It's no secret African coffees are the most intense
Having worked with coffee for 42 years, we've got to know well the various nuances of the industry.
My earliest memories of coffee were from back in the 1980's when my mother opened the first espresso coffee lounge in Newcastle, NSW.
Back then, coffee was served in most eating establishments either as instant or drip-filter brewed percolator. An espresso was a rare novelty.
So this big espresso machine with a wild brass forged eagle on top was in fact taller, wider and scarier than you could possibly imagine as a young boy.
It also made the sorts of loud noises from it's big boiler that frightened anyone within a 30m radius.
Not only was the noise frightening, there was the ever present risk of injury such as a burn from the steam or a splash of scalding hot water.
Dad, an experienced hydraulics installer was always swearing at this enormous monster machine. So we were in fact lucky he was handy with tools to fix it's regular leaking and temperamental existence. Barely a week passed without incident.
In those early days, there was no such concept as specialty grade coffees or single origin coffee beans in Australia.
What Was The Coffee Like Back Then
Coffee was supplied from just 1 or 2 large Sydney roasters that pre-ground coffees and the local agent would deliver the coffees weekly in wax lined tin-tie bags to Mum's cafe.
Not much changed in the world of coffee between 1980 and 2000.
It wasn't until I was in my early 30's that I developed a serious coffee quality addiction.
Driven entirely on the culture of holding business meetings in cafes and ordering one, or many coffees to consume over relaxing conversation or exciting discussion.
It was in those capital cities along the east coast of Australia in the mid 1990's that prepared the birth of what we know now as cafe culture.
My appreciation of all things coffee was not so much the fact I was drinking a few coffees per day.
It had to do more about the journey of discovering something that was better than the last time.
As you do in your early adult life, a hunt for the absolute best coffee beans in whatever was my city at the time.
This is a story of how I became a serious coffee obsessed maniac, a person with zero tolerance for mediocre coffees.
I confess to having tragically spent more time thinking about coffee than I did about what to eat, what to do, who to catch up with or where to go.
Coffee seemed to consume my entire day.....it was more important it seemed than other people or other things.
Fast forward to the early 2000's.
The early movements in specialty coffee had some pretty fundamental beginnings in Australia.
In Melbourne around the mid 2000's, we saw the early signs and emergence of single origin estate coffees.
These were served by brave cafes and roasters willing to take some big risks to offer customers something a little different.
Coffee were roasted a bit lighter than the prevailing "dark" and before we knew it "medium" because something special.
We also started to see roasted coffees featured with descriptors, flavors and attributes/
Those at the bleeding edge of specialty coffee had the same all-consuming passion - cleaner, sweeter, smoother, fruitier. We all believed in the same thing - don't burn or over-roast the coffee to destroy the goodness.
The Beginning Of Our Online Coffee Bean Store
Around 2006, we developed a concept for preparing high quality, single origin, estate coffees that would be fresh roasted in small batch roasting systems.
The key to this concept was all about freshness and we wanted to offer these to superior coffees to everyone around Australia.
In 2007, we started shipping single origin and quality blends to customer online.
It was hard work back then as systems and logistics were literally non-existent.
Customers we also used to buying coffee in supermarkets or retail outlets and the revelation of using fresh roasted, premium coffees had not taken hold in the market.
They were really tough times. Pushing hard every day to convince and prove our quality was comparable and far better than well-known brands.
Truth is, we were and still are using much higher qualities in our raw coffees compared to the popular household brands.
It was unbelievably difficult to sell online at a price that was profitable - online was known in those days as being the destination for distressed inventory, e.g. auction sites, etc. it was not the place to buy premium, gourmet products - but times have changed.
In 2007, there were around 300 coffee brands available in Australia - with some of those being imported - say 10 to 15%.
Fast forward to 2016 and in just a few short years our domestic coffee industry has exploded to more than 1100 brands from about 650 domestic coffee roasting companies.
Whilst most of this capacity is from new entrants known as micro roasters over the last few years, the trend is still showing no signs of slowing or declining.
The coffee market in Australia is confusing to day the least - there is no structure, regulation or clear and verifiable set of standards that separate the best from the worst.
In reality, many of these new micro roasters tend to snatch a lot of attention but they really don't have the skills or experience required to deliver a consistently great product.
Australian consumers seem to be easily seduced by new brands and fall prey to hyped marketing.
Without doubt, you don't need to be a genius to see that the local Australian coffee market can not easily support such growth in the long term. A compound increase in capacity of 25% per annum over 10 years does not match the annual 4% growth rate in consumption.
Something has got to give.
Whilst it makes for great times if you are a cafe owner or coffee drinker with a never ending range of new brands to choose from, playing roaster off roaster......on the supply side (e.g. roasting coffee) the conditions and structure of the Australian coffee market, particularly the quality segment are now indeed over saturated and unsustainable.
It's been quoted a few times recently - "coffee has become the modern day equivalent to the gold rush". As with all rushes, the good money was made by the early and the large players benefiting from lock-in or contract positions.
The most obvious upside from this ultra competitive environment is the stimulant for quantum leaps in quality improvement - you must either get better at what you do or fail.
This has led to amazing changes to the overall standards of coffee in Australia and it's no surprise that Australia leads the world in roasted coffee quality (yet another debatable statement).
Due to the increased competition, over the last 5 years many coffee companies have been desperately pushing the boundaries and extending their comfort zones to produce cleaner, sweeter and more defined and unique products.
In some respects, all this effort to achieve a consistently smooth and creamy coffee has meant that some of the complexity, the wild and interesting character, the excitement factor is being lost through sanitation- by playing it too safe.
Today, most of the quality fresh roasted coffee in Australia is more than acceptable, if not a little boring - excluding supermarkets and some retail outlets where the product may be low grade or stale.
In fact, in the cup the end result these days is not so much a reflection of the ingredients (roasted coffee beans) but more about the brewing and extraction (technique). Instead of blaming the beans, we blame the barista.
Just Fresh Roasted is a move to stand out from the crowd by specializing on coffees with undeniable character.
We think that coffee drinkers in Australia deserve something more than just smooth and creamy.............they want a rich, memorable experience - something with intensity delivering amazing bursts of flavor, a hint of fruit, a spicy twist and a complex finish.
This brand is focused on taking up that challenge with African coffees that punch above their weight - which by the way, are our preferred coffee beans to brew on espresso machines.
We are creating a new coffee trend in Australia. Just watch how the others will start to follow.
See our article about how coffee roasting experience matters