- Food and Cooking»
Have You Ever Tried Tanna Island Coffee?
Coffee From Tanna Island, Vanuatu
A few years ago, my partner and I had a short holiday in Vanuatu, where we discovered Tanna coffee. The resort we stayed at in Port Vila gave us a small packet of ground coffee, which we didn't bother to try until we returned to Australia.
What a mistake! If we'd known how tasty it was, we'd have stocked up on it. I don't really like coffee, but am always willing to have a cup of the Tanna variety! Fortunately, we were able to source it when we got home.
2015: Recently, a bad Cyclone devastated Vanuatu, and the worst hit island was Tanna. This has been a huge hit to the economy of this poor country, and the coffee farmers. The co-operative is working hard to get the industry back on its feet again.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos in this lens are my own, all rights reserved, thanks.
A Little About Tanna Island
Many of you may not have heard of Tanna Island, so here is a little about it.
Tanna is one of the islands in Vanuatu, to the South of the group. Vanuatu is situated between the South Pacific, and the Coral Sea. You can see it almost at the bottom of the inset map.
Tanna Island is about 40 km (25 miles) long and 19 km (12 miles) wide, and it is volcanic. The population is approximately 20,000 and the capital is Isangel, on the West Coast. The largest town is Lenakel.
The people of Tanna are Melanesians, with many of them being resistant to change. In the smaller towns and villages, they follow a more traditional lifestyle.
The other important industry on Tanna Island is tourism, and there is an active volcano, Mt. Yasur, which has been in constant eruption for well over 100 years. It's the volcano which has made the soil so good on Tanna. The noise from Mt Yasur's very frequent explosions can be heard miles away.
Where Is Tanna Island?
Coffee Items From Amazon
Have you ever tried growing your own coffee?
How Coffee Came To Tanna
In 1852, coffee was imported from New Caledonia, which is the earliest record of it arriving in Vanuatu. Most of the coffee plants did not survive.
In the early nineteen-sixties, some trials were undertaken using Arabica plants, but this was not successful, as a fungal disease called 'rust' wiped out the plants.
Very little happened with regards to coffee until approximately 1980, when the Vanuatu government and a British group selected a small section of land in Tanna to develop a plantation.
It took quite a few years to discover a variety of coffee plant which would do well in the climate and conditions of Vanuatu, but in the 2000s, production has been growing steadily. Production does not keep up with demand, currently.
The original plantation no longer exists, and local farmers are now using the land.
The picture is an Arabica variety coffee bush, which is the type grown on Tanna.
Mt Yasur In Eruption
Volcanic Soil Is Good For Coffee!
Tanna Island, Vanuatu, is volcanic in origin, and the soil is rich and fertile. Mt Yasur, the volcano, is in constant eruption, so there is plenty of ash enriching the soil.
The coffee is grown by farmers who are in a co-operative for marketing the coffee, which means they share in the profits. The group decides for itself how income is distributed.
All coffee grown on Tanna Island is totally organic. It has a rich and nutty flavour, and best of all, there is no bitter aftertaste.
The photo was taken by me as we approached Mt Yasur. You could hear the eruptions very clearly - they go on 24/7 !
Another great guide from Lonely Planet
Volcanic Sand Beach
Tanna Is A Fertile Land
The volcano ensures fertile soil on Tanna Island, and there is a good water supply for the coffee farmers. The plants also benefit from the night-time dew. The climate is tropical, which suits the coffee plant very well. In fact, the plants grow taller on Tanna than they do in other places.
The coffee grown on Tanna is the Arabica variety, one of the best for flavour. Beans are picked by the local farm owners, and collected by the co-op., Inik, for processing and onselling.
In the photo, you can see the black volcanic sands, typical of Tanna Island.
Coffee Beans Growing
Coffee Bean Harvesting
The photo shows coffee beans on the bush, just beginning to ripen. Green berries tend to make a more bitter coffee than the fully ripe red beans. Tanna Island coffee is picked when red, which makes a better quality product.
In the past few years, production of Tanna Island Coffee has grown dramatically, and it is an important source of income for the people of the island.
Tanna Island Coffee Poll
Have you ever tried Tanna Island Coffee?
Processing Coffee Beans
When the coffee beans turn bright red, they are handpicked, and delivered to the processing plant as soon as possible. They are put through a hand pulper to remove the fruit, and then fermented for about a day.
The next step is to dry the beans, which is normally done in the sun, with final drying done by machine. After this, the bean is hulled, which removes the thin skin from around it.
The beans are then sorted according to size, before being graded. Some of this process is done by machine, but much is done by hand.
When sorted and graded, the beans are roasted, before being either packaged for sale as beans, or ground for sale as powder.
The coffee is marketed in three types, Dark Roast, Medium Roast, and Light Roast.
Our Supply Of Tanna Coffee
Supply Isn't Always Easy
It isn't always easy to obtain this coffee, so when we buy it, we buy in bulk. This is the current reserve stock, which will keep us going for a while. There is currently only one supplier in Australia, and it's only available on-line at the moment.