Home Pop Culture Food & Drink Café-Bar


In the days before Starbucks and Café Latté on tap from every corner coffee shop, the height of sophistication and convenience for the serious java-loving office worker in Australia in the 1970s was to have one of these beauties in your place of work . . . The Café-Bar.

In 1963, Cafe Bar International in Australia patented a butterfly valve that delivered the exact amount of instant coffee, powdered tea, milk, soup, chocolate or sugar, keeping ingredient costs low and reducing mess.

The first blue-painted metal models were designed for the factory floor. But by the 1970s, the company wanted to expand its market into offices and waiting rooms.

The plastic Café-Bar ‘Compact’ model (pictured at right) was the first to be designed by a professional industrial designer, David Wood of Sydney. It was released in 1974, featured futuristic styling and came in avocado green, beige, blue and burnt orange – colours that suited the groovy fashion of the times.

In November 1974 Cafe Bar International was awarded a Good Design label for this product by the Industrial Design Council of Australia. It also received the Prince Philip Award for Australian Design and the Australian Classic Design Award.

Increased sales of the Compact took the company into new markets from the Netherlands to New Zealand. But by 1989 the patent on the butterfly valve had lapsed and the Compact was looking old.

The Quintet (pictured below), this time designed by Adam Laws, was styled for the office of the 1990s. It blended in with the colours and textures of modern computers and fax machines, and its familiar car-style dials made it easy to use.

The Café-Bar also created a new demand for tea, coffee and biscuits, the supply of which eventually generated more profits than the machines themselves.