Kahawa Estate is on the market!
After 18 years, Kahawa Estate Coffee is up for sale and farmers Jos and Wendy Webber are searching for the right person to continue their coffee farming legacy.
Jos and Wendy Webber have lived in their own slice of coffee farming heaven since 2003.
Talking to BeanScene from their front veranda overlooking the coffee estate, the pair marvel at the creation they’ve built from the ground up. But the time has come to bid farewell to Kahawa Estate Coffee, and Jos and Wendy want to see their beloved farm in Teven, New South Wales, taken over by an enthusiastic coffee lover who can continue to nurture and evolve Kahawa’s award-winning coffee legacy.
“We will miss it terribly. It’s been an extraordinary journey. We feel so satisfied with what we’ve been able to achieve, and we really hope someone will enjoy the same thrills of this farming coffee as we have,” says Wendy.
Up for sale is an amazing parcel of land: a nine-hectare-property with about four hectares of coffee trees wrapped around two natural creeks, two hectares of regenerated subtropical rainforest, a dam, a four-bedroom, two-bathroom cedarboard house with pool, and well-manicured flower garden to attract local birds and bees.
Eighteen years ago, Jos and Wendy left behind the chilly climes of Canberra and ventured north to the subtropical paradise that is the Northern Rivers District of NSW in search of a new direction and opportunity. Jos, a former vet and Wendy, a newly retired physiotherapist, looked at what could thrive in the area.
“Coffee seemed the easiest to grow at the time. It was really the only crop in the area that didn’t need the use of pesticides,” Jos says. “The farm originally had 200 avocado trees, but it was hard work picking each avocado by hand. I was really attracted to coffee and Wendy was born and grew up in Kenya, which has strong ties to coffee, so we decided to give it a go.”
Jos got advice from the Australian Subtropical Coffee Association (ASTCA), horticulturalist David Peasley who was consulting in the area, and later, farmer John Zentveld Senior. They gave their encouragement for Jos to plant K7 varietal seeds on the rich, red, volcanic soil.
The K7s were deemed the best for mechanical harvesting and cup quality as the commercial coffee industry was being established. The trees can grow a bit too vigorously and require pruning. However, through Jos’ close involvement in the World Coffee Research Multi-Location Variety Trial with Southern Cross University, he’s confident the industry is on the brink of establishing new semi-dwarf varieties that are leaf rust resistant and won’t require pruning.
“We are two to three years away from an exciting new development in Australian-grown coffee. I’ve invested a lot of my time and passion in the trials, so it’ll be a really exciting time for the new owner of this land,” Jos says. “It would be wonderful to see the new owner become one of the first growers to embrace the enhanced production values of these new varieties.”
At its peak, each of the 12,000 K7 trees produced around 600 grams of green beans, equalling 60 tonnes of harvested cherry and about six tonnes of green beans. Jos processes and roasts the beans on site.
“Watching the cherry come out of the harvester into the bags and noticing how consistently red the cherries are is most satisfying,” Wendy says. “I’d come out first thing in the morning before work to help rake the parchment beans on the grass and the smell was just wonderful. The parchment drying in the sun also has its own delicious nutty smell, as does the roasting and the flowering with a heavy gardenia fragrance. To know that we were involved in the whole crop to cup process is really satisfying.”
Even more satisfying has been the awards Kahawa’s single estate coffee has received over the years. It first entered the Sydney Royal Show and received a silver medal in the plunger, lighter roast category and continued submitting coffee entries each year. Kahawa Estate has won more than 20 medals for its blends at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show and Royal Hobart Fine Food Show.
Consumer demand for Kahawa Estate Coffee has never stopped. The majority of roasted coffee is sent via post to loyal customers across Australia, with an increased level of support in 2020 for locally produced product.
Now, there is a unique opportunity to carry Kahawa Estate Coffee’s heritage and help cultivate a much-needed boost for Australian coffee farming.
“The Australian coffee farming community needs more growers, and there’s plenty of room and opportunity to grow it here. The farm is well equipped for someone to take over. The infrastructure is already there with the right equipment, sheds, soil, irrigation licence and climate, ready for someone to start their own coffee business. All we need is someone with plenty of energy, a lot of passion for growing, and a love for coffee and roasting to continue this wonderful profession,” Jos says.
Over the years, Jos has also served as ASTCA President and Treasurer, and has led the development of the industry’s Biosecurity Plan and Grower’s Manual for others to follow. Jos and Wendy are now looking for a new challenge and are likely to focus their attention on native and European bees for honey production.
But wherever they go, the farming couple aim to take about 20 to 30 coffee trees with them.
“We’re certainly not finished quite yet with the subtropical coffee industry. We’ve assembled a sizeable knowledge bank over the past couple of decades and expect that we will remain quite connected into the broader industry,” Jos says. “It’s been an incredible journey. However, it’s time for us to move on. We just hope we can find the right person to embrace Australian-grown coffee.”
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This article appeared first in the August 2021 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe here.