There’s something brewing on the east coast of Australia and it’s good news for coffee lovers everywhere. Home-grown beans and local roasters are taking over production of our morning brew, and we couldn’t be happier.
Australian-grown coffee accounts for less than one per cent of coffee consumed in Australia, but that’s not for lack of interest. “Across Australia, the demand for locally-grown coffee is there,” says Rebecca Zentveld, President of the Australian Subtropical Coffee Association and Creative Director and Coffee Roastmistress at Zentveld’s Coffee. “Every grower is selling every bean [and] the demand is far exceeding the supply.”
Support small and local
That demand is driven by Australians wanting to buy local and support home-grown business. This surged after the 2020 bushfires and has remained high during COVID. Not only are people consuming more coffee at home, they’ve also become especially mindful about where it comes from.
“Australians want to buy Australian-grown products,” says Rebecca. “We’d love to be a higher percentage of the coffee that is being consumed in Australia.”
If you’re keen to throw your support behind the burgeoning industry, you’ll be rewarded well. Most Australian-grown coffee is sustainably grown. Unlike international markets, the Australian fields are pest and disease free, which means farmers can grow without spraying.
“We have no pests, no diseases here,” says Rebecca, who farms in Newrybar near Byron Bay. “It turns out that our sub-tropical climate, not being in the equatorial zone where all the other coffee growing lands are and regular rainfall means our region is perfect for growing good coffee in a way that’s good for the environment, too.”
“It turns out that our sub-tropical climate, not being in the equatorial zone where all the other coffee growing lands are and regular rainfall means our region is perfect for growing good coffee in a way that’s good for the environment, too.”
Lower in caffeine
AgriFutures Australia believes that the comparatively stress-free environment that Australian coffee is grown in is the reason why it’s 10–15 per cent lower in caffeine than most overseas coffee. Which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your penchant for a pick-me-up…
There are two main growing pockets in Australia: the low-altitude, cooler climate around northern NSW and the higher-altitude, tropical warmth of Far North Queensland. This produces distinct differences in coffee flavour. Low-altitude grown coffee has sweet, almost chocolatey aromas and the higher-altitude produces nutty, biscuity notes.
Many micro-roasters are taking advantage of the two origins, producing their own unique blends.
“As a roaster [as well as grower], we produce some of our most popular blends by buying in coffee beans from other Australian growers,” confirms Rebecca.
A selection of Australian-grown coffee growers
This Byron hinterland grower and roaster has been operating since the mid-eighties. They are ‘crop to cup’ farmers, growing, harvesting and roasting their own blends on their farm. Organic, decaf, filter, pods and espresso coffee are all offered as single origin or blends.
Kahawa Estate Coffee
Just down the road from Zentveld’s at Tintenbar is Kahawa Estate Coffee. They produce and roast two single origin coffees: Lava, a sweet, medium-bodied coffee for filter or plunger; and Magma, their complex, full-body espresso.
Mountain Top Estate
A small grower from out the back of Nimbin, NSW, Mountain Top Estate offers Australian Bundja roasted coffee beans. The Arabica beans are left on the tree to dry and ferment around the seed, resulting in a rich, fruity coffee with good body. Definitely worth a try.
Skybury is the oldest and biggest commercial exporter of Australian-grown coffee. It’s located in Mareeba, on the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns in far-north Queensland, where they practice sustainable agriculture practices. You can customise your coffee by roast and grind when you order.
Also in Mareeba, Jaques have grown, harvested and roasted coffee directly on their farm for over 40 years. In fact, in the mid-eighties founder Nat Jaques actually invented the mechanical coffee bean harvester that’s used around the world. You can buy Jaques coffee on subscription, receiving a fresh bag of your favourite beans every two months.