Australia is well-known for its passionate coffee culture. In fact, Australians consume more coffee than any other country in the world, averaging 3.2 cups per day! The history of coffee in Australia dates back to 1788 when the first shipment of coffee beans arrived from Indonesia. These beans were then planted in Sydney, and the first commercial coffee crop was harvested in 1810.
Since then, the Australian coffee scene has flourished, with a particular focus on specialty coffee. In 2016, approximately 2,000 specialty cafés were operating across the country. This number has only grown in recent years, with specialty coffee now representing around 30% of the total café market in Australia.
Despite its long history and thriving specialty coffee scene, few people outside of Australia have heard of Australian coffee. In fact, Australian coffee only accounts for around 1% of global coffee exports. So, why isn’t Australian coffee more well-known? Read on to find out.
Australian coffee growing regions
Australia is a big country, and coffee is grown in many different places within it. Australian coffee growing regions are located in the country’s eastern coastal belt, stretching from just north of Brisbane up to Far North Queensland. The main coffee-growing regions are in the northern and southern parts of this area.
There are two main types of coffee grown in Australia – Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are considered to be of higher quality, and fetch a higher price on the international market. Around 80% of the coffee grown in Australia is Arabica.
The main coffee-growing regions in Australia are:
- Northern Queensland
- Far North Queensland
- Southern Queensland
- Northern New South Wales
- Central New South Wales
The most common place for coffee to be grown in Australia is on the Atherton Tableland in far north Queensland. The climate there is tropical, which is perfect for coffee trees. The cherries of the coffee tree ripen between June and August, and are then ready to be harvested.
Pesticides may be required for some crops, depending on the infestations present at the time. Research is ongoing to try and find softer pesticides that could be used in integrated pest management programs – these are programs that would be suitable for use in north Queensland specifically.
Another thing to keep in mind is that coffee requires quite a bit of water – 3-7ML per hectare, per year. This amount of water can come from rainfall or irrigation, but irrigation is often necessary to ensure good production – especially in areas with sandy soil and rainfall of only 600mm.
Northern Queensland: Northern Queensland is home to a number of coffee plantations. The climate and soil in this region is well-suited to coffee production, and the resulting beans are known for their distinctively rich flavor.
Some of the most popular coffee plantations in Northern Queensland include the Atherton Tablelands, which produce a range of different bean varieties; the Mareeba Wet Tropics, which focus on organic and sustainable growing practices; and the Cairns Highlands, where many of the country’s top coffee roasters source their beans.
Coffee growers in northern Queensland subject their crops to a period of water stress in the dry spring, and then begin irrigation once flowering has begun in October or November. By doing this, they are synchronizing their crop so that they will be ready for harvest at the same time.
Far North Queensland: Far North Queensland has a diverse range of coffee-growing regions, each with its own unique climate and soil conditions. The region’s high elevation and proximity to the equator result in a relatively short coffee-growing season.
The region’s diverse topography results in a wide range of microclimates, which allow for a wide variety of coffee styles to be produced.
The majority of Queensland’s coffee is grown in the Atherton Tableland region, which is located just south of Cairns. The region has a tropical climate with high rainfall and humid conditions. The soils in the region are generally rich and fertile, which helps to produce coffees with good body and sweetness.
The Mareeba district is another major coffee-growing region in Far North Queensland. The district has a dry, desert-like climate with hot days and cool nights. This climate results in coffees that are lower in acidity and body than those grown in other regions.
Southern Queensland: Southern Queensland is home to a diverse range of coffee growing regions, each with its own unique climate and soil. The region’s coffee growers produce some of the country’s most vibrant and flavorsome coffees.
The southernmost coffee growing region in Queensland is the Granite Belt, which is known for its cool climate and high altitude. The Granite Belt is home to a number of boutique coffee growers who produce small batches of premium quality coffee. Coffee from the Granite Belt is often described as being bright and lively, with a distinct sweetness.
Further north, in the Darling Downs region, the climate is slightly warmer and the coffee grown here has a more mellow flavor. The Darling Downs is also home to some of Queensland’s largest coffee plantations.
Coffee grown in southern Queensland has a reputation for being some of the best in Australia. The region’s coffee growers are passionate about their craft and are constantly striving to produce coffees of the highest quality.
Southern Queensland is an exciting place to be a coffee lover, and many great coffee growers are producing amazing coffees. If you’re looking for something special, be sure to check out the coffee from this region. You won’t be disappointed!
New South Wales
New South Wales region is known for its subtropical climate, which is ideal for growing coffee. In fact, there are approximately 20 growers producing coffee on 80 hectares in this region. And while most of these plantations are small, they more than make up for it in quality.
One of the benefits of producing coffee in a subtropical climate is that it doesn’t require harsh chemicals or pesticides to thrive.
That’s because the natural predators (parasitic wasps and fungi) and good management (nutrition and irrigation) are usually adequate to control pests.
As a result, the coffee produced in this region is some of the most natural and pure-tasting in the world.
Another benefit of producing coffee in a subtropical climate is that it requires less water than other regions. A coffee crop typically needs 1–4 ML/ha/year of water in subtropical conditions, which can be provided by rainfall and/or irrigation.
Moisture monitoring is recommended to assist in scheduling irrigation according to plant needs.
By following these guidelines, growers in this region have been able to increase yields by 25%, as well as produce larger beans.
Northern New South Wales: Northern New South Wales is a major coffee growing region in Australia. The region produces some of the country’s best coffee, and is home to many of Australia’s top coffee growers.
The climate in Northern New South Wales is perfect for growing coffee, with warm days and cool nights. The soil is also rich in nutrients, which helps the coffee plants to thrive.
The coffee grown in Northern New South Wales is typically very high quality, and has a strong flavour. The beans are also large and uniform in size, which makes them perfect for use in espresso coffees.
Central New South Wales: Central New South Wales is home to a number of coffee-growing regions, each with its own unique climate and soils. Other notable coffee-growing regions in Central New South Wales include the Hunter Valley and the Central West.
The climate in Central New South Wales is perfect for growing coffee, with warm days and cool nights. This results in a long growing season, which allows the coffee plants to produce plenty of fruit. The soil in this region is also ideal for coffee, as it is rich in nutrients and drains well.
The coffee plants grown in Central New South Wales are typically of the Arabica variety. This type of coffee plant produces high-quality coffee beans that are used in many of the world’s finest coffees. The Arabica plants grown in Central New South Wales are known for their sweetness, balance, and complexity.
The Main Reasons Why Few People Have Heard of Australian Coffee
- Small Market Share: As mentioned above, Australian coffee only accounts for 1% of global exports (compared to Brazil which holds a 40% share). This small market share makes it difficult for Australian producers to gain enough exposure to make a significant dent in the international market.
- Lack of Promotional Activities: While there are many small-scale promotional activities undertaken by local roasters and cafés, there is little to no promotion of Australian coffee at a national or international level. This lack of marketing means that few people are aware of the high quality and unique flavor profiles that Australian coffee has to offer.
- Lack of Infrastructure: In order to export coffee on a large scale, roasters need access to ports, transport infrastructure (roads, railways), and storage facilities (warehouses). Unfortunately, many parts of Australia are quite remote and do not have the necessary infrastructure in place to support large-scale exports. This lack of infrastructure makes it difficult and expensive for producers to get their coffee beans to international markets.
The Different Flavours of Australian Coffee
Australia is a coffee lover’s paradise. Not only are there countless cafes serving up delicious brews, but the coffee here is also some of the best in the world.
That’s because coffee is grown in many different regions around Australia, each with its unique climate and soil conditions that affect the final flavor profile of the coffee. In this blog post, we’ll explore the different flavors of Australian coffee and what makes each one unique.
The first thing to understand about the coffee flavour is that it is affected by three main factors: the type of coffee bean, the roasting method, and the brewing method.
The type of bean is the most important factor, as different beans have different inherent flavour profiles. For example, Arabica beans are typically lighter and sweeter than Robusta beans, which tend to be more bitter.
When it comes to coffee grown in Australia, most of it is Arabica. This variety of coffee beans can be grown at low altitudes in Australia, between 15m and 900m.
Coffee grows best in soils that are naturally fertile, high in organic matter, well drained (to 0.5–1 meter), well aerated and have a profile at least one meter deep.
Coffee trees prefer a mild climate with mean temperatures between 15-25°C and small variations in day and night temperatures.
The rainfall pattern is an important element of coffee growing regions, especially for mechanically harvested crops.
All of these factors come into play when determining the final flavour profile of Australian coffee. In general, Australian coffees are known for being well balanced with bright acidity, sweet fruitiness, and a smooth body.
Depending on where the coffee was grown and what conditions it was grown in, you might taste different notes of chocolate, fruits like cherries or berries, or even florals like jasmine or honeysuckle.