Alive and kicking: Australian coffee industry to boost production


According to data, Australians drink two billion cups of coffee every year, with only a small portion of it made from locally produced coffee beans. 

Image credit: flickr User: Serendigity
Image credit: flickr User: Serendigity

Despite of that, coffee grower John Lawes thinks that this culture has a future in the country.

“It’s definitely a selling point – a lot of people want Australian, especially if it is a good coffee,” Mr Lawes says.

Australia’s national coffee production is quite marginal. According to the AAP report published on Yahoo News, the latest International Coffee Organisation figures reveal that the country only produces around 20,000 tonnes of coffee beans per year, while importing approximately 94,000 tonnes of green, roasted and instant coffee to meet the demands on the market.

Mr Lawes has invested in a new plantation at Byfiled, Queensland, which is expected to yield first production in two years’ time.  Until then, he sources beans from a large northern Queensland grower.

Although suitable locations and adequate water supplies are hard to come by in Queensland and NSW, Australian beans are all high-quality Arabica with distinctive properties such as naturally low caffeine levels in lower-grown coffees.

“There’s more than one reason – it’s the closer to sea level you get and also the control over fertilisers. They haven’t actually proven what causes it but there aren’t too many naturally low caffeine plantations in the world,” said Mr Lawes.

“The higher you are up the more caffeine it seems to produce. Also we don’t spray any insecticides or pesticides and it’s well known that the more insecticides and pesticides you spray on coffee the higher the caffeine is. There’s no real pests in Australia.”

On potential exports, Mr Lawes says that although there are demands for Australian coffee beans, exports are next to impossible because the country does not produce enough of the commodity to supply the overseas market.

Athan Didaskalou, Managing Director of specialty online coffee retailer Three Thousand Thieves, says artisan coffee roasters tend to source from overseas and some of them even buy offshore plantations to satisfy their needs.

“For some particular reason in the last 10 to 15 years, the Australian scene, while it may have grown, it hasn’t really stepped up to the plate,” Mr Didaskalou said.

Mr Lawes, however, is more optimistic about the future of the industry in Australia.

“I think it’s going very well – it’s getting more sought after and I think it can go a long way,” he said.

“I think it’s a fascinating industry and I just love getting up every morning and going to work.”