Coffee lovers and Museum Victoria

28 August, 2011

Cafe owner, wife and extended family at the opening of coffee lounge, Gardenvale, 1965.
Cafe owner, wife and extended family at the opening of The Coffee Barrel, a coffee lounge in Gardenvale, 1965.
Image: Alex Nagy
Source: Museum Victoria, courtesy of Helen Saifert

Question: What can Museum Victoria's collections tell us about the history of coffee drinking?

Answer: Melbourne has a reputation for being a city of coffee lovers. This is not a new phenomenon, despite what you may think!

Melbourne has a long association with coffee – even the earliest settlers probably brought coffee with them.

In the late 19th century, coffee "palaces" were promoted as morally-safe alternatives to public houses where alcohol was sold. Melbourne's grand coffee palaces included the today's Windsor Hotel in Spring Street.

The growth of Italian communities was a key stimulus in the development of coffee culture in Melbourne, focussing on the suburb of Carlton.

Many objects in the Domestic and Community Life Collection at Museum Victoria highlight this long relationship.

The collection includes an enamel coffee pot, roaster and grinder, brought to Australia from Italy in 1920 by the Candela family, and a coffee pot brought by Rosina Aloe, who arrived in 1953 with her children to join her husband in Australia.

Labels and packaging from the Mocopan Food Processing Company recall the business established by Italian partners in 1953, at a time when good local coffee was still hard to find.

The collection includes more contemporary objects as well, such as the burnt lid of a coffee pot collected from a house in Marysville in the Black Saturday bushfires.

Many images in the collection also illustrate coffee and coffee drinking. Some images are part of the Biggest Family Album – a community photographic collection project; others that have made their way into the Museum Victoria collection via donations.

Comments (0)

Write your comment below All fields are required

We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.