The Rise of Wollongong’s Coffee Culture

By Samuel Findlay on August 26, 2016

Specialty coffee around the world has evolved and the coffee culture in the beach town of Wollongong is now on the rise.

Coffee is a drink that is enjoyed all over the world. Whether it is for the caffeine hit to start the day or as an excuse to catch up with friends, coffee is a beverage that we all love — especially here in Australia.

But coffee has certainly evolved over time, as has the coffee culture. Coffee and the coffee culture in cities like Melbourne, Sydney or even abroad in London are at the forefront and have pushed the boundaries of coffee to the next level. We now see coffee treated like that of wine with connoisseurs looking for a brew that will be more than just caffeine, providing tasting notes to accompany each cup. The job of the barista has become much more technical with the rise of the specialty coffee and the days of cappuccinos with a thick layer of foam and sprinkled chocolate on top are slowly being left behind.

Although much smaller than Melbourne or Sydney and with a population of approximately 235,000 people, the beach town of Wollongong has seen specialty coffee take off in recent times.

Specialty coffee in Wollongong is no longer hard to come by with cafes paving the way for the coffee culture such as Son of a Gun, Opus Coffee Brewers, Buck Hamblin, All and Sundry and Hevan Espresso to name just a few. These cafes provide beans from top roasteries to Wollongong, such as Melbourne’s Seven Seeds, Market Lane and Wood and Co., or Sydney’s Mecca Coffee, Reuben Hills and Sample Coffee Roasters.

New manager of Son of a Gun, 27-year-old Ray De Souza, now finds himself a part of the culture in Wollongong, falling into the industry after needing a job and just always drinking coffee.

“I just needed a job and started working in a cafe,” said Ray. “I was always interested in coffee and that just sort of grew and grew.”

As is evident with the recent emergence of cafes serving Specialty coffee in Wollongong, Ray believes the coffee culture is only going to continue to grow.

“It’s [the coffee culture] growing, definitely,” said Ray. “Wollongong is well on its way.”

However, while the coffee culture has come a long way and specialty coffee is now very much available, establishments such as Gloria Jeans should take some credit for their involvement in paving the way for coffee in Wollongong. While not considered specialty coffee, Gloria Jeans, at least for Ray, was his first real coffee experience.

“It [Gloria Jeans] was different from having instant coffee,” he said. “It was my first introduction to something different.”

With the coffee culture continuing to grow around the world and also in Wollongong, specialty coffee is only going to evolve and become even more technical. The focus has become much broader as the culture grows with different brewing methods and approaches taken.

“Coffee can get as technical as you want to make it,” said Ray.

We can only expect to see more and more cafes open in Wollongong, continuing to add to the coffee culture in the town. It seems that specialty coffee is here to stay and is going to become even more special.

Samuel Findlay is a freelance writer and current Master of Communication (Journalism Innovation) student at La Trobe University, Melbourne.