Though coffee stalls are now ubiquitous at markets, there aren’t many where your latte will be made and served by the very same person who grew the coffee.
‘Not every region is as blessed as northern NSW,’ says Jane Adams, national spokesperson for the Australian Farmers’ Market Association. She says this because northern NSW is one of only two regions where coffee grows in Australia. Coffee here truly aligns with the ethos of farmers markets: produce grown by local farmers.
There are four farmers markets in Byron Shire: New Brighton (Tuesdays), Byron (Thursdays), Mullumbimby (Fridays) and Bangalow (Saturdays). Each market has between one and three coffee farmers.
Some farms sell almost all the coffee they grow at the markets, either in the form of hot drinks or packets for home use. ‘Without the markets, we probably wouldn’t be in business,’ says Bob James, the Akubra-wearing farmer from Myocum Coffee. Byron Aromas is the exception, also selling roasted coffee online and through retail outlets as well as selling green (unroasted) beans.
Most of the farmers have been at the markets since they started (nearly 13 years for Byron to just over five for Mullumbimby). They’ve seen changes in trends over this time.
Increasing popularity is the first trend. Coffee consumption is on the rise everywhere and the farmers markets are no exception. Tables and chairs encourage people to hang around (and maybe have a second coffee!) rather than just shop and go.
Another trend is increasing interest in the coffee: how it’s grown, processed and roasted. Visitors, as well as some locals, are amazed to find that the coffee on offer is grown locally. Bob James from Myocum Coffee has a handy flipbook of photos to supplement his firsthand descriptions of life on a coffee farm.
Punters are getting more discriminating (or is this code for fussy?). Coffee jargon is almost a language in itself these days and is always changing. Michelle Clarke from Bangalow Coffee was happy to know what was required when asked for a ‘magic’ the other week. (For those less in the know, a ’magic’ is a double-shot ristretto topped with three-quarters of the usual milk volume). Soy milk is offered by all and almond milk is starting to be available. In keeping with the down-to-earth nature of the markets, latte art is optional. ‘It’s appreciated but not expected,’ says Michelle.
A brand new initiative at Mullumbimby Farmers Market aims to tackle a major downside of our love of coffee – the waste. The University of Queensland estimates that more than one billion coffee cups are produced every year in Australia, generating more than 7,000 tonnes of waste. The Mullum market has taken this on by having cups available with someone dedicated to collecting and washing them. ‘I love it; the coffee tastes better and we’re not creating waste,’ says a market regular, Annique Goldenberg.
Instead of hitting a cafe for your next morning coffee, try heading to a farmers market. You can enjoy a locally grown coffee, chat to the person who grew it and pick up some beans (coffee and fava!) at the same time.