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We know our product inside out because it’s our passion!

“Coffee is a living, breathing thing – one never knows all there is about coffee – it is an ever changing, ever growing product – as hygroscopic as the bean itself is, so is my enthusiasm for its vitality” Gordon Beattie, Grower and Founding Director of Australian Estate Coffee.

 

“I just like to drink the stuff…” Janet Beattie, Founding Director.

 

The Beattie family has been growing coffee for over ten years; first forming the New South Wales Coffee Growers Association in 1992, with Gordon instilled as inaugural Treasurer and then later on after intense lobbying being instrumental in forming the Australian Subtropical Coffee Growers Co-Operative.


Today the family can be found sipping the newest award winning roasts.

 

The Estate – A Quick History

in-search-of-the-perfect-blossom.jpgOur initial trials were arduous – after meeting with the NSW Department of Agriculture in 1991, we were given a selection list of the most suitable coffee seedlings called cultivars SL14, SL34, K7,KM18, KM35, Mondo Nova and Arusha. We spent weeks propagating the seeds using bottom heat prop beads. After 12 weeks and a huge electricity bill, we were ready to transplant our babies. Coincidentally, at the same time we had the good fortune to access 40 cartons of surplus milkshake containers, the wax paper type, so we thought why not use them as growing pots? It turned out to be a bad idea, because of the extra cost involved in the increase of potting mix, due to the great depth of the milk shake containers (so we don't recommend that idea). After another 4 months of nurturing our little babies, we had nice wooded seedlings about 350mm in height and were ready for planting out. Our initial selection was the eastern paddock and we were able to plant north south to capture the greatest day sun movements. The paddock had soft undulations and was ideal to allow a slow surface run off of any excess water without erosion (our annual rainfall is 1400mm and we can have 100mm fall in twenty four hours). Previous to that, say three months earlier, we had delivered a 10 tonne load of organic chicken manure and had meticulously sourced a reliable supply of high quality sawdust (no CCA treated timbers or the like).

So Gordon organised a huge stinking compost pile to be located right alongside the drive to the house, “it's convenient” he said “and the neighbours would complain if we put it anywhere else”. Surprisingly this stink seemed to disappear only after just a few weeks – 'few'. It seemed that Gordon's organic farming course at TAFE was now coming into good use. His organic mentor Jan Wilhelm had convinced Gordon of 'the ways of nature' and had instilled within Gordon a passion for Bio-Organic beliefs.

 

So began the plantation…

From a distance, the paddock looked like a diagonal 'cross stitch'. Then came the row ripping and rotary hoeing; looking out over the land we suddenly seemed to have an instant farm. Sub-soiling (deep ripping without breaking the surface) an ideal way to 'channel' surface water into the sub soil. Next we spread lime (dolomite in our case due to the existing Magnesium levels), and then we added the secret elixir…the compost; fresh, warm and almost edible. Well the easy work was done and the hard 'yakka' about to begin. The Family was about to embark on an adventure that would appear to onlookers as if the entire family had 'lost the plot', 'gone bananas', 'lost their marbles' – just picture five people on their hands and knees seemingly crawling up and down ploughed rows. You see the best way to plant coffee is on your hands and knees – we call this 'praying your dues'.

First you lay out the milk shake container seedlings, now an impressive 400mm high green foliage at one adult step (900mm) along the cultivated row. Then with a three prong digging fork you dig a hole and place the entire cultivar within the newly made bed. By now the milk shake containers were on the verge of rotting at the base. What we initially thought to be a problem was in fact an advantage, as it would allow root formation to burst out of the container once in the ground. Spread the magic elixir over the hole and you have a coffee plant.

So to conserve your aching back, you simply crawl on hands and knees to the next seedling – yes it looks impressive. This exercise took us all a week to complete two thousand seedlings. We outsourced the next four weeks to university students from Southern Cross; we were all very pleased with our newly learned role of delegators. This also allowed us to mulch out the rows, which gave us great satisfaction. Much like when you put your children to bed and as a final gesture you tuck them in and say 'good night sugar' and wait for them to wake up to a new world. Our new world of coffee was about to turn into a nightmare… Doing so well two years old and very proud, we were suddenly suffering a black frost - 1994 the worst freak frost ever recorded on the Northern Rivers, it lasted only two days, but was enough to destroy all but a few of our babies. Remarkably, we seemed to have some very resilient seedlings, defeating the black frost…did we have a frost tolerant strain of coffee? – A world first? Quick, keep it a secret – don't tell Brazil, they'll steel our precious young… So in fear, we gave them an alias, someone called them 'Byron Reds' as a lark and that name stuck.

 

We now were cultivating an unknown, unheard of, unorthodox hybrid called Bryon Red.

On reflection, the frost of 1994 had actually swung us into another direction. As a result of seed farming and distribution of the famous 'BR', we enticed other farmers to diversify and grow coffee. Some we coaxed away from Macadamias by suggesting that they simply plant coffee in the inter-rows between the Macadamias and see which crop gave the best return (needless to say that Macadamias are booming at over $5.00 per 1Kg NIS). To others, we simply preached our organic beliefs and explained that because coffee in Australia (whilst not being a mono cultural crop like Macadamias) was free of the usual 17 different pests and diseases associated with overseas coffee and that coffee was the most sprayed chemical user after cotton. Furthermore, in Australia we have a niche opportunity to easily grow organic coffee on small 5-acre lots, a type of boutique family farming business.

We were now heading down the adventurous path of coffee grower producers. We were harvesting coffee from all our small co-op growers, we were processing coffee on each farm minimising waste, maximising water, we were re-pulping and composting and finally we were completing the value adding cycle by roasting, packaging and marketing our brand. We entered our coffee into the 'Big Boys' coffee competition, the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show. We were up against 86 imported exotic blends and seven of the local tall poppies. Well, we not only won the Gold Medal in the Open Espresso Short Black, but we were also awarded Champion Coffee Growers beating all competitors by 20% margin. We were elated!

 

Front pages in the local newspapers, Good Food Sections in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Telegraph - we were hot!

We were also now one of the seemingly 'tall poppies' and there was hell to pay for defeating the 'special forces' (tall poppies). All sorts of innuendos were made: our single origin was a compilation of many small farms around Alstonville and should be classed as a blend – lots of petty little criticisms of the like. Gordon retorted with the notion that 'this was not just a win for Australian Estate Coffee, but a testimonial to the quality of Australian Coffee and that which the Australian farmer can achieve if he or she puts their minds to it. Some Growers were inspired to continue on with the organic battle, some to achieve their own medals and some were moved to take short cuts – stop growing their coffee and to import a proven and tested (cheap) overseas coffee.

They were yet to see the coming 'truth in labelling laws' and they were soon forced to apply the wordings 'made from local and international coffee'. Since those testy times, the coffee industry has travelled a long way. As for Australian Estate Coffee, we continue to win medals and accolades for our Australian grown coffee!

 

 

Customer Testimonials

“Thank you for great service and great coffee” S. Kenafake

“Thank you for your lovely coffee and prompt delivery always” D. Morgan

“Many thanks for your quick delivery of beans” J. Allen