Many of us are well acquainted with the flat white, developed in the Antipodes in the 1980s, but Australia isn't the nation that first springs to mind when you're wondering who produces coffee. The world's top coffee producing nation is in fact Brazil and as we've previously discovered on the blog, coffee is best cultivated within the tropical zone that stretches north of the Equator to the Tropic of Cancer and south to the Tropic of Capricorn. That's a qualification that certainly doesn't preclude Australia; the northern section of the country falls into the tropical band. However, while one of their coffee growing regions falls into this profile, the second is actually located in a subtropical region. Encompassing northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, it's the world's most southerly coffee growing region.
It's thought that coffee was initially cultivated in the environs of Brisbane as far back as 1832, and certainly by the 1880s it had found its way down the east coast to the fertile growing region of northern New South Wales and was winning awards in Europe. Nevertheless, increasing production costs forced coffee to take a back seat for the next hundred years until the 1980s saw a resurgence with the introduction of mechanical harvesting.
Organic coffee is easier for Australian farmers to achieve due to the lack of pests and disease which coffee growers live in fear of elsewhere. In addition, coffee grown in the subtropical region is slower to ripen, resulting in a lower acidity, greater sweetness and even reduced levels of caffeine. Many plantations grow, process, roast, package and market their product themselves both to local buyers and for export.
None other than our own Heston Blumenthal has recently pronounced Australia to be the best place for coffee there is. Coffee drinking is engrained in the culture and the Australian palate accepts only the best. And it seems they don't have to go too far afield to find it!