Society for East Asian Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Melbourne, a ‘foodie’ city with well-established restaurant, winery and cafe cultures, prides itself as one of the most influential coffee capitals of the world. Illustrated by the adoption of the ‘flat white’ into the global Starbucks menu – despite the fact that the franchise clings to the margins of Australian coffee culture – 'Aussie' coffee is a world contender. This paper interrogates recent developments of Melbournian coffee culture, which swirls between Anglo Australian tea culture, and a naturalised Italian espresso based culture. A newer contender in this complex coffee environment is the Japanese café, which offers coffee brewed from similarly sourced exotic beans, but made with imported Japanese implements (and often by Japanese baristas amid an contemporary urban Japanese styled décor). Key here is the shift from the classic Italian espresso; rather, these cafes serve pour-overs, slow and/or cold brews, and siphon brewed beverages that are clearly labeled as ‘Japanese’ to the local Australian coffee connoisseur.
Picking up on ideas from Merry White’s important work Coffee Life in Japan, I chart how Japanese notions of public performances of patience and perfectionism in coffee brewing have been translated in one of the most competitive coffee markets in the developed world. Here we see a new representation of ‘Japanese-ness’ in the Australian food industry, which some might say has eclipsed the ubiquitous sushi roll.