Byron Bay in Northern NSW is the gateway to beautiful beach fronts, lush hinterland, subtropical rainforests. It is also home to coffee farm pioneer and roaster Rebecca (Bec) Zentveld who continues to achieve many firsts in the hills behind Byron Bay – which, it turns out, has the terroir and perfect sub-tropical cooler microclimate to grow truly fine coffee.
Coffee, which has no pests and diseases, is presently grown in select pockets only across Australia. Besides Bryon Bay, Northern Rivers, coffee is also grown in the Tablelands behind Cairns Queensland, and pockets of good soil and subtropical conditions across South East Queensland but has potential to grow to other areas of Australia.
“Being so few in number, we are genuinely friendly and supportive of new growers,” said Bec.
“There is room for more! Australian needs more growers and we want them to grow well – and grow quality. That is good for all of us, to showcase to the world the high standard of coffee we can grow here. We really do share our developments and innovations amongst coffee growers and continue to seek and support research for the good of the wider coffee industry to help it grow into the future,” said Bec.
“We trade ideas on sustainability, cover crops, pruning, and the like as well research opportunities arising for the good of the industry.”
AgriFutures Australia has identified the Australian coffee industry with strong growth potential as part of the AgriFutures Emerging Industries program and is currently investing in three coffee industry projects focused on the selection of best performing cultivars for improved productivity, assessing quality parameters to define the value of Australian-origin coﬀee as a global-niche product and creating a plan for a compelling industry-wide environmental sustainability system.
“We are really proud to be chosen as a rural industry, worthy of Government support – a crop that has a good future, deserving of suitable research into new varietals, terroir and processing quality parameters; as well as identifying sustainability factors that will help ensure our solid future of high value and interest to new growers,” said Bec.
The Zentveld family story
In the late 80’s the Zentveld family were the first landowners to take up coffee growing seriously in the NSW Northern Rivers. Taking advice from the NSW Department of Agriculture, they kickstarted the local NSW coffee industry.
“In our early 20’s we left Melbourne, to start our new life on the family coffee farm at Byron Bay. John gaining a good position as Programmer with Southern Cross University in Lismore and I set about putting my savings into setting up a wholesale coffee roasting business on our family farm to present Australian coffee at its best. It was very much an unusual profession for someone at 23, but I wasn’t daunted. John and I both grew up with entrepreneurial families.” said Bec.
Living in Melbourne, Bec learnt to drink good coffee and pay attention to the nuances – so it set the benchmarks for flavour and complexity that she was striving for. Bec set about learning through trial and tastings how to roast and unlock the flavour potential of Australian grown coffee.
“In the early 90’s I was told numerous times that ‘the best coffee is Italian”. Well how times have changed! We’ve really grown and developed along with the rise of Australian roasters and consumers who are increasingly quite discerning.”
Bec is now a long-standing pioneer of offering Australian estate coffee. She’s been dubbed the Roast Mistress or Coffee Queen, but whatever the title – is always focused on the end game which is “to please tastebuds”. Roasting for flavour profile consistently. Vacuum packing for lasting freshness.