Giving coffee a shot

Rob recently sold 2000 seedlings to individuals interested in attempting to nurture the Christmas-tree-shaped plants.

Rob and his wife Carol Schluter currently cultivate 700 Arabica Laurina trees, which they anticipate will produce between 40 and 50 kilogrammes of roasted coffee this season.

Rob says the variety was discovered in the Reunion Islands in 1770 and is in high demand due to its caffeine content, which is one-third that of standard arabica coffee.

“The cup contains less bitterness. It’s always been a delicate coffee, more akin to a tea than anything else.”

The trees, which reach a height of just two metres, thrive in the hills near Doubtless Bay but struggle elsewhere due to pests and disease, Rob explains.

Due to the coffee’s unique characteristics and scarcity, it commands a premium price.

This year, a 130 gramme bag costs $60, or $460 per kilogramme.

“I received a few e-mails from individuals, one in particular stands out. ‘I’ve never been so excited to spend six times what I’ve ever spent on coffee,’ this gentleman stated. As a result, he was overjoyed simply to make the purchase.

“To put it another way, if you were to purchase this varietal from New Caledonia or the Reunion Islands from a roastery in Paris or Tokyo, you would pay between $600 and $1000 per kilogramme.”

Rob is eager for others to plant the variety. He invites prospective growers to observe him in action and to learn about the labor-intensive nature of the coffee growing and manufacturing processes.

“So that’s either a confirmation or a deterrent,” he smiles.

He claims that his clay soils are unsuitable for trees.

“Quite possibly, (others) have a better location, better soil, and possibly even better growing practises. They could be cultivating avocados. They may have twenty years of experience cultivating market gardens. It’s quite exciting to involve others.

“It would be incredible if the Far North possessed the capacity to grow coffee and establish itself as a coffee destination.”

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