This morning, the sleep barely washed from my face and my clothes inside out, I pointed my car in the direction of Karma Coffee Roasters to pick up some freshly roasted beans. The Trader Joe's coffee (Moka Java) that I was waking up to wasn't cutting it - it was coffee in utility only.
The dogs waited in the car (early morning here is still cool) while I ran in for a pound of the good stuff.
And this is when my mind was blown. David, the proprietor of Karma, offered me a sample cup of Australian Bundja. What? I had been to Australia, and I didn't see Australian-grown coffee anywhere. Vaguely, somewhere in the back of my mind I could recall something about some lower-quality coffee from -maybe?- Australia, but I couldn't pinpoint the memory.
I did a little internet research on Australian coffee. Grown in Northern and Northeastern Australia's subtropical zone no higher than 900 meters (but usually between 200 and 300 meters), it has an interesting story. Usually lowland coffee is largely Robusta beans. In Australia, the crop is largely Arabica, the higher-quality beans that comprise "gourmet" coffee. One Australian coffee company, Mountain Top Coffee Company in New South Wales claims that the conditions in which their coffee is grown is similar to 1200 meters in equitorial regions. And it is the Mountain Top Coffee Company (MTC) that created the Bundja Brand and process as a way of distinguishing itself from other growers and its coffee from other Australian coffees.
As I learned from the Coffee and Conservation website, linked above, most large-scale Australian coffee is grown in full sun in neat rows for easier harvest - it isn't shade grown, does require some irrigation during hot seasons, is, for the most part, mechanically harvested, and usually isn't 100% organic. Bundja coffee,though not necessarily organic, is harvested in a way that makes it unique from other coffees.The cherries are allowed to dry first as 'raisins', then rehydrated before pulping, creating a more musky flavored coffee. Bundja is always from a single MTC-owned estate or privately-owned estate by agreement with MTC. According to Kenneth Davids' Coffee Review:
"The resulting coffee is quite sweet and low in acidity, tending to display fruity, mustily pungent notes, probably developed while in contact with the drying fruit on the trees."
The folks at coffeesnobs.com.au have an interesting dialogue around the Bundja coffee 2007 harvest. Opinion is mostly positive.
In Australia, the coffee is roasted for espresso makers, as 80% of the coffee sold in Australia is espresso (and most of the remaining coffee is instant). MTC claims their roasted coffee also works for drip coffee, but I find the resulting Americano lacking in subtlety and grace. In the US, coffee roasters are roasting Bundja for drip coffee makers, so there's no worry that Bunja roasted here will be slightly too dark for drip.
I acquired my Bundja at Karma. There are other US roasters selling it right now. Just search the interwebs.