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Want a Coffee, Mate? Australian Cafes Selling New York on Down Under Tradition

26 November 2013 | Added by Ross Easey

Xpresso Delight is not the only Australian coffee company introducing real coffee to the US market, others are in on the act as well........


Joe Schafran and Ryan Gonzales Johnson at Toby's Estate Coffee.

Specialty cafes are being opened across the city by a wave of young Australian entrepreneurs who want to change the way New Yorkers drink coffee.

While many people think Australia's favorite brew is beer, the country is perhaps equally obsessed with coffee, a culture that began with a wave of Italian immigrants carrying stovetop percolators after World War II.

Australians are known to shun American-style drip coffee and favor espresso. At Little Collins, a Lexington Avenue cafe that opened in July at East 56th Street, Australian customers enjoy bemoaning American coffee.

"They'll say, 'Oh, thank God you're here now, we can finally get decent coffee,'" said owner Leon Unglik, the Australian expat who named his store after a Melbourne street. "There is a specialty coffee culture in New York, it's just not everywhere, and you have to seek it out."
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Director of Operations Aaron Cook at the Bluestone Lane Coffee Adrienne Grunwald for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Unglik, 35 years old, a former corporate lawyer who moved into the coffee business in 2009, said he remembers drinking cappuccinos at age 12 in Australia. But there is more to Australian coffee than its taste. There is more of a social element in drinking an espresso there, something that is done sitting down.

"We've got a very strong coffee culture back home," he said. "In Australia, everywhere you go you can expect to get a decent coffee."

Melbourne's Byron Kaplan brought to the city's sidewalks Australian-style espresso coffee via a mobile espresso cart called Fiend at the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and West 44th Street. He will move indoors sometime in November, to the Market NYC on Bleecker Street for winter.

"New York is full of street food, so I thought it would be fun to bring espresso coffee to the street," Mr. Kaplan said.

Other Australian entrepreneurs said their country's coffee isn't just about drink, but the experience inside the shop.

Former Australian rules football player Nick Stone, 32, started Bluestone Lane Coffee after feeling homesick for the coffee he savored at home in Melbourne.

His shops—in Turtle Bay and the Financial District, with two more planned in the next year—serve an avocado smash (avocado on toast, a ubiquitous item on Australian menus) and Vegemite toast. He said his inspiration was Degraves Street in Melbourne, a bluestone lane lined with many coffee shops.

"They all survive because it's not just about the product," Mr. Stone said. "The Australian coffee culture is more than just the coffee, it's the total experience."

Many countries have a version of espresso cut with a little steamed milk, such as the cortado in Spain, the verlangerter in Germany and the noisette in France. In Australia, they adore the "flat white," a double espresso with slightly frothed hot milk. The name is a play on Australian terms for single espresso (short black) and a double espresso cut with water (a long black). Adding a little milk transforms a long black into a flat white.

Mr. Stone said New York has embraced flat whites because it strikes a balance: It's strong without being overly milky. "For people who are used to drinking black coffee, it's nice," he said.

Flat whites can be found in other cafes with Australian ownership, including Café Grumpy in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood, Smooch Café in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood and Laughing Man Coffee and Tea in TriBeCa.

Another Brooklyn shop, Toby's Estate Coffee, a Sydney coffee brand on North Sixth Street in Williamsburg, will open a Manhattan store on Thursday at 160 Fifth Ave. in Flatiron. Amid displays of cricket bats and Australian cookie tins, young Brooklynites work on laptops and munch on Tim Tams, beloved Australian chocolate cookies. "It's the attitude that we have with our cafes," said co-owner Amber Jacobsen. "A casual, inviting environment."

Mark Abramson for The Wall Street Journal

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