Success Stories 6 Apr 2018
It doesn’t take long to discover Terry Adlington knows his coffee. As Managing Director of Tanna Coffee in Vanuatu, he’s been in the business for decades and understands why their blend is so unique.
“Our Tanna Coffee plantation is located at 400m above sea level,” says Terry, a guest speaker at the Pacific Trade & Invest (PTI) Path to Market Mission in Auckland from 23-27 March.
“With an annual average rainfall of 2500mm, it’s perfectly suited for growing Semi-Dwarf Catimor varieties of Arabica coffee, hybrids developed from some of the world’s finest coffee stock.”
Born and raised in Australia, Terry had a number of jobs, including building, engineering and surveying multi-million dollar projects. But he admits none particularly appealed to him. In the 1980s he bought a small farm in Northern New South Wales.
“It was like a Garden of Eden, full of 150 trees of wild and exotic plants,” he recalls.
“When I asked someone what the red-looking cherries were growing not too far from the house, he said coffee beans. I’ve always enjoyed a good coffee.”
The owner gave him a piece of paper titled ‘How to process coffee in the home’. Terry started roasting coffee in a frying pan with two other families in the Tweed Valley.
He found his niche but realised his partners weren’t as interested in growing coffee in relation to their other farming duties.
So Terry bought out a coffee company, set up a co-op and growers association and a nursery. From early beginnings sprouted a business involving 200 coffee farmers. His efforts attracted interest from the coffee community, which included an eight-year stint on the International Institute of Coffee Tasters panel.
That attracted an enquiry from Vanuatu to see how he could assist in raising the productivity, profitability and quality of its Tanna Coffee. The Tanna Coffee Development Company was established in 1982 to assist in the development of the newly independent nation, which gained independence from Britain and France two years earlier.
In 1998 he went to Vanuatu, studying the business and intending to stay for a week. He gave them a six-page paper with recommendations. Two decades later Terry’s still there. He owns the business and Vanuatu is now his home.
Apart from their strong domestic market, Tanna coffee is consumed on Air Vanuatu flights, P&O cruises and in a number of locations throughout the Pacific, including Australia, Japan, Fiji, Samoa, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand, which includes the Kai Pasifika restaurant in Mt Eden, Auckland and the Gulf Harbour Country Club café.
While it still has its challenges, Terry has no intention of doing anything else.
“Thousands of people’s lives and futures rely on Tanna Coffee,” he says.
“Cyclone Pam in 2015 was devastating. It left 650 farmers without a source of income, but we came back. Tanna is ideal for growing a purest organic coffee in a sustainable, non-harmful manner. It’s become a source of pride for the people, who have shown tremendous resilience time and time again.”