Since World War Two, espresso coffee has become a feature of Australia's urban culture. Its popularity is indicative of broader changes in Australian culture that have seen Anglo-centric practices give way to influences from Europe. Post war immigrants brought with them many new influences, including a taste for espresso coffee.
While Australians had been drinking brewed coffee for decades at street stalls and coffee palaces, the large scale importation of espresso machines in the 1950s was part of an international transformation of coffee culture that followed Achille Gaggia's invention of the modern espresso machine in 1947. Gaggia greatly improved earlier espresso machines with the addition of a spring lever pump.
In the 1950s and 1960s coffee lounges and cafes came to epitomise a new modern European-influenced culture. Their interiors reflected the latest design trends. As a prominent and essential part of the cafe, espresso machines were also highly designed. Chromed finishes with futuristic rounded edges in the 1950s gave way to more functional, streamlined and harder lines in the 1960s.
The first Gaggia was commercially imported by HC Bancroft and Co. in Melbourne in 1954 to join a handful of privately imported machines. Within a short time many establishments in Melbourne and Sydney were equipped with Gaggias, Faemas, La Pavonis and other models.
Bo-Ema, an Australian company, was established to capitalise on the espresso revolution. The name was a combination of the company's founders, Bordignon and Emer. They produced their first machine in 1956 at the Emer Co terrazzo polishing machine factory in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria. While Italian machines were being manufactured under licence in Melbourne, the Bo-Emas were the first Australian machines. They were soon installed in Sydney cafes including the American Coffee Lounge at Wynyard. A Bo-Ema was used at the ultra modern Pasha nightclub restaurant in Cooma at the height of the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, when thousands of European workers transformed the culture of the region.
This machine is significant as an example of a technology that has transformed Australian culinary tastes and leisure patterns. In particular it is a rare example of an early Australian made and designed machine, produced by a company that successfully challenged the dominance of overseas manufacturers from the 1950s through to the 21st century.
The early machines were rounded like the contemporary Gaggia and Faema models. The maker's plate on this machine, serial number 3/336, indicates that it was manufactured at the company's new Revesby factory which opened in 1967. Its angled chromed styling is very different from the earlier models. It was one of the last models to use spring lever pump action to force the water through the coffee.