WAKE up and smell the coffee: the varieties roasted in Northern NSW that are picking up awards left, right and centre.
Mackellar Range and Coffee Lush this month won gold and silver at the annual Golden Bean roasting competition - the largest contest of its type in the world.
The brands, owned by Craig and Tamara Hayward, who grow the beans at Hogarth Range, were up against a record 1206 entries across 10 judging categories.
Mackellar Range was awarded a gold medal and Coffee Lush won a silver in the Australian Milk category. Coffee Lush was also awarded a silver in the International Espresso class, which had 258 Australian and international entries.
Both product lines are single-origin coffees - meaning they can stand alone, without needing to be blended with other coffees. They are sourced exclusively from the 20,000 Arabica coffee trees they grow at Haywards Ridge, 25km west of Casino.
"We are absolutely delighted to receive a gold and two silvers this year, particularly when you consider the large numbers of coffee roasters who enter this event," Mr Hayward said.
"This is a huge coup for us, and shows that Australian coffee has come of age. It also demonstrates that it is possible to produce world class coffee in the far northern NSW hinterland."
The Haywards - who bought the plantation in 1999 - were unable to attend the awards at Caloundra, as December is their harvest time.
"But this year Christmas came early for us, and taking that call from the award organisers was a dream realised," Mr Hayward said.
"What sets our pesticide-free bean apart is our use of a traditional sun drying process. While labour intensive, it helps ensure a rich dark chocolate aroma, and a smooth and distinctly sweet flavour," he said.
"This region is quite simply heaven for the coffee plant. We enjoy a temperate climate, and an absence of pests and diseases means that our coffee plants can be grown using sustainable farming practices."
The family business is directly involved in almost all aspects of coffee production: planting, irrigation, harvest, processing, drying and packaging.
"Our coffee is grown to be enjoyed, and it is really gratifying to see people doing just this, and to have it validated by industry experts," Mr Hayward said.
They are also available in many local shops in Northern NSW.
Coffee explained ...
The North Coast's rich volcanic soil coupled with a temperate sub-tropical climate and lower altitude creates ideal growing conditions for coffee. This combination produces a slower ripening coffee bean which is intrinsically sweet and rich.
Coffee plants produce more caffeine when they are affected by pests and diseases. Coffee plants on the NSW north coast enjoy an environment that is uniquely free of pests and diseases, and as a result, north coast coffee is naturally lower in caffeine. It is a guilt-free indulgence.
The absence of pests and diseases also means that most north coast coffee is grown without the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides, either during growing or processing stages.