COFFEE growers in the nation’s far north – home to Australia’s largest coffee growing region – are eyeing off a bumper 2018 crop, after unseasonal Spring rain helped deliver a double flowering.
Double flowering happens when the coffee trees get a spike of water before actual main flowering occurs.
A “light snow” of flowers blanketed the crop at Jaques Coffee – a 100 per cent Australian, family-owned grower of high quality Arabica coffee on the edge of Mareeba, west of Cairns – earlier in October. It was the second time it has happened in five years.
“We are usually after a single flowering to mechanically harvest the trees but they never behave exactly as you want,” said Jase Jaques, Jaques Coffee’s general manager.
“We will find out when we get increased yields next harvest.
“In a good harvest we pull in one tonne per acre of coffee cherry. Higher than that and the trees are producing really well.”
Mr Jaques, who manages the 85,000 tree orchard and associated processing and tourist business on behalf of the family, said the trees responded “instantly” with the early rain.
While a bumper crop is welcome, double flowering can cause some headaches during harvest.
“It is usually an indicator of a bumper crop but it’s sometime a little bit trickier to harvest,” Mr Jaques explained.
“You will have mature ripe cherries on the tree and not so ripe cherries on the tree.
“By altering the frequency of the shaker on the harvester we can actually leave the unripe cherries and pass over the trees again two or three weeks later and take the second pass.”
If the rain gods are kind – coffee is thirsty and from now until mid January is a critical time for irrigation – and a bumper crop eventuates, it will be music to the ears of Australian coffee growers like Jaques Coffee who are in currently hot demand among Australia’s expresso-latte scene.
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“There’s a big push at the moment in Australia to find Australian products which are grown in Australia, rather than unknown sprayed products or things from overseas with little regulations,” Mr Jaques said.
“People want to support Aussie businesses.”
Since launching their online sales in 2003/04, Jaques Coffee has experienced significant growth - “it started to accelerate in 2008 when the coffee culture started in Australia” - and today, Mr Jaques said they achieved 60-70 per cent growth in online sales per year.
Recently, the business installed a third dryer to increase the drying capacity in anticipation of bigger crops, and also invested in a second coffee harvester.
“When the fruit is ripe we get it off as quickly as possible and dry it as quickly as possible through our mills and plants,” Mr Jaques said.
This month, Jaques Coffee introduced free shipping Australia wide for their online sales – in direct response to customer demand – and are finalising the roll-out of fresh, new packaging which capitalises on their Australian, clean and green country-of-origin.
And 2018 will also see them offer their own green bean to the marketplace – again due to customer demand.
“A business has to keep evolving,” Mr Jaques said. “We can’t stay in the past.”