November 29, 2012

The Vanuatu Origin Story – Coffee Brothers Tanna Island

Nui is a dedicated Australian fair trade company focusing on the production of certified organic and wild harvest products from the South Pacific. We are partnering with local producers to bring Vanuatu and her 83 islands, 100 Kustoms and 1,000 voices to the Australian and international marketplace. Tanna Island Coffee is just one of those stories:

The Coffee 
The processing of Tanna Island Coffee is a true artisan tradition built on decades of local experience. Once the sweet cherry ripens to a wonderful crimson red, they are handpicked. They are then put through a hand pulper within 6 hours of harvest and fermented for approximately 24 hours, either in the Co-op processing stations scattered throughout the island or in the farmers’ homes or villages.The parchment may either be sun dried by small farmers themselves, or may be sold to one of TCP/INIK’s 7 local village buying stations in a cross-section of conditions – freshly harvested, half dry, or fully sun dried. This allows the farmers to work within their personal parameters, minimising the costs associated with growing, harvesting and holding their coffee until dry, evening out cash flow, and resulting in higher quality product overall.Coffee was first recorded on Tanna in 1852, when plants of the Bourbon variety were brought in from New Caledonia. Commercial planting trials have taken place since the 1960s, working to find plants with resistance to the endemic fungal “rust” disease. These days two varieties prevail – the established historical variety Arusha, initially from Tanzania, and the more recently planted “Dwarf” Catimor which, thanks to Tanna’s extremely fertile volcanic soil, grows to five metres tall rather than the 1.5 to 1.8 metres typical of the cultivar!The coffee is typically described as having wonderful smooth, full bodied, nutty chocolate flavours with no bitter aftertaste.

The Island
Just a short flight from Australia’s east coast lies the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. On a similar latitude to Townsville, Tanna is one of the most southerly islands in the archipelago.   The active volcano Mt Yasur and her two dormant sisters stand proud on Tanna Island and are the source of the highly fertile soil and abundant vegetation the Tannese people rely upon.

With a population of almost 21,000 people, Tanna is one of the most populated islands in Vanuatu and is renowned for its Kustom values. The Tannese people are very strong on their views of life and once focused on an issue or project, they will work very hard to make it successful. This is exemplified by the people of INIK and Tanna Island Coffee.

Mostly subsistence farmers, the people live in harmony with the moods of their island. These moods include cyclones, volcanic eruptions and El Niño climatic cycles, as well as Kustom black magic.

Although the plateau of Tanna Island is only 3-400 metres above sea level, the trade winds and cool nights allow the coffee and other plants to bathe in ideal conditions, matching their higher-altitude counterparts. In other regions coffee is grown under shade but here, because of Mt Yasur’s creation of regular cloud formations over the plateau, the coffee plants are grown happily without shade trees.

The People
Tanna Island Coffee is a joint venture between Tanna Coffee Plantations (TCP) and INIK Co-operative. INIK is the engine that drives the industry at a grass roots level in a cost effective, Kustom and environmentally friendly format. INIK gives technical advice, provides seedlings, consultation, identification of infrastructure needs and is appointed with increasing quality levels of the postharvest parchment coffee and growing systems that fit into the local farmers’ lifestyle. TCP provides strategic direction and funds and buys all parchment coffee as it becomes available from the farmers. TCP processes the parchment to dried green bean and supplies it to clients, either for export or on the domestic market.

As a mark of the partnership’s success, in early 2012 INIK Co-op started a 5 day a week delivery service of coffee seedlings to all parts of Tanna Island to kickstart replanting programs and boost production.

“It is accurately estimated that close to 100,000 coffee plants are being delivered each week by the new INIK Co-op truck supplied by TCP. This amounts in 3 years’ time to an extra 4 tonnes of coffee available for export by the Co-op per week and yearly up to 170 tonnes by 2016,” INIK’s business manager Rex Iapen told the Vanuatu Daily Post in April.

TCP and INIK Co-op are very proud of the equal emphasis they have placed on the work of both women and men within the coffee industry.  The two largest buying/processing stations are totally run and controlled by women, who handle over 30 tonnes of parchment coffee per season. These women are seen as role models within the community. Their hardworking ethics inspire others to embrace the coffee industry, promoting the fact that this is something women can succeed in, developing a sense of business, pride and togetherness. The financial independence these women gain by working in the industry is happily shared by the extended family.

The Nui – Vanuatu Connection
We are committed to empowering island communities to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through our charter – “Fair Trade for a Fair Go”. Our aim is to work with growers at every level of sustainable production to achieve measureable improvements in the livelihoods of smallholder growers. One current project, CertLink, is assisting coconut, cocoa and coffee growers to achieve multiple international-level certifications – Organic, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, UTZ, etc. Through a world-first integrated program ( producers can take advantage of the emerging ethical consumer market via a cost efficient process of data, track and trace, mentoring and management system and services to improve information, price and contract incentives.

Nui has been working in Vanuatu for many years, and it is now bringing truly unique products from this remote island country to Nui customers. As well as Tanna Island Coffee beans freshly roasted in Sydney, we also offer our signature Wild Harvest Virgin Coconut Oil and single origin Vanuatu Cacao and Vanilla.

BY Cheryl Thomas

For information, contact
Nui International on 1300 667 668 or visit

Tanna Island Coffee welcomes visitors
For more information on Vanuatu, please visit
Images courtesy of Tanna Island Coffee and Vanuatu Tourism.

The Coffee Bros Tanna Island

Coffee Brothers started with a passion: to provide Australians with award winning coffee, help farmers grow their coffee industry and create a business that supports each generation of the Coffee Brothers family.

In 2011, Coffee Brothers visited Tanna coffee plantations on Tanna Island, Vanuatu. The people, the coffee and the growing conditions were all beyond our expectations. So a decision was made to purchase the product and on the 15th of December, a shipment of 15 tonnes was delivered to our premises in Mona Vale, Sydney. Helped by New Zealand roasters and Mike Pole of Tanna Coffee Plantation (TCP), we were advised of a variety of blends that had been tried and succeeded in retail. After a few thorough cupping sessions, we chose a blend with an amazing aroma and a very addictive taste, that left all of our cuppers wanting more.With knowledge that Coffee Brothers had created a blend that would be liked by many, we entered a single origin, organic Vanuatu blend into the 2012 Sydney Fine Food Festival. We were ecstatic when we heard that we had won the Bronze for our Vanuatu Gold. It was a great start for Coffee Brothers.The story of the people and their livelihoods also make this coffee special. These farmers are from a timeless place – one in which their coffee growing is in cohesion with their way of life. They are now, however, beginning to understand the value of their story and the personal level between farmer and consumer.

Coffee Brothers visit the plantation yearly, keeping quality assurance at the highest standard and maintaining our connection with the farmer. These people don’t have the internet or telephones; for the farmer to see our face every 6 months and know that we are still behind their product is a motivator for their industry.

The future of Tanna Island will need to turn to larger scale farming to overcome the world demand for their product. Quality assurance systems are in place to continue the onward and upward rise of this great taste, along with constant feedback from roasters. Coffee Brothers hopes that the knowledge of our success story and many others will motivate the people of Tanna to continue to expand and deliver the great product that is Tanna Island Coffee. We have sent a copy of our medal to the Tafea Council Office on Tanna, hoping that it will be displayed as a sign of commitment, industry strength and to distinguish the brighter future that these people are capable of.

Coffee Brothers  W.

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