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Have You Ever Tried Tanna Island Coffee?

Updated on July 21, 2016

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.

Tanna Coffee.   Image by Snakesmum
Tanna Coffee. Image by Snakesmum

A Little About Tanna Island

Photo Credit for the inset. Photo Credit for the larger map (Shown below)

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?


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Coffee Plant

Arabica Coffee Plant
Arabica Coffee Plant | Source

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

Mt Yasur Volcano.   Image by Snakesmum
Mt Yasur Volcano. Image by Snakesmum

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 !

Volcanic Sand Beach

Lonamilla, Vanuatu.   Image by Snakesmum
Lonamilla, Vanuatu. Image by Snakesmum

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 Bush
Coffee Bush | Source

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

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Coffee Beans

Coffee Beans
Coffee Beans | Source

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

Coffee Stockpile.   Image by Snakesmum
Coffee Stockpile. Image by Snakesmum

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.

Your Comments On Coffee

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    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      If you can obtain Tanna Coffee, I think you'll like it. It's my favourite perculated variety. Glad you enjoyed the article, and if you ever go to Vanuatu, Tanna is a great place.

    • Yvette Munro profile image

      Yvette Munro 2 years ago

      Interesting lens. I love the different coffee smells. This one sounds particularly interesting.

    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Very good lens on coffee. These exotic islands have coffees not known to a lot of people because they are not marketable sometimes. I think you have tasted something that you will make a lot of coffee lovers very jealous... Thanks for sharing your valuable information:=)

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Interesting about the volcanic soil.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Dabdab: I believe it's available in the USA, but not sure about other countries. It's hard to find though. Check the Tanna Island Coffee site for info.

    • Dabdab profile image

      Dabdab 4 years ago

      I love tasting different types of coffee and this one sounds fantastic. How frustrating that it's not available elsewhere in the world. Great information on this lens too - thank you, it was a great read.

    • profile image

      TheGardenGuys 4 years ago

      I've always got time for a coffee.

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 4 years ago

      I love trying different coffees so I would definitely like to try this one from Tanna island.

    • adragast24 profile image

      adragast24 4 years ago

      Never tried coffee from Tanna but recently discovered coffee from Rwanda (gift from a friend) and it smells so good. Thanks for telling us about Tanna coffee!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I look forward to have a taste of this coffee.

    • profile image

      lionmom100 4 years ago

      Sounds like good coffee. And I am a coffee lover. Nice to see the new Coffee Theme in a ens. I really like it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Sounds like Tanna is great coffee. Very cool lens.