The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Coffee World – An Unlikely Cairns Hit

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on March 21, 2010

During the trip, I recently finished the book, A History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage.  It was a wonderfully interesting book about six drinks that had a tremendous impact on how cultures developed throughout history.  Among them were coffee and tea.  The history behind tea and coffee, and its impact on world history and the former British colonies is fascinating.  Suffice it to say, the book has had me “fired up” about tea and coffee, recently. IMG_5990 While we were leaving Brisbane, I was wondering if Australia produced any coffee.  It seemed like the perfect climate, being humid, warm/hot, and mountainous.  While we were in Hervey Bay, I asked a barista if coffee was grown in Australia.  She confirmed that it was, in several locations along the coast.  I ended up buying some coffee in Miram Vale; coffee grown on the Capricorn Coast.  When we came to Cairns, we expected to take one day and go up to Daintree National Park.  As we were looking through the regional guide, we realized that there are all sorts of things to do in northern Queensland.  Among them were the coffee plantations of the Atherton Tablelands.  Northern Queensland produces 90% of Australia’s coffee crop, and in the heart of the coffee region, was Coffee World. It seemed like a cheesy kind of touristy thing to do, but I wanted to do it.  It included tastings of 21 coffees, 4 kinds of teas (Northern Queensland is also a significant producer of tea), chocolates, and liqueurs.  It also included an exhibit of the history of coffee. IMG_5844When we arrived, the parking lot was empty.  Coffee World is about an hour west of Cairns, and because we had other things on the day’s agenda, including the Skyrail Kuranda, we left Cairns early.  Coffee World is open from 9 am – 4 pm, daily, excluding Christmas.  We arrived about 9:45, and the lot was completely empty.  We weren’t even really certain where to go as the parking lot is separated from the building by a hedge of tropical trees.  We found our way inside, though, and it was quite inviting.  The $19 AUD per couple was about the most inexpensive attraction the Wife and I have been to in Australia. IMG_5847 IMG_6017The young lady at the reception area collected our money, and gave us a thorough rundown on Coffee World’s paid attraction.  It included a large tasting area, including the promised 21 coffees, four teas, 12 kinds of chocolate, and three liqueurs.  There was a sizable seating/cafe area for enjoying the coffee.  Then there was the “history of coffee.”  We’ll give you the full story in a minute, but for now, suffice it to say that it wasn’t quite what we expected.  Once we were finished with the tour and tastings, we were welcome to enjoy the gift shop, the chocolatier, and the small outdoor cafe for a light snack. IMG_5895We jumped right into the coffee, and had a taste of authentic Australian coffee to start.  One small cup, and then off to the “history of coffee.”  This exhibit was amazingly complete. IMG_5991It included professional placards detailing the legends of the origins of coffee, timelines of how coffee grew to worldwide consumption, and interesting stories about its impact on events throughout history. IMG_5855It included over 2000 pieces of coffee paraphernalia, of all sorts.  Coffee pots, coffee brewers, espresso machines, coffee grinders for coffee shops, coffee grinders for industrial production, coffee roasters using flames, coffee roasters using hot air, french presses, steam presses, peculators… it went on and on.  Some of the artifacts were well over 100 years old, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed something that was over 200 years old. IMG_5856 Industrial coffee roasters. IMG_5857 Another industrial roaster. IMG_5858 An italian-made espresso machine from the 1960s, as I recall. IMG_5861 A selection of home espresso machines, if I’m not mistaken. IMG_5862 And more…IMG_5865Coffee shop and home coffee grinders. Each item had a number attached to it, and they had “walkie talkies” with audible commentary for several of the items.  The audible commentary was provided by the collector, who was remarkably knowledgeable about coffee and its histories, including the context as to why individual pieces were significant at the time. IMG_5854 I was in awe, listening to probably only a tenth of the audio tour. IMG_5918 There were also multiple room with “interactive,” coffee-inspired, automated skits.  One had a “World Coffee Olympics” theme.  These WERE cheesy, and I wasn’t able to get through any of them.  But they WERE inspired, and they were three more rooms packed full of coffee artifacts. Believe it or not, there was also a whole second floor devoted to TEA and TEA history.  It wasn’t nearly as complete as the coffee floor, but it was an impressive addition to Coffee World. IMG_5924 IMG_5938 After a little over an hour in the exhibit, we went back out to indulge in our free tastings. IMG_5881 The coffee selection included Australian coffees, exclusive blends of the Australian coffees, and then several imported coffees from around the world.  The usual suspects, really: Nicaraguan, Columbian, Ethiopian, etc.  There were also flavored versions of their coffees.  I made my way around to several of the coffees.  I still think the Australian coffee is made pretty strong, but I have to say the Australian Arabica coffee was very good, as well as a couple of the flavored coffees. IMG_5879The selections of chocolate were intriguing, so we tried a couple of all of them.  They had several of the chocolates made with coffee, including dark, milk, and white chocolates.  They had chili chocolate, and multiple kinds of bark, including macadamia bark. IMG_5889 It was all wonderfully scrumptious, and as you might expect, went very well with the coffee.  The Wife jumped on the tea right away, and the local teas were mild (but not weak), without any overbearing bitterness, and generally exactly how each tea was described, respectively.  IMG_5883 We also tried the liqueurs.  There were two coffee liqueurs and a chocolate liqueur.  They were amazing.  They each captured a strong essence of the appropriate flavor, with almost no alcohol flavor (which is generally appropriate for a liqueur). IMG_5884In the tasting room, there were still more professional placards about coffee, its production, and the Australian coffee industry.   IMG_5903Here’s is a picture (of a picture) of ripened coffee berries.  If you don’t know how coffee is made, coffee bushes grow berries.  These berries grow to full size after a couple months, but once they are full size, it takes another several months for them to fully ripen.  They go from a green, to yellow, and eventually to red. IMG_5909Here is a picture of them on the bush before ripening.  Once they ripen, they are harvested.  The seeds are removed from the berries; two seeds per berry.  These seeds are roasted, which becomes the coffee beans that are ground into the coffee grounds you buy at the grocery store. IMG_5915 After we enjoyed all our coffee, chocolate, and tea, we headed out to the gift shop. IMG_5850 The gift shop had pre-packaged and “bulk” coffee.  We were interested in all kinds of coffee, but were considering how we would carry it and get it home, through four major cities, yet, with minimal problems.  So we asked if they ship internationally, and they do!  Check them out!IMG_6001 IMG_6003 The selection of liqueurs were also available. IMG_5997We headed over to the chocolatier to see what was available there.  Chocolates were even in the shape of little coffee beans, which were the perfect size.  The chocolatier was climate-controlled, which made sense in the otherwise open-air gift shop.  The tropical heat would have made chocolate soup out of all that chocolate.  Keeping this in mind, they did not, generally, ship chocolate.  Not that they WOULDN’T ship chocolate, but they generally said they had problems shipping chocolate around Australia, let alone internationally.  Sorry, folks. IMG_6009 This picture really doesn’t do justice to these two chocolate eggs.  These eggs are probably 18 inches tall, and remarkably well-decorated. IMG_6007Alas, it was time for us to move on.  We had stuck around for over two hours, learning about coffee, tasting it, and we needed to get going to the Skyrail in Kuranda, which was suggested to us by a friend, and was reiterated by a couple from Atlanta that we met in Cairns they night before.  We weren’t sure how late they would let us get on the ride, or how long it would take us to get to Kuranda, so we headed out around noon. As you’ll see in our upcoming posts, Cairns itself is a fine town, with both shopping and dining options, but really it relishes its position as a staging point for visitors to enjoy the surrounding Northern Queensland environment.  If you have an opportunity, and you have any interest in coffee, we would definitely recommend Coffee World as a “different” and yet wholly-enjoyable attraction outside of Cairns.  Drink up and enjoy!

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One Response to “Coffee World – An Unlikely Cairns Hit”

  1. Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers said

    My favorite chocolate was the Lemon Myrtle 🙂 and I loved all of the teas!

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