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Australian made coffee

In the 19th century Australian coffee used to win international awards. These days, few of us drink it. Meghan Lodwick believes it's time that changed.

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!

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