The single origin that was being pushed at my local coffee shop last week was impossible to pronounce. Too many consonants and a ‘Fair Trade’ sticker made the exotic import out to be a bit smug, even though it was fine to taste.

We consume 50,000 tonnes of coffee per annum and only 500 of that comes from our own backyard. I think Dick Smith would agree that it’s time the Australian Made logo became more of a focus.

The first big coffee boom was in the mid 1800s when a couple of farmers in Queensland took advantage of the perfect growing climate. The taste was also above par because, according to Australia’s nationwide coffee consultant, Gary Trye, the ‘low acidity in Australian soil, gives Australian coffee its mild body and caramel flavour‘.

Australian coffee won awards throughout Europe in the late 1880s. It was ‘roasted and ground on the premises’ in most food stores nationwide and a staple in the Australian diet. Unfortunately, the lack of cheap labour and a tsunami wiped out our coffee market in the early 1900s; it has only become popular to grow in the past three decades.

Even though our resources are plentiful, cafés still look towards Ethiopia, Indonesia and Kenya to kick start their customers. It’s kind of like wine a couple decades back. Who would have thought our vineyards would gain worldwide notoriety? Now it’s our coffee’s turn to become a force on the international market, once again.

A couple of home brands are beginning to make a name for themselves, using history as a selling point. Red Earth Coffee, ‘Sydney’s first coffee shop serving Australian Grown coffee’, is a year old, although the owners, Patrick and Lisa have been selling Aussie beans for over five years in other establishments.  

Nat Jaques of Jaques Australian Coffee is accredited for inventing the first mechanical harvester. Coffee before 1980 was only picked by hand. This has enabled him to enjoy much success with his multi-award winning beans. His plantation is set up like a vineyard in Queensland, complete with tours, tastings and maybe even a ride on his patented machinery.

In Melbourne, there is Eureka Coffee in Fitzroy North. It is a family operation as the owners use their parents’ farm to pack their porta-filters full of home grown espresso. They also house Grower’s Espresso which supplies specialty coffee and tea from around the world. It’s a more balanced mix than feeling tongue tied over the one coffee on offer at most Melbourne cafés.

Buying Australian products will of course boost the economy and create more jobs. But more importantly, Australian coffee is glorious and should be easier to obtain than something from half way around the world.

I may not sound cool asking for a ‘Byron’ blend but I know the taste is worth it and that’s a fair trade.

Meghan Lodwick is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University. This piece was initially published on her blog, For The Love Of Beans!

14 Responses to “Australian made coffee”

  1. hazchem

    I’m sure a lot of us would be more than happy to drink Australian grown coffee and in fact do already.

    Its just not easy to get, production has been difficult over the last few years (I believe) and in some cases, it is so well regarded overseas that we never see it for sale in Australian cafes.

    There is no shortage of demand for coffees from Australian Estates in the Specialty market.

  2. Chris McNamara

    I try and buy Australian coffee because then I have no concerns about food miles or exploitation of the coffee producers.

    I generally get the Skybury beans from Jaspers.

    I would prefer that they were organic but maybe in the future.

    I do worry sometimes that by buying Australian beans I am not supporting a valuable industry in many developing nations.

    Ethical dilemma!

  3. jason scheltus

    Queensland might be a ‘perfect growing climate’ for some species of coffee, unfortunately it is not for most varieties of arabica coffee. Coffee species that flourish in the 500-900 metres of altitude range are mostly from the robusta species, not know for it’s great cup quality. Unlike wine production, (and contrary to what you say) Australia is missing one of the biggest factors in producing delicious coffee – altitude.

    Arabica coffee varieties flourish in relatively acidic soils (from coffeeresearch.org), it’s more likely to be the very low altitudes that produce a low acidity and “mild body” (whatever that means). Also, to develop sweetness and good acidity in the bean, they need an altitude of at least 1200m to allow the cherries to ripen slowly. Again, referenced from coffeeresearch.org

    I’m not sure Ethiopia will apologise for it’s complicated names sounding smug to you.

    As a coffee roaster and retailer I’m lucky enough to taste through many coffees. The last Australia grown coffee I tasted was bad. It was riddled with insect damage, mould, ferment faults, sour beans, partial black beans and full black beans. It tasted the way mouldy carpet smells.

  4. Meghan

    I agree the elevation is a detriment to the industry and yet the varieties of arabica that are used in northern queensland do go well with the climate. Australian coffee growers predomintely use arabica beans that flourish in a drier climate, such as cataui and bourbon which also fair well with intense sun. The Tabelands, where Skybury comes from, have had much success with their beans through recognition by Jasper,as Chris has said, yet half of their crop is sold overseas, so it’s good that someone noticed the homegrown product as more than just an exporting company. Not all of Australia is ideal for growing coffee and I didn’t aim to make that point.

  5. Meghan

    I agree the elevation is a detriment to the industry and yet the varieties of arabica that are used in northern queensland do go well with the climate. Australian coffee growers predomintely use arabica beans that flourish in a drier climate, such as cataui and bourbon which also fair well with intense sun. The Tabelands, where Skybury comes from, have had much success with their beans through recognition by Jasper,as Chris has said, yet half of their crop is sold overseas, so it’s good that someone noticed the homegrown product as more than just an export. Not all of Australia is ideal for growing coffee and I didn’t aim to make that point.

  6. Brett Watson

    Dick Smith would be the first to tell you that the “Australian Made” logo is the best way of selling foreign coffee beans as Australian Made Coffee.

    Yes its true…import foreign whole green beans roast and grind here to achieve substantial transformation and manufacturing costs of greater than 50% and you have a True Blue Aussie blend of Australian Made coffee, eligible for the Green and Gold Kangaroo. Not Fair Trade I say!

    What we need is an “Australian Authenticity Logo” something that tells us in percentage terms how much of any item is sourced here from Australia.

    Things like…. Content, Owned, Made and Packed. Then I can compare any two similar items and see where my money is going.

    Visit http://www.australianmadelogo.com.au/labels.htm and see what truth in labelling really looks like. It is a genuine “Australianmadelogo” and a solution to the issue of Country of Origin labelling.

  7. jason scheltus

    Reading over my comment, I didn’t mean to sound so negative about Australian coffee. I am sure there are Australian coffees out there which are a lot better graded, sorted, and picked than the sample I had most recently. Although I have never had an Australian coffee that came close to the cup quality of most of the Costa Rican catuai I’ve tasted, for example. I just wanted to make the point that I don’t think it’s possible to replace Ethiopian or Kenya coffee with Australian grown coffee. (As per your local cafe example).

    Your wine analogy makes it sound as though Australia is as capable of producing the highest grade coffee (better than Kenya or Ethiopia) just as it is capable of producing the highest grade wines. But, unlike coffee production, wine doesn’t require much altitude to produce fabulous results – with similar soil qualities, a slight incline to the right direction and a similar climate, Australia can produce some fantastic wines. While the climate in Queensland may be similar to some great coffee producing countries, the altitude is not and it is that which negatively affects the quality. High grown bourbon or catuai usually tastes better than low-grown bourbon or catuai.

    And most importantly, I don’t think consumers should be encouraged to blindly choose Australian coffee because it is easy to pronounce.

  8. jason scheltus

    p.s please feel free to continue this over email if that’s more appropriate – I couldn’t find your email on this site! -Jason

  9. Alex Lobov

    Imagine my surprise to find Jason Scheltus (one of Australia’s best roasters) commenting on this thread! I assure you all that I’m not a sock puppet, nor has Jason planted me here, but he has said everything I wanted to say and more.

    The simple reality is that Australia really isn’t capable, agriculturally speaking, of producing coffee that’s at the sort of quality you find in major coffee-producing nations such as Kenya & Ethiopia. From an economic perspective, this is a perfect example of competitive advantage. Ie. When it comes to coffee, Australia doesn’t have it.

  10. Brett Watson

    Legal action by AustralianMade AustralianGrown meant we had to change our domain name to BuyAustralianLogo.com.au So our logo also was relabled accordingly.

    Dick Smith would be the first to tell you that the “Australian Made” logo is the best way of selling foreign coffee beans as Australian Made Coffee.

    Yes its true…import foreign whole green beans roast and grind here to achieve substantial transformation and manufacturing costs of greater than 50% and you have a True Blue Aussie blend of Australian Made coffee, eligible for the Green and Gold Kangaroo. Not Fair Trade I say!

    What we need is an “Australian Authenticity Logo” something that tells us in percentage terms how much of any item is sourced here from Australia.

    Things like…. Content, Owned, Made and Packed. Then I can compare any two similar items and see where my money is going.

    Visit http://www.buyaustralianlogo.com.au/australian-made.html and see what Truth in Labelling really looks like. It is a genuine “Australianmadelogo” and a solution to the issue of Country of Origin labelling.

  11. Coffee Beans

    With the perfect climate and soil conditions, Australia should promote coffee beans farming. This will not only supplement the local consumption of Aussies but also improve the revenue of local farmers too.

  12. Vicki Fenton

    How do you like your Methyl Bromide brewed. All imported green beans are subjected to this substance in order to obtain an import certificate. Look it up. It’s a disgusting chemical causing all sorts of health problems. Get Australian grown , roasted, ground convenient coffee and you know it will be safe. Shop around, but I am loving the one from Aussie Farmers at the moment, with no postage costs, and delivered to my door….

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