The weekend roast

Written by Jasen Barrie

Whether you are coffee snob, a once a week sipper or just drink tea or alternative beverages we all have a general idea of the coffee bean beginning. We roughly know about the goatherder Khalid who it is said that he was the one responsible for discovering the now infamous plant and introducing it to Abyssenian culture.

We also roughly know that the Italians were the first to come up with the idea of forcing pressurised water through a handful of finely ground coffee to produce a short, concentrated drink: the espresso.

But what about coffee in Australia, especially Queensland in the early days. How much do we really know about that journey?

Coffee beans arrived with the First Fleet, the sprouted plants soon struggled in the Port Jackson climate. However, by the 1880’s there were plantations in Queensland and New South Wales. I2. In 1899, twentynine coffee growers met in Cairns to form the first association. Coffee growing persisted into the 1920s but declined owing to labour shortage, climate and shipping problems associated with WW1.

In 1861, surveyor James Warner received a silver medal at the London International Exhibition for coffee beans grown in his garden at Kangaroo Point. In 1879 coffee was reported to be growing in Gympie and the following year coffee was included in a “collection of economic plants contributed by the Acclimatisation Society of Queensland” which won a gold medal at the International Agricultural show in Sydney.

Coffee plantations were established in Buderim, Mackay, Bingil Bay Atherton Tablelands and by 1893 there was an interest in growing coffee in the Northern Rivers NSW. All the coffee was of Arabica variety and by 1899 there were some 46 coffee growers in the Cairns region alone.

The fledgling industry soon encountered problems from droughts, frosts, and cyclones not to mention the introduction of the “White Australia” policy in 1901 which saw and end to the “sugar slave” system which revolved around using Kanaka (South Sea Islander) labour.

However, the Industry has had a resurgence since the 1980s with the Mareeba/ Atherton Tableland region now producing most of Australia’s harvest. So, whilst the romance and flamboyancy of Venice may claim the espresso crown. The little Aussie battler has it’s place and of that
we should be proud.

Start your day the right way!