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Genesis: a global odyssey

Australia's Greek café is part of a global phenomenon in the modern era. Outside of Greece, Greek cafés emerged in various forms, essentially in areas to which the Greek diaspora had dispersed, and became social focal points for eating, meeting and conversing. They were not simply kafeneia (Greek men's coffee houses) transferred, but food catering enterprises which successfully married Hellenic, and often cross-cultural influences, with local needs. Their customers were not the expatriate Greek community, but the broader host society.

Black and white photo of people sitting at tables on the sidewalk outside a Greek coffee house.
Kafeneion, Hania, Crete, Greece, 1985.
Photo: Effy Alexakis.

The principal influences that merged to create Australia's Greek café are to be found in Greece, Great Britain, and the United States. Greek involvement in Australian food retailing and catering initially emerged during the gold rush era (1850s-1880s). By the late nineteenth century developments towards the Greek café's creation had clearly commenced. Soon, its American influence would dominate.