coffee.

Coffee in Australia started with the First Fleet, which collected seeds and plants in Rio de Janeiro on the trip over. They planted and cultivated coffee at Government House, but similar to many early cultivars, it failed to establish. It took 50 years for the first successful coffee crop to be grown in Australia. This occurred in Brisbane at Kangaroo Point, which is just a couple of suburbs over from where my coffee odyssey began in Norman Park, Brisbane.

The British are also a tea-loving nation, so that was more popular back in the early colonial days, although Australia did put its own unique spin on tea, with Billy Tea, which is tea cooked in a large tin can called a Billy. The Billy was also used to carry water and cook. It originated from the goldfields, where miners consumed a lot of French tinned soup called Bouilli. They then reused the tins to make tea. This soon became deeply etched in Australian Bush Folklore, with every camp boiling a Billy, which was also an open invitation for travelling folks to stop by for a cuppa.

The coffee industry in Australia got a boost from the Temperance Movement, which is a social movement against the consumption of alcoholic drinks. They saw that coffee was a similar social lubricant to alcohol, that also provided a buzz, so they built Coffee Palaces, which were built and looked similar to Pubs, with the same entertainment and intellectual stimulation, but didn’t serve alcoholic beverages.

The Temperance Movement started in the US in the early 19th Century, moving into the UK in the early 1830s, with Australia following close behind in 1837 with the Melbourne Temperance Society forming. The first Coffee Palace to be built in Australia was Tankards Temperance Hotel in the 1850s, in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. This was closely followed by the Victoria Coffee Palace (1880), the Grand Coffee Palace (1883), and the Collingwood Coffee Palace (1889). They were built lavishly ornamented in high Victorian style, during the post-gold rush prosperity of the Australian economy. While British Coffee Palaces were built as not-for-profit, Australian Coffee Palaces were run by businesses and targeted middle and upper-class workers. They did quite well until the 1891 banking crisis, which led to a depression. Many were then forced to apply for liquor licenses.

Coffee Palaces spread to towns and cities all over Australia. Tasmania’s first Coffee Palace was the Hobart Coffee Palace, built-in Collins St in 1884. Whitaker’s Coffee Palace was in my hometown Latrobe, in Gilbert street. The United Australasian Axeman’s Association was formed in Whitakers, in 1891, this established woodchopping as a sport. Later that year the inaugural World Woodchopping Championship was held just down the road in Atkinson’s Saleyards.

Close to my hometown Latrobe in Devonport was the Elimatta Hotel in Devonport, which was built as a Guest House and Coffee Palace in 1905, before being converted to a hotel in 1954. The Metropole Coffee Palace was a 3 storey brick building, run by Jason Barratt. It was later taken over by Salvation Army and run as the Peoples Palace temperance house in 1908. Also the Central Coffee Palace in Rooke Street, Devonport.

Italian immigrants bought Espresso to Australia in the 1930s, with Café Florentino becoming the first venue to install an Achille Gaggia commercial espresso machine in Melbourne in 1928. My first coffee machine was also a Gaggia, because they’re still one of the best around. Coffee then became really popular with an influx of World War II immigrants in the 1950s. There was also tea rationing after World War II, which led to coffee becoming the preferred beverage for many. An Australian barista Alan Preston coined the term flat white in 1985 and it quickly spread around the globe.

The great thing about the Australian Coffee Industry is that it is driven by sole operators. The big coffee chains like Starbucks, don’t do as well in Australia. Starbucks closed 70% of its stores in Australia, just eight years after opening in Australia. I avoided them like the plague because the coffee is nowhere near as good as the sole operators, who are all focused on delivering the perfect coffee. Some of them roast their own beans in the store. Yep, there’s a huge coffee roasting machine in the middle of the dining room. I just love to watch them roast their own beans, while I’m waiting for my cup of happiness.


Dane McCormack
Dane McCormack
Dane McCormack was born and raised in Tasmania. He escaped to the mainland to pursue his career and has worked as a Business Transformation specialist for several of the world’s biggest companies including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and KPMG. His love of writing was reawakened as he explored how he survived and thrived through a recent cancer journey. After being given 24hours to live several times and losing his long-term memories, he set out on a mighty quest to find them and wrote his autobiography. It emphasised just how important history is because it made him who he was, which helped him survive and thrive. It left him determined to leave a legacy for his family. He’s now sharing his stories, to help others dealing with tough times and develop their careers. He is also exploring his family and friends’ history in more detail.

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