Freddie Wong, Norfolk Island resident, chef and coffee drinker wants to retire. So he started a coffee farm.
Why not? On 5 acres you have to do something. He thought it sounded relaxing, “Sitting down every day with a cup of coffee seems nice”, he says.
He learned the basics from a now aborted coffee plantation initiative on the island and the rest he learned from the internet.
But in the first year he lost 30 per cent of his crop. “What is the problem?”, he asks us tourists on his coffee tour. Flood, say the Kiwis; drought say the Aussies.
Turns out we’re both wrong. Wind. Coffee plants don’t like wind.
It’s windy on the island particularly at Anson Bay at the northern end. Wildly scenic though it is, it’s not good if you are a coffee plant.
That was 3 years ago and Freddie Wong has learned a lot since.
He learned that mature plants can counter the wind. “Once they are established they can support each other”, he tells us.
Freddie Wong doesn’t envisage getting rich from his boutique coffee plantation but clearly this islander of 33 years enjoys showing people a different side to Norfolk Island, in between running the only chinese restaurant in town, The Colony, and growing hydroponics for the restaurant.
He and his wife took up the offer and immediately loved it. Later he bought the restaurant and bought up two daughters on “our island”, as he calls it.
Freddie takes us through the coffee process (pick, hull, soak, drain, sun-dry then roast and drink) in the typical Norfolk Island style (read: leisurely). Then we take a guided tour of the backyard. As an enthusiastic bean queen I never knew that coffee was a fruit and its beans are red. We taste a red bean straight from the tree and it is pleasantly tropical and surprisingly sweet.
Freddie’s coffee is hand picked – he believes it still makes for a better taste than machine picked coffee. From crop to cup is Anson Coffee’s motto; it is very labour intensive. “I am still unable to retire”, says Freddie.
He then takes us to “the factory” – a shed sitting below a chinese pear tree. Self-taught Freddie demonstrates his coffee hulling machinery, which is operated on a lawn machine mower engine.
Then time for roasting. “No-one cares how coffee is grown, they just want to know how it is roasted. Roasting is the easy part” says Freddie. He takes us to his roasting and tasting room, newly refurbished for his coffee tour. At first it smells of straw, but gradually that familiar roasted coffee smell permeates the air and makes cracking sounds, like popcorn.
The moment of truth arrives. Freddie makes coffees to order and asks for feedback. The verdict? Smooth and mild, with a velvety texture.
Freddie only sells in Norfolk Island and mail order. But it tastes the best under rustling palm trees, overlooking 5 acres of sub troppo paradise, while nibbling an old school ginger crunch.