Campos Coffee takes us to the moon

Coffee and liquor has long been a celebrated collaboration in the Australian coffee community. Think espresso martinis, vodka pour overs, and extravagant concoctions presented each year at the national Coffee in Good Spirits competition.
Now, there’s a new pairing in town that has nothing to do with coffee flavour as such, but the outer skin layer of a coffee cherry. Introducing: the new Campos Cáscara Melbourne Moonshine.

In 2015, Campos Coffee worked with Mr Black Spirits to produce a limited edition Geisha-infused espresso martini, and now it’s formed a partnership with Melbourne-based distillery Melbourne Moonshine.

“I like that we can meaningfully respect [coffee] in a format that has a longer shelf life. With Mr. Black, we were able to preserve the special flavours of an exemplary Geisha coffee in a liquor that can be used months from when the coffee was harvested. Now with Moonshine we are able to use the raw product right after it is processed and preserve it in this format for months, maybe years to come,” says Campos Coffee President Will Young.

“We in the coffee market have always been somewhat restricted to offering our beautiful products to a mostly morning and daytime market. This format opens up the night for us, which is very exciting.”

Cáscara is often seen as waste product, mulched back into the soil at farm level, but as Will describes, if processed the right way, cáscara can sell for much more than actual coffee.

“It is a specialty product that sits aside from the ups and downs of the coffee market, but it is coffee. Twenty per cent of a harvest is coffee cherry husk. This is a significant volume and would be much more beneficial to the farmer if they could sell it at a good price – generally four to five times the price of what coffee is paid per tonne, and an estimated income increase of up to 10 per cent,” Will says. “We would like to help [farmers] find a sustainable home for this product in the marketplace through experiments such as this.”

Cáscara has been around for a long time, traditionally used in Yemen as tea. Many forward-thinking bars have been infusing cáscara tea in cocktails for a few years now, even making syrups from fruit tisanes and freezing smoked teas into ice cubes for whiskey drinks. However, Will says, not many people have tapped into the possibilities of its use in western culture, and has a simple explanation as to why.

“Nobody knows about it,” he says. “Also, to make good, clean cáscara requires a whole other processing stage and infrastructure. It needs to be fully dried immediately after being removed from the coffee seed. There is a high chance of mould if the cáscara is not tended to quickly and dehydrated properly, spread in thin layers in hot dry air. The farmers have to be committed to a fine result, and the layering must be very thin on the drying tables. Currently farmers are so busy making coffee they cannot find time for a whole new product that does not have much of a foothold in the market.”

But things may be about to change. John Thompson, Campos Coffee’s Head of Business Partnerships in Victoria reached out to Melbourne Moonshine with an opportunity to collaborate on a cáscara-infused moonshine product.

Co-Founders Andrew Fitzgerald and Ben Bowles produce the southern-style spirit moonshine in their South Melbourne distillery. Ben, who originates from South Carolina in the United States, is a fifth-generation moonshiner.

“I was introduced to distilling at age 11 and made my first spirits at 13,” Ben says. “My family has a long history of making spirits, moonshine in particular. When I came over to Australia, Andrew and I met working together in the construction industry. We were having drinks in the city one night when the topic of making whiskey came up. He had a garage, I had the experience, so we made it happen.”

For the past three years Ben and Andrew have turned their hobby into a growing business. “What we make is a throwback to the southern moonshine traditions of the US. We’re a small distillery that makes a really fresh product, and we can see a growing rise of interest for moonshine in Australia, maybe even the start of a niche market,” Ben says.

Before working with Campos Coffee, Ben had never heard of cáscara, nor seen a coffee cherry. “We were really humbled that Campos approached us about a collaboration. The first thing I wanted to do was taste it. The next question for me, was how I could bring it across into spirits? To me, cáscara alone is a subtle flavour. Once I added it hot water I tasted it again and saw its sweet, tea-like attributes,” Ben says.

The full article features in the December 2016 edition of BeanScene Magazine.

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