Every year around late October we make the annual pilgrimage to northern NSW to visit several coffee growers and to check on harvest and processing.
Our touring party consisted of Hamish Elliott (who manages our Growers Espresso bar and roastery), Steve and Trevor Simmons (from Industry Beans & Penny Farthing Espresso), Tim Sproal (from Splash Photo who was documenting our visit), and myself. This year we spent a couple of days with one of our main suppliers, Green Cauldron, where we had the opportunity to sample some early crop coffees and provide feedback on different processing styles. We also visited a few smaller growers, including a couple we had not previously met or visited, including Robert Frater at Ewingsdale Coffee Estate and Brett and Brooke Clunie at Red Door Coffee in Fernleigh. Another larger grower who we visited on our final day was Mike King who runs the Byron Beans operation not far from Bangalow near Byron Bay.
Without exception, most growers have experienced a difficult harvest due to inconsistent cherry ripening across the district. The rains at different periods in late 2011 and early 2012 triggered several flowerings which result in several ripening patterns of the coffee cherry. This has made it even more critical to selective harvest and/or separate different cherry developments in the processing. Green Cauldron were overcoming this by hand sorting to remove green (under ripe) cherry from each lot prior to cherry reaching the wet mill. As they machine harvest, like larger growers, it is critical to have meticulous processing systems in place. As cherry passes through the wet mill, there are also several other processes used to separate green, ripe and overripe cherries. Some of our favourite coffees came from the Green Cauldron property last year, with their Microlot Late Harvest Natural being a stand out.
Ewingsdale Coffee Estate and Red Door Coffee have significantly smaller plantations and have chosen to selective hand pick their crop. It is a laborious and painstaking process, however both growers take great pride in their achievements and coffees. We loved Robert's approach to the sustainable management of his plantation. He was also very generous to provide some parchment samples of his coffee for us to process and sample roast upon our return. Brett and Brooke have the advantage of having an inviting store on their property where Brooke makes beautiful pottery and their coffee is also available for sale. We were also impressed with Mike King's focus on organic certification for Byron Beans, and of course the magnificent views over the coast from his property.
A big thanks to Richard Kelly from Green Cauldron, and all of the other growers we visited. As always, we return with a greater appreciation of the challenges that growers face to produce high quality coffee. We provide a few of the photos from our recent visit in late October.
Cheers, Mark and the Eureka Coffee / Growers Espresso Team