Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Coffee discovered in Far North Queensland and Mid West London


After chocolate, coffee. I can report that a new species of coffee plant has been discovered in Laura, just west of Cooktown in northern Queensland, and a good coffee shop in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames, just west of central London. Both cause me great excitement.


Let’s start with the personal revelation. Following a tip off from Peter Feilen I checked out the Taylor St Barista, at the back of Source Cafe, just near the Richmond Railway Station. Prior to this, I’d had to travel to Soho – to Flat White (recommended by Simon Marnie) – or Brick Lane – to Rough Trade (also makers of good music) – to get decent coffees. (I’m sure there are other great coffee places in London but clearly there are also many not so great ones.)


This is Flat White. But back to Taylor St, where the barista was comfortable with my order of a double ristretto and some warm milk on the side (so I could mix it about 50:50). Secondly it was fresh, tasty and strong coffee. Bliss! Lynda, who is less of a coffee snob, said that her flat white tasted like...coffee.

Full marks to Taylor St (@taylor_st on Twitter)! They also sell their house-blend as beans so when my espresso machine and conical burr grinder disembark in London in late May I’ll be trying those out. I should also point out that Richmond is a 10 minute cycle from my new house while the other two are at least 40 minutes by tube...

Of more importance to the rest of the world, it turns out there is a coffee plant growing native in Australia. Whether it makes a good espresso or not is yet to be tested, but I'm optimistic given the story has been picked up first by media in Adelaide, a town that loves its coffee.

Darren Crayn, ex of Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust in Sydney, now head of the Australian Tropical Herbarium in Cairns, says “[Coffea brassii] is the very first and only native species of coffee found in the wild in Australia” and “we know almost nothing about it”. Shockingly, Darren said he doesn’t even know yet whether it contains caffeine.


Most commercial coffee is extracted from plants that are thought to have originated in Ethiopia and southern Africa. For a bit of background on Coffea arabica see one of my earlier postings. However it seems unlikely this species was transported to Australia by humans. Local Aboriginal people may be able to provide some more background on its origins and possible culinary uses.

Although the species has been know for a few decades, a plant scientist from here (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew), Aaron Davis, extracted DNA from dried herbarium material and found it had been misclassified in the genus Psilanthus.

Darren Crayn says an expedition is planned in the near future to get fresh material for further genetic testing, in part to find out if Australia will have a homegrown beverage. If it does, I’ll let Taylor St and Flat White know - both coffee joints were set up by Australians…

Images: At the top, what the rakish coffee drinker is wearing in London this season; image of coffee art from the Taylor St website; the street front of Flat White in Soho; and finally, a picture of the interpretation about coffee in Kew's Palm House. And thanks to Jim Croft for the alert to the Australian coffee story.

1 comment:

MichaelM said...

Exciting news. Do update us when you hear of the fresh DNA test. And glad to hear London has a decent coffee. A rare species in itself.