Nestled between Cairns and Mareeba in Queensland, there is a coffee plantation with a story so inspiring that it almost goes full circle and becomes demotivating. Almost.
We have come here for coffee, but we end up with coffee, ice coffee, ice cream coffee, chocolate cheesecake, Tiramasu, chocolate coated coffee beans, coffee liquor and a film about coffee.
It goes by the name Jaques and it is open for coffee, cakes and tours every single day of the year with the exception of one.
I’m not going to explicitly tell you which day it is closed because, frankly, if your idea of a Merry Christmas is a tour of a coffee plantation – no matter how wonderful – there is something wrong with you on the most fundamental of levels. You deserve to be disappointed, because that’s how your children feel every single day of their underwhelming lives. That is, if you even have children, which you almost certainly do not because you are alone and always will be. Anyway, onto the story.
The Jaques plantation is owned by Nat and Linda Jaques, who left their home in Tanzania in the 70s to escape the madness, violence and political instability. So it’s fair to say that, by the time they reached Australia with just $2000 and all their wolrdly belongings in a trailer, they had already been through a fair bit of misfortune.
With the ambition of establishing a plantation in a new land, they eventually came across the ideal climate of tropical North Queensland in 1979, where they bought some land, planted trees and embarked on their coffee mission.
Alas, come 1986, politics and economics turned their fickle back on the plantation and interest levels rose to an unmanageable 22%, which made repayments on the land impossible to maintain.
The plantation went into liquidation (which actually sounds like a success, when applied to coffee trees) and the family was left with nothing – not even the 80 tonnes of coffee crop on the tree!
Personally, my approach to politics and economics is to ignore both. I know they have a huge (if not comprehensive) impact on my life, but I like to pretend I keep that to a minimum. I like to feel that I am master of my own destiny and no
However, if my life’s ambition and years of work were laid to ruin before my very eyes, I would probably start a riot.
What I would not do is pick up the pieces and start over again. Let alone 4 years later! But that is because I am inherently quite weak. The Jaques family, on the other hand, is apparently hard as nails…because they brushed themselves off and started afresh with a new plantation – even bigger this time! Don’t ask me how they paid for it, I honestly have no idea.
Five years later, when the trees had finally started to produce a crop, the Papaya fruit fly epidemic broke and DPI decide to spray the entire region. Despite the fact that the fruit fly does not affect coffee, the DPI sprayed all the trees without checking that the impact might be. All 50,000 of them.
They all died.
[If you’re thinking the family deserved some compensation, you’d be right. They got some too, but it took well over a decade of court cases to get hold of it, typically.]
By this point in the story, most people would have given up. Personally, I would have gone on a killing spree. Nat and Linda, being awesome, set up yet another planatation and, this time, nobody has screwed them over. Yet.
Along the way, Nat also developed the world’s first coffee bean harvesting machine, which working by shaking the trees at just the right frequency to harvest the ripe red coffee fruits and not the unripe green fruits. I think that’s pretty awesome too.
I would like to go back there some day and take them up on their offer of working for 4 hours in the fields for a flight in their micro-lite. That, in my mind, is the definition of good value.
There is one thing I feel I should point out. Alongside the mass brilliant coffee-related items in the shop, they sell Snap-a-Caps. These apparently nifty inventions sit atop cans of fizzy drinks like bottle tops, protecting them from spills and insects. There is only one minor flaw. They don’t fit on cans of drink. They just…don’t fit. They have one purpose and they fail on a the most fundamental level.
I am happy to be corrected about the Snap-a-Caps, but to my knowledge they are useless. I feel they should take a leaf out of the Jaques book and start from scratch again.