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March 2007 Newsletter

Australian coffee, i.e. coffee grown, processed and roasted in Australia, has always been long on hype and short on flavour. The biggest single problem is that Australia simply doesn't have farming country in the tropics at sufficiently high altitude. Another problem is phosphate poor soils, so that some fertilizer is always required. Finally, high labour costs make hand processing uneconomical, and even machine processing is relatively expensive. The green coffee price needed for the Aussie coffee farmer to make a profit is far above the price of many other really spectacular coffees.

That's not to say that there is anything actually wrong with the majority of Australian-grown coffees, but taste wise (especially in blind cuppings against coffees grown elsewhere) they tend to come across as bland, bland, bland. There is a market for this sort of coffee, especially in espresso blends, where a bit of bland in the middle palate can emphasize the flavour notes of other coffees in the blend. But as straight, unblended coffees I find them so unexciting that I haven't offered one for over seven years. This hasn't stopped a lot of people asking for them, though.

Despite this I continue to try Australian coffees from various plantations, about half a dozen a year on average, eternally hopeful that one will have sufficient flavour to rise above the level of hot brown water. Tom Owen of Sweetmaria's (www.sweetmarias.com ) once commented after tasting a particular Aussie coffee that the cardboard box it had been packed in had more flavour than the coffee. Having tried the same coffee, I think he was being generous.

Still, on the theory that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a Princess, I've kept at it and finally discovered a coffee that I'm at least not ashamed to sell. It has a mild, nutty front to middle palate flavour, with slight sweetness, and a smooth, soft buttery finish with just a little clean acidity. Not the sort of thing that makes you jump up and shout "Woohoo!", just a nice gentle flavour and aroma.

The coffee is grown in the Nimbin area and milled at Mountain Top Coffee. In fact, the last time I sold Australian coffee it came from this area too, but the grower decided that there were better ways to make a living.

This month’s special is therefore

 Australian Bundja Extra Fancy

$40.00/kg

I’m currently in the process of amalgamating several previous articles on the care, maintenance and repair of domestic espresso machines into a single comprehensive DIY guide, which will include a series of photo essays and tool requirements for both the Rancilio Silvia and Mokita/Imat machines. One of the most noticeable things about many of the machines that come in for repair is that they are often incredibly dirty in the group area. It seems to me that customers who spend a little time maintaining their machines have less problems and lower repair bills.  

Finally, the long drought in availability of the Mokita Combi type machines and spares will end next month when my own shipment arrives. In fact, this will be the main topic of next month’s newsletter, all going well. For the time being I will only be supplying the combined espresso machine/grinder models, but that may change in the future. I won’t know exact pricing until the shipment lands, but it won’t be much more than the original price.


Alan