Australia - a coffee culture
Coffee is the go-to drink for many Australians. The way we order our coffee is important, but so is the source of our coffee. And now, more than ever, Australians want to know what goes into their coffee.
We invented the flat white but many enjoy the long black, espresso or macchiato. The taste of these coffees turns on the quality of the beans used. Little wonder we are becoming more knowledgeable and selective about the source of our coffee beans.
How much coffee do you drink?
Coffee is consumed by nearly half the Australian population. One in three people aged 19-30 years, and two in three people aged 51-70 years, drink coffee. The median amount of coffee consumed daily is 330 mls, which is about one large mug.
How do you take your coffee?
Everyone has their own preferences for how they take their coffee – is yours a flat white, cappuccino, latte, long black or short black? Here are some newer ways of making coffee that are taking off:
Pour-over coffee: this is made using freshly ground coffee in a filter and a “pour-over dripper” which holds the filter. The coffee is not “plunged” into water, like the French press, instead water is slow dripped over the coffee. This method is slow and emphasises the flavour of the coffee beans.
Filter coffee: people are again buying coffee filters for home. As with pour-over coffee, the quality of the coffee bean is paramount because the flavours are extracted more slowly than with other types of coffee. Filter roast coffee is usually lighter than espresso roast, having been less developed in the roaster. The final finish is milder than the more caramelised finish of the espresso roast.
Cold brew: this type of coffee is replacing the traditional “iced coffee”. It is made by steeping fresh ground coffee in cold water for between 12 and 24 hours. The cool temperature of the water and the lack of movement mean that not as much flavour is extracted from the beans. Some retailers use twice as many beans in making the cold brew so that drinkers get the full “hit” of flavour.
Where in the world does your coffee come from?
Because the new trends in the way coffee is consumed emphasise the flavour of the bean, it isn’t surprising that people are increasingly interested in where their coffee is sourced. Like wine grapes, there are regional differences depending upon where the coffee bean is grown.
Black coffee drinkers in particular will want to source single origin coffee. This means the coffee has been supplied by one farm or estate, rather than a blend.
The two main coffee trees are Arabica, which produces about 70 percent of the world’s coffee bean harvest, and Robusta, which produces the remainder.
Coffee is best grown in warmer climates and therefore usually comes from the “coffee belt” which is roughly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Brazil is the biggest producer, followed by Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Ethiopia, India and other countries.
Between these countries and within them too, there are variations in rainfall, temperature and soil conditions which, similar to the growing of grapes for wine, impact the flavour of the beans and the ultimate cup of coffee. There are also different types of coffee bean varietals, for example, common varietals of the Arabica tree are Bourbon, Caturra and Typica. All produce a slightly different flavour.
With so many variants and influences, the coffee bean is sounding more and more like the wine grape.
Will the coffee run out?
Coffee farming worldwide is likely to be affected by climate change which has brought about more erratic rainfall in some areas, and an increase in pests and diseases. The Climate Institute in Australia estimated that by 2050 climate change will have halved the area suitable for coffee production. Given the poverty of many coffee producing nations, there is a lack of diversification of crop and a lack of investment and research in ensuring continuing coffee production.
In 2010, the Initiative for Coffee and Climate was founded by key players in the private development and research sectors, to address issues arising from changing climate conditions. Their pilot programs are being run in partnership with coffee farmers in Brazil, Tanzania, Trifinio (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador) and Vietnam, which are some of the biggest producers in the world.
The hope is that with attention now being given to the sustainability of coffee production and real investment in new production methods, some of the worst predictions won’t be realised.
Is “Fair Trade” and organic coffee worth it?
In the coffee trade, the “Fair Trade” certification is important – it guarantees a minimum price and this assists farmers who are often from some of the world’s poorest nations. The “Fair Trade” organisation also supports research programs relating to climate change which will help bolster the resilience of farmers to changes in climate and resulting market conditions.
As for organic – the proof is in the taste. Organic coffee is grown without the use of chemicals and artificial pesticides, and using only natural fertilizers. Coffee that is grown conventionally is heavily reliant upon synthetic pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers. This affects the crop, the farmers who are handling it, and the soil and environment.
Organic coffee allows for more sustainable crop production, and is also supposed to be higher in anti-oxidants – so it is better for you and tastes better too.
Your local coffee seller
Stop in and see your coffee seller at your local markets.
Visit the Saporium Market in Rosebery, held every Saturday from 10am-3pm, and visit
Welcome Dose Coffee which has a “bean-to-cup” philosophy.
Australian Bureau of Statistics “Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12” http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.007~2011-12~Main%20Features~Non-alcoholic%20beverages~701
National Geographic: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/coffee/map.html
Climate Institute: http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/coffee.html
Initiative for Coffee and Climate http://www.coffeeandclimate.org/about-cc.html ]