Australian stories of coffee in Melbourne and environs: a selective cultural history

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Cook, Marie (2005) Australian stories of coffee in Melbourne and environs: a selective cultural history. Research Master thesis, Victoria University of Technology.


It is difficult to locate the genesis of any subject of creative and critical inquiry. However, I consider I embarked on this MA research project because having a decent coffee was important to me, and I did not know why. I recall the precise moment I realised I was attaching special meaning to coffee. I was in a new cafe at Airey's Inlet, seaside town on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, my home State, and I had ordered a cafe latte: The woman serving me was in her sixties and appeared to be out of her depth; she was most likely helping her daughter set up the cafe and trying to be useful. I imagined she lived on one of the surrounding farms - she reminded me of my mother. Her hands had probably made a thousand morning teas for shearers with big pots of tea, the best china for the jug of milk and tea cups, and big baskets of scones with cream and jam. But using an espresso machine had baffled her. I, on the other hand, no longer wanted the life of tea and demanded a decent coffee (Cook, 2005:15). At that moment I realised there were a number of reasons for me wanting that coffee to be 'decent'. They related to my growing up in the country and wanting to live in the city, to my experience of cafe life in Europe, and finally to personal rebellion - against certain conservatism of the 1970s in Australia, and ultimately against a colonial English custom of tea. This project is located in food and social history and focuses particularly on the introduction of espresso coffee to Melbourne in the 1950s and '60s, as in my view the Italian cafes of that period had the greatest influence upon present cafe culture. However, this project is not pure social or food history, as it synthesises my own personal experience, and that of my interviewees, with archival, scholarly and more journalistic/literary research, and with a particular approach to the writing of non-fiction narrative, known as 'creative non-fiction'. The final thesis can be seen therefore as a fusion of qualitative and scholarly research, with memoir and oral history - or, in summary, as what I have termed a 'selective cultural history'.

Additional Information

Master of Arts

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 2002 Cultural Studies
Historical > FOR Classification > 2103 Historical Studies
Keywords Coffee, Social aspects, Victoria, Melbourne, History
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