I said it in January 2019 – “if the apocalypse comes, I want to at least dream of the possibility of having a cup of coffee again.”

Back then, I had 2 large coffee plants I’d purchased locally on TradeMe. Not long after, I added 4 smaller seedlings from a local grower to my collection, bringing me up to the 6 plants I have today.

But until now, I’ve not even dreamed of that possibility of a cup of coffee. We had a few flowers in May 2020, but they didn’t result in fruit. It’s taken us a long time to get the conditions right.

Location, location, location

For the first couple of years, the plants lived in the shadehouse. They did pretty good in there, but they never really thrived. Over summer they’d still get sunburn from the heat. They probably didn’t get as much water as they’d have liked.

Then the shadehouse blew up and they really hated that. The larger ones took a lot of damage in the spring storms.

I thought about it. We have one spot where plants seem to thrive – it’s surrounded by buildings and a container, giving it shelter. It gets some sun, but is generally protected from the wind and harsh light.

Coffee plants in their new home

After some maintenance last summer, a spot opened up that I thought might work. I put the plants into the next-sized pots, tidied them up, and we moved them in.

Back to life

Slowly, the plants have begun to thrive. The burned leaves are being replaced with glossy new ones. The branches have begun growing back.

And – vitally – a couple of them have begun not only flowering – but fruiting!

Coffee plant in flower - flowers are white, with 5 petals

I don’t think I’ll be making my cup of coffee just yet though. There’s still a question about whether these fruit will actually contain coffee beans – apparently some fruit just don’t contain a good seed. But I also hear the fruit itself is quite tasty, so at least there’s that to look forward to.

Even if we do get beans, I don’t think 6 plants is enough for my cup of coffee. It might require more like 20. So any seeds from this harvest will probably become seedlings if things go my way.

Time to get thinking

A common set of questions when I talk about my coffee plants is around how I plan to process them? The truth is I haven’t really thought about it.

I’ve spent my time trying to get what I now have – fruiting plants. I never really considered what I would do when I got them.

Coffee is an establishing industry in Northland, and there’s actually a processing plant an hour or so up the road, so that’s an option.

If I can grow enough for one cup, it might be worth growing enough for other people too. Ikarus Coffee are currently selling New Zealand-grown beans at $54 for a 130g bag of beans.

It’s a labour-intensive crop, but so is catnip. We’re close to a processor. If we can a bigger spot where the plants are happy, it might be worth a shot.