Its been a while since our last blog as we have been awaiting some information on the history of the farm here at Mountain Top Coffee in order to do a piece on such. In the interim I would like to share a little of my personal perspective of the Australian coffee industry. The record of coffee being grown in Australia begins in 1832 in Brisbane, just 125 km North as the crow flies from where we are at Mt Top. Over the next fifty years or so it spread South and North and enjoyed a strong overseas reputation before labour and production costs shrunk the industry until it was no longer, except for some small holdings. It took until the 1980’s and 90’s for it to be re-thought owing to the possibilities in agricultural and processing technology making harvesting and milling a less labour consuming exercise. A modified grape harvester was developed in North Qld for use in plantations, a design which was then exported to Brazil and taken up by the largest Arabica coffee producer in the world to increase its own production. The Australian idea never went to the factory here, but the Brazilian machines were imported for use. Mountain Top Coffee came into the picture in the late nineties as the first farms of this new wave were beginning to produce. Andrew Ford, bought the farm and had big ideas, making large investments in equipment, with an eye to being not only a central resource for coffee growers in the subtropics of Northern New South Wales and Southern Queensland, but also a quality producer of what is called Specialty Coffee. In the ensuing years both goals have been realised – perhaps not to the level he originally aimed for in regard to the scale of production, but certainly at the level of quality. I have heard it said that boutique coffee as we know it today, and for which Australia, particularly Melbourne, has been at the top of the table, began here – at Mountain Top Coffee, with Andrew’s bold vision and confidence.
The industry has never been large, and many Australian’s are still surprised that coffee is produced here and even more surprised at how dam good it is. Personally, I rarely drink any other coffee, and that is not just because I am so used to it (I only began drinking coffee other than sporadically when I began working here 15 years ago). No, its smooth, flavoursome and lower caffeine qualities are what keep drinking it exclusively.
The entrepreneurial and risk-taking era of the nineties have faded quite substantially – that together with increase in land prices and cheap overseas coffees have kept the industry small. We are still here – thanks to people like the new owners of Mountain Top Coffee, Owen and Denise Whitney and their daughter Rowena (see pics), Mt Top is continuing. These people came into the industry knowing nothing and have brought an open minded and practical approach to navigating its complexities.
I dips me lid to them,