Mareeba

Coffee Works


Mareeba is the undisputed home of coffee in Australia – and it’s as much to do with the amazing collection of coffee paraphernalia on display at Coffee Works as it is to do with the presence of the vast majority of Australia’s coffee plantations.

Coffee Works is impressive. The founder has a collection of literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of coffee brewers, espresso machines, roasters and grinders.

He traveled the world to find them. He sought them high, he sought them low, he sought those French presses everywhere… And that my friends is how you drop in a reference to the Scarlett Pimpernel.



Not only is this perhaps the world’s biggest collection of coffee (and tea) bric-a-brac – it’s also home to a boutique chocolate maker, specialty coffee roaster and they make a pretty mean coffee liquor.

There’s unlimited tastings of their coffees, teas and chocolates on offer for anyone who takes the tour – and it’s well worthwhile.

It’s fair to say that the extent of this guy’s collection gave Robyn a sense of perspective when it comes to my very small collection of coffee equipment.

Skybury Coffee Plantation

I can’t help but wonder why this plantation isn’t named “sky berry” coffee plantation – given the elevation and the fact that coffee starts off as a berry. But who am I to pass judgment on a name…

I’d been looking forward to visiting a coffee plantation for a while – and the Skybury experience doesn’t disappoint (except perhaps for the coffee at the end). The Zimbabwean owner has big dreams for his farm – which is home to the Australian Coffee Centre. There’s a “Material Change of Use” notification in front of the shed and our guide mentioned plans for a luxury hotel, and it’s certainly beautiful countryside.

The plantation tour was informative – did you know for example that the average coffee tree will produce 7kg of coffee berries per year, and those will result in 1kg of green coffee beans after processing, and that will result in about 850g of roasted coffee, which will result in about 47 double shot coffees. Skybury removes coffee trees every seven years – and only harvests them in their third year of existence – that’s four years of production per tree – or 188 coffees. That’s a high end estimate because there’s a fair bit of sorting that happens between tree and cup – with a lot of beans literally not making the cut. Any beans that don’t meet particular shape, size and density requirements slide of the shaking mechanical graders and become fertiliser – or worse, instant coffee.

The owner of Skybury has also developed a revolutionary piece of harvesting technology – which is best described as a carwash like machine that thwacks the berries off the tree and collects them in a container. This is a significant improvement on handpicking – one person handpicking coffee will harvest about 12kg of green beans per day (that’s 84kg of berries) – half a 25kg coffee sack, a mechanical harvester will harvest 8 tonnes of green coffee in a day – 320 25kg sacks in a day.

Australia produces about 200 tonnes of coffee annually, peanuts as far as exports are concerned… Skybury produces more than half our annual exports. They’re a major player in a pretty small pond on the global scale.

Australian beans are in demand though – the quality control employed in our processing of beans means Skybury sells its beans to the international coffee market at about 3 times the price I pay for my green beans.

The post tour coffee wasn’t the best (or worst) I’ve ever had. It was a cappuccino with no foam at all. It seems Queensland coffee naturally comes in at either extreme of the froth spectrum if you don’t get served an iceberg sized ball of froth you get a millimeter of microfoam and coffee diluted by watery milk.

Port Douglas Holiday

Robyn and I spent the last 5 days (not including today) in far north Queensland – that is anywhere north of Mission Beach (actually our boundaries have been redrawn and it’s probably anything north of Cardwell… statistically speaking)… but I digress.

What follows will be a series of reviews of the things we did while exploring the far north.

We spent most of our time away in Port Douglas – but made a couple of journeys to the tablelands, spent time in Cairns and made an eventful trek to the Daintree rainforest.

For the record, I really like going on holidays with my wife.

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