The Bitter Truth

Did you know that since 2003 the amount of coffee consumed in Australia per year has more than doubled! Crazy, right? I mean we knew Australians loved coffee, but we seriously love coffee.

Drinking outstanding coffee has become an entrenched part of our culture over the last two or three decades. It’s not only about smacking down a dose of morning caffeine to relieve our watery, exhausted eyes anymore. We want (and expect) to be inundated with rich aromas and mouth-popping flavours in the process.  

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Here at TSE we strive to meet both of these needs. Whether it’s a silky flattie on Vapor (house), or one of our infinitely rotating single origin espressos or filter roasts, we pride ourselves on our skill at taking the edge off (of taking the edge off). But in the happy chaos of brewing and consuming these awesome coffees from our Chatswood home, it can be really easy to forget that our barista-drinker dynamic is actually the last link in a specialty coffee production chain that starts several thousands of kilometres away. 

 alpine coffee plantations = unsurprisingly beautiful [getty images]

alpine coffee plantations = unsurprisingly beautiful [getty images]

Like wine, coffee is a fussy  crop that requires very specific climatic conditions to ensure the beans grown are of the highest quality. Plantations situated at high altitudes that experience a predictable balance of hot, sunny days and cool nights produce the highest quality coffee. This is because in these places the plant is able to mature over a long period of time, and as such, the beans are imbued with more complex sugars. When combined with correct roasting, the result is richer, deeper flavours. 

These climatic conditions are met most consistently in the mountainous regions of Central Africa, South East Asia, and Central and South America, and this is precisely the reason why the term specialty coffee has become almost synonymous with countries like Panama, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Indonesia.

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It is no coincidence to learn, therefore, that as Australia’s infatuation with coffee has grown over the last couple of decades, so too has the amount of coffee imported into Australia, which  has also more than doubled since 2003.

And so there is, regrettably, a bitter truth concerning the current nature of Australia’s coffee consumption. Because most of the countries from which the world’s best coffees are sourced are located around the equator and the tropics, climate change – specifically the catastrophic weather events associated with rising surface temperatures – poses a very real and devastating threat. Already it is predicted that by 2040 at least 80% of Nicaragua’s current coffee plantations will be unusable, and the story is very much the same in neighbouring regions.

Simply put, we won’t be able to continue consuming specialty coffee the way we do now forever.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! 

Remember Rols’ first blog post about The Underdog Series? A couple of months ago we both went out to a cupping at the TEC roastery in Chippendale, where they launched an impressive initiative to begin contending with this problem head-on. 

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In essence, The Underdog Series series aims to bring wicked coffees to Australia from hitherto undiscovered or unrecognised parts of the world, thereby easing the burden on current growing regions and expanding the horizons of the specialty coffee scene at the same time. Think of it as a little bit like the reusable keep cup equivalent, but riiiight at the other end of the chain. We cupped a range of coffees from Myanmar, Uganda and Malawi – and we were absolutely blown away by the richness and complexity of flavours! 

We’ve been running the first single origin from the Underdog Series – a natural processed gem out from Myaing Village in Myanmar’s Shan state – in the grinders the past couple of weeks and it’s been nothing short of extraordinary. It started out with beautiful hazelnut, chocolate and cognac notes, before transforming into this brilliantly juicy and zesty, liquer-y, lemonade-like treat. We also tried it with milk, and the result was Bailey’s in a cup. It’s been insane!And there’s heaps more to come.

So that’s the nuts and bolts of this conundrum, drop into Steamy pronto and ask one of the gang what’s running from the Underdog Series. We guarantee it’ll be unlike anything you’ve tasted before. and you’ll even be doing your bit for the planet too ☺ 

AA.

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