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Byron Shire
February 1, 2023

Bangalow Coffee, a true local brew

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She grows it, she makes it, she serves it: Michelle Clarke.

For many of us, the day can’t really start without a cup of coffee. Thankfully, whether your preference is a latte, macchiato or a long black, local coffee grower and barista, Michelle Clarke, has you covered!

Michelle and husband Andy have been growing coffee on their farm at Nashua for 25 years. Back when they started, they were one of many in the Northern Rivers who decided to try their hand at coffee. However, Michelle says the number of small-scale local coffee growers has reduced dramatically.

‘When we started, there was a lot of interest in growing coffee in this area,’ she says. ‘The climate is ideal and there was a local coffee co-op, which was where many of the region’s growers sold their beans. But the co-op folded after our first few harvests, which saw a lot of other growers drop out as there was no other outlet to sell our coffee.’

Luckily for Michelle and Andy, the birth of Byron Farmers Market in 2002 coincided with the closure of the co-op, providing them with a viable outlet for their coffee, sold under the banner of Bangalow Coffee. 

‘We were so lucky with the timing as we were original members of Byron Farmers Market and our business grew as the market grew,’ Michelle says. ‘In fact, if it hadn’t been for the farmers’ market, we probably would have pulled the coffee out like so many others at the time did.’

Instead, Bangalow Coffee has gone from strength to strength and is not only popular at the market but is also in demand from local cafes.

‘It took a long time to prove that Australian coffee is good,’ Michelle says. ‘Now coffee shops want to buy our coffee and we can’t grow enough.’ 

Michelle says the unique flavour of Bangalow Coffee can be attributed to a couple of things: ‘We handpick our coffee, as the cost of machinery required for harvesting is prohibitive, so we are limited to how much we can grow. The flipside is that because we only harvest small quantities at a time, we can sun-dry our beans, which enhances and improves the flavour of the coffee.’ 

You can find Michelle and the full range of Bangalow Coffee at Byron Farmers Market every Thursday morning.

Byron Farmers Market is held Thursdays 7–11am at Butler Street Reserve.

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