From stalk to latte: The journey of a Karon Farm Coffee bean
WHILE many cafés in town utilise imported or Melbourne coffee beans, there’s an award-winning coffee roaster right under our noses just on the outskirts of Ballarat.
Ethically sourced and specialty roasted at Karon Farm Coffee’s Gordon location, owner Luke McPherson said his business grew from a love of roasting his own coffee beans at home.
“A café in Gordon ran out of coffee one day and so I roasted some coffee for them,” he said.
“I kept roasting for them and then the local IGA rang and said they wanted to stock the coffee and it went from there.
“We have won quite a few medals over the last couple of years including a couple of bronzes and silvers at the Golden Bean roasting competition which is the world’s biggest coffee roasting competition.”
Just recently having moved into a new space with a large roaster to accommodate the growing business, Mr McPherson said the support he’s received from the community has been fantastic.
“We’ve always had local support but when COVID happened, it seemed like everyone ramped up the support for local business,” he said.
“We haven’t got busier in the sense that we’re doing more coffee because the coffee carts and stuff that used it are closed, but we’re busier because we’re doing more home deliveries.
“Once we put a post on the We Love Ballarat Regional Produce Facebook page, our home deliveries doubled.”
Appreciating the community’s support, in the last round lockdown Mr McPherson decided to give back and help Martin Anderson at his Black Hill free coffee cart by making sure he was always stocked with beans.
Mr McPherson said he’s just grateful to their customers and other businesses in the region who allow him
to continue doing what he loves.
“We’ve had amazing support from home deliveries, but without our business to business support we probably would’ve had to close the doors,” he said.
“By someone supporting us, we support as many small businesses as we can.”
While the dream is to eventually be big enough to be a direct from farm roaster, he said they currently aim to only work with small, family owned suppliers and farmers at the beginning of the supply chain.
“We use a couple of select suppliers including Langdon Coffee Merchants because we find their really good with their traceability, Coffee Net which is a family owned business and O Coffee because they are super consistent, provide housing and schooling for their workers and their kids and practice sustainability,” he said.
“Each of these supplier’s growers then farm, dry and process the beans usually at a mill somewhere.”
“Then, they get packed into bags and start a long process of getting shipped to Australia.”
Whether they’re from Columbia, India or a variety of other countries, once the beans arrive in Victoria they are dropped off in Ballan.
As he is located off the beaten track, Mr McPherson said that Crossroads Trading in Ballan instead accept his bean deliveries there.
“We can’t get pellets delivered here so Asher and Bernie are so lovely and accept our coffee deliveries,” he said.
“Then we go out in the van and pick up the coffee, then pack them into food grade bins, weigh the blends out and dump them in the roaster.”
Karon Farm’s roaster is a new machine developed by an Australian family business which cost $100,000 at the beginning of the pandemic.
Mr McPherson said the roaster is computer controlled and regulates the gas, air and temperature of the machine to ensure an even roast of each bean.
“To decide on my blends, I roast a range of beans together, taste, then change the ranges until I get what I like and what I hope other people do,” he said.
“Once the coffee is roasted, it goes through a de-staining process which vacuums the coffee up and lets the other stuff fall out.
“Because no matter how expensive your coffee beans are you’ll find popcorn and rocks because the coffee is dried on concrete beds, so it’s good to get those out.”
In addition to the roasting, the staff at Karon Farms also pack the individual roasts into bags, ready for distribution.
“We do everything in house,” Mr McPherson said.
“Our stickers are printed by Revolution Print in Ballarat, we get our bags from a small business too.”
The last step of the Karon Coffee bean’s journey is its trip to a new home, ready to be ground and consumed.
Whether it’s residential or commercial, Mr McPherson said they are constantly delivering to a range of places all around the region.
“IGA Ballan was our first stockist and then Trenthan, Avoca, Smythesdale and also Ryan’s IGA, Buninyong and Bacchus Marsh Foodworks and Wilsons are big supporters of ours,” he said.
“The café inside White’s Florist are the only one in Ballarat itself who currently serves our coffee.
“We have a lot of smaller cafes that use our coffee, but I would love for a café in Ballarat to take the chance.”