The North Coast is known as a mecca for fine coffee, but local grower Michelle Clarke of Bangalow Coffee says it hasn’t always been this way.

When she and husband Andy started growing coffee almost 20 years ago, it was hard to find buyers for their product.

“In the early years you’d go around to all the coffee shops and no one was interested in buying it because they thought local coffee wasn’t any good,” Michelle said.

These days, things couldn’t be more different. Michelle and Andy sell virtually every coffee bean they produce from the 7000 trees on their property – 99 percent of that locally via the farmers markets, where they also sell their coffee by the cup.

Michelle says locally grown coffee enjoys its excellent reputation thanks to its sweet, chocolatey flavour, the result of a slow ripening process.

She says it has a great body and flavour, but a lower caffeine content.

“That’s basically because they’re aren’t any pests of coffee in Australia compared to around the world. Caffeine is a defence mechanism for the tree so when it’s trying to fend off pests it pumps out the caffeine as a repellent. Our trees aren’t working as hard so they tend to be lower in caffeine.”

Michelle says hand picking the coffee cherries, as opposed to machine harvesting, improves the flavour of her coffee as this ensures only the ripest are selected.

Michelle, who moved to Nashua with her geologist husband Andy and their children in the late 90s, says it has been interesting to watch people’s appreciation and knowledge of coffee grow over the years.

“Certainly habits have changed. People like their double shot piccolos now more than they did.

“They’ve been exposed to so many types of coffee now, that they know what they like. They know what good coffee should taste like.”

• Find Bangalow Coffee at the New Brighton Farmers Market every Tuesday.