An Aussie taking the Pacific coffee industry by storm


By Harriet Harvey

Tanna Coffee Shop is a popular tourist destination. Picture by: Jane Mahoney

Tanna Coffee Shop is a popular tourist destination. Picture by: Jane Mahoney

Coffee has been grown on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, since 1860 and although coffee is not particularly popular among local people in Vanuatu, Tanna Coffee is taking the market by storm.

Harriet Harvey spoke to Terry Adlington at his coffee shop in Mele, Port Vila, Vanuatu

Harriet Harvey, QUT News

Tanna Coffee owner Terry Adlington, is a ninth generation carpenter, who became an engineer at BHP before retiring at 37 to become a coffee farmer and coffee connoisseur.

He first came to Tanna Coffee as a general manager in 1998 and by 2001 he owned the business. He now engages 500 farmers on Tanna Island to manage three quarter of a million trees.

These farmers in turn hire their family and friends creating 5000 jobs on Tanna and adding 35 million Vatu (near to A$700 000) each year to the community. “I love the coffee really, it’s the excitement that I get every morning,” says Mr Adlington.

“I wake up and say jeez what am I going to do today?” he says. “It still excites me and I’ve been doing coffee for 27 years”.

Tanna Coffee's owner, Australian Terry Adlington. Picture by: Jane Mahoney.

Tanna Coffee’s owner, Australian Terry Adlington. Picture by: Jane Mahoney.

He says the key to his success on Tanna is small holder developments as it provides a service and allows the community to be self-employed.

“They used to get 20vt when I first arrived for picking cherries now they get 270vt for dry parchment coffee,” says Mr Adlington. “A lot of people look at this as a Third World world country and there is a perceived level of poverty, but people here aren’t impoverished at all.

“All they need now is a bit of cash money which they grow coffee for.”

Currently Tanna Coffee supplies 85% of Vanuatu’s coffee consumption with demand often out-stripping supply.

Terry is expecting to produce 110-115 tonnes of coffee this year. He also supplies coffee on Air Vanuatu, P&O Cruises and Au Bon Marche Supermarkets. You can even find Tanna Coffee in some Australian locations.

“I’ve just received an order from New Zealand for 19 tonnes of coffee, but that’s a container load of green bean,” says Mr Adlington. “Which is the first time ever for us.

“And that’s because we have had an excess in supply for the first time.”

His aim is to create the first pan-Pacific coffee industry by having a range of South Pacific coffee brands.

Bags of roasted coffee ready for dispatch. Picture by: Jane Mahoney

Bags of roasted coffee ready for dispatch. Picture by: Jane Mahoney

“I want to do more,” explains Mr Adlington. “We could do more on Tanna but ideally I want to do more on other South Pacific Islands.

“And develop on the success of Tanna Coffee”.

He says to grow good coffee you need tenacity, passion and good coffee growing conditions.

“The ideal climatic conditions for growing coffee are deep, rich, volcanic soils, 2.5metres of rainfall and a mean average temperature of 18 degrees.”

Terry Adlington of Tanna Coffee, is open for business and visits, most days of the week, at Mele, near Port Vila, in Vanuatu.